The silent film that encouraged Jews to celebrate Christmas

 

 

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Moving Picture World reports that rabbis who attended the Manhattan premiere of the film in the days leading up to Christmas 1913 approved of its narrative, but not the title. (Image Courtesy: The Forward).

Phillips Smalley and Lois Weber’s The Jew’s Christmas (1913), a half-hourlong, three-reel picture written by Weber, is the first American film with a rabbi as a character, but represents its Jewish cast as intolerant of Christians and in need of assimilation, according to The Forward. Smalley himself plays Rabbi Isaac, but husband-and-wife filmmaking team Smalley and Weber were both Gentiles, and Carl Laemmle, the president of Universal Pictures at the time who greenlit the production, was Jewish. Weber would go on to become the first woman to direct a feature-length movie, The Merchant of Venice (1914), in the United States.