Amid-20th century TV, complete with rabbit ear antennae, sits swathed in an ethereal green light. The only image filling its rounded screen is a closeup of a sheet of matzoh. This installation by artist Melissa Shiff adorns the cover of Jeffrey Shandler’s Jews, God, and Videotape, and suggests that the subject matter will be scholarly, deconstructive, and focused on the medium as much as the message. Thankfully, for the general reader, this is not the case. Instead, Shandler delivers a series of interesting essays on varied areas of American Jewish life sharing only some connection with modern media.
Shandler sheds light on forgotten trends such as cantorial music in the early 20th century, as well as Jewish themes on mainstream American radio in the 50’s, the phenomenon of bar mitzvah videos, and the use of media and the Internet by the Chabad movement. His writing is clear, well-researched, and thoughtful. Illustrations.