Arts and Culture

The Jewish connection of ‘Downton Abbey’

NEW YORK (N.Y. Jewish Week) — Today the British noble with possible Jewish background is Cora Grantham, lady of the manor on the blockbuster PBS import “Downton Abbey.” We latter-day peasants lust so much for a connection to our betters that we don’t even care if they’re fictional. The hope for such yichus only intensified after the show announced that Shirley MacLaine would play Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson, in the next season.

A period drama set in the years before and after World War I, “Downton Abbey” follows the doings of the noble family and their servants on an impossibly gorgeous estate. At the time, most British Jews were still sweating it out in urban immigrant neighborhoods like London’s East End. Yet the show’s media packet describes Cora’s father as “Isidore Levinson, a Cincinnati dry goods millionaire.” Sounds promising!

A Jewish Downton would not surprise Jessica Elgot, a fan of the show who works as a reporter at The Jewish Chronicle in London. British Jews apparently are well accustomed to this kind of thing.

“On the surface of it, you wouldn’t expect it, but there’s kind of a tradition of this,” Elgot said. “[Prime Minister] David Cameron has some Jewish heritage. It always seems to pop up in places you don’t expect.”

Soccer star David Beckham, too, who has been photographed in a kipa. Seems he comes by his kabbalah thread honestly.