Downton Rebbe

Julian Fellowes Reveals Plan for Season 4: Bring on the Talmud

Downton Rebbe: The Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Dame Maggie Smith) is unexpectedly charmed by the Rebbe’s talmudic wit and wisdom.
backward
Downton Rebbe: The Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Dame Maggie Smith) is unexpectedly charmed by the Rebbe’s talmudic wit and wisdom.

By Gail Lerner

Published February 22, 2013, issue of February 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The Backward is the Forward’s annual satirical Purim edition. Enjoy!

“We had no idea ‘Downton’ would take off as it did,” marvels Julian Fellowes, executive producer and creator of “Downton Abbey,” while taking a rare break from filming on location at Highclere Castle. Relaxing in a yellow damask armchair with a cup of PG Tips, Fellowes can’t help but marvel at his good fortune. His tony British soap, chronicling the lives and loves of a privileged British household at the turn of the century, has become an international sensation, inspiring “Downton” viewing parties, where rabid fans speak in plummy aphorisms, eat foods from the time period, and dress like their favorite characters.

Now fans will have a new character to dress up as: Rebbe Judah Heschel.

Sure enough, Fellowes’ plan for Season Four promises to shake up life at Downton more than ever. In the highly anticipated premiere — spoiler alert! — Lord Grantham realizes that, since the death of heir apparent, Cousin Matthew, in a cross-country skiing accident/cannibal attack, the only way to preserve Downton is to rent out the drawing room to an itinerant band of yeshiva students and their obstreperous leader, Rebbe Judah Heschel. Tensions ensue! When Heschel insists on having both fleyshik and milkhik kitchens, Mrs. Patmore, the irascible cook, flies into a flustered rage. “I can ‘andle ‘im not lettin’ me use the ovens on Shabbos all right, but if I tell Lady Grantham I can’t be makin’ ‘er baby kid seethed in its mother’s milk no more, she’ll ‘ave me ‘ead!” And fans who have long been waiting for Thomas, the scheming servant, to get his due, will be pleased to see the Rebbe pluck his ever-present cigarette from his mouth, proclaiming, “You’ve been a mamzer for three seasons, already. Genug shoyn!”

“Bringing a Rebbe to Downton just seemed right,” muses Fellowes, winding himself in a tasseled cashmere throw. “It was an opportunity to show a sympathetic Jewish character, at a time when anti-Semitism was still socially acceptable in England.” Producer Nigel Lord has nothing but praise for veteran character actor Edmond Carlyle, whose nuanced performance brings Heschel to life. “Carlyle,” Lord says with admiration, “brings you the authentic kvetching and shrugging the part requires, without any of the inconveniences involved in having an actual Jew on set”.

The new season of “Downton Rebbe” is a triumph. Moments of poignancy and passion abound, from the moment Lady Mary insists that Anna refer to her bath as a “claw-footed mikveh,” to the quiet but firm resolve with which Rebbe Heschel persuades Lord Grantham that he must not only accept Sibyl’s baby, but also attend his pidyon ha’ben. And I defy anyone to hold back tears when Carson dresses a bar mitzvah boy in his tallis for the very first time.

Of course, the show’s most delicious zingers are reserved for Maggie Smith, as the Dowager Countess, and she is in rare form. “My word,” she marvels at the Rebbe’s Sunday morning Flower Show and Kiddush, “I can’t imagine what will be worse: the Blitz or these blintzes.” But Rebbe Heschel won’t let her have the last word. “Upstairs, downstairs,” he shrugs, “they’re all goyim to me.”

“Downton Rebbe” premieres this Adar, Tuesdays at 8/9pm Shushan.

Gail Lerner is a mild-mannered writer in Los Angeles, who occasionally likes to get her Vashti on.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.