Americans have grown up reading and loving children’s books by and about Jews. In the UK, authors and positive Jewish characters are somewhat harder to find.
Actress Miriam Margolyes is an observant Jew. A critic of Israel, she has also reinvented some legendary female characters on stage.
Dickens 2012, the official UK website celebrating English novelist Charles Dickens on the bicentenary year of his birth, is mostly silent on the author’s anti-Semitism, most famously expressed in the notorious characters of Fagin in “Oliver Twist.” A Jewish villain, albeit a comic one, Fagin is still highly offensive to many, as PBS discovered in 2009 when it broadcast a BBC-TV film of “Oliver Twist”.
The 19th century New Orleans-born entertainer and sex symbol Adah Isaacs Menken is still shivering timbers long after her premature death in 1868. Back in 2003, Renée M. Sentilles, a history professor at Case Western Reserve University, published an enjoyable scholarly analysis with Cambridge University Press, “Performing Menken: Adah Isaacs Menken and the Birth of American Celebrity.” On February 1, Lyons Press published a more popular offering, “A Dangerous Woman: The Life, Loves, and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menken, 1835-1868, America’s Original Superstar” by Michael and Barbara Foster.