Germany's Most Popular TV Show to Portray Bar Mitzvah for First Time in 46-year Run

With an average of 10 million viewers, Tatort's bar-mitzvah episode will help normalize Germans' view of Jews, Berlin rabbi says.

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A screenshot of character Nina Rubin and her son on the German television show Tatort.
A screenshot of character Nina Rubin and her son on the German television show Tatort.Credit: Screenshot, YouTube

Millions of German television viewers will reportedly watch a bar mitzvah on Tatort, the country's longest-running and most viewed show, on Sunday. It will be the first time the show has depicted a bar mitzvah in its 46-year history.

With an average viewership of over 10 million (in a country of some 80 million), Tatort is a crime show whose latest plot focuses on a Jewish mother and her son's bar mitzvah.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the franchise hired Berlin Rabbi Walter Rothschild as a consultant to advise the show's writers on Jewish practices. Rothschild is now getting his own turn in front of the camera to officiate the bar mitzvah.

"I don't think it will bring world-wide peace or anything, but I've done a lot of media in Germany, spoken to a number of journalists, and the images of Judaism are all very similar: the Hasidic Orthodox Jews, the Wailing Wall, Israeli soldiers," Rothschild said. "On this show, it's a normal Jewish family in Berlin preparing for a normal Jewish event. That's already progress. That's already a start."

While hoping that the scene helps to normalize Germans' image of Jews, Rothschild said he's mindful of the pressure to make it authentic. "I knew there'd be Jews watching and going 'Oi! He got that wrong!" he said. "The plot has the mother planning and participating in the bar mitzvah, which wouldn't happen in an Orthodox synagogue, but could in a liberal one."

Berlin is home to one of the world's fastest growing Jewish communities, believed to have reached over 50,000 in total. Though significant, this figure is still just a third of the 160,000 Jews who called Berlin home pre-World War II.

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