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The Jews of Downton

A few suggestions for future seasons

Liel Leibovitz
February 07, 2012
Lady Grantham.(Nick Briggs)
Lady Grantham.(Nick Briggs)

A sharp-eyed Tablet reader pointed out that according to an official bio for Cora, the character played by Elizabeth McGovern on the smash hit show Downton Abbey, the countess of Grantham was the daughter of one Isidore Levinson from Cincinnati, and, therefore, a Jew. Which also means that her daughters—the ladies Mary, Edith, and Sybil—are Jewish as well. Jonathan Sarna has since confirmed the plausibility of such a character, noting that “even if Isidore Levinson isn’t real, he’s based on reality.”

To those of us who are deeply immersed in Downton’s intrigues and romances, this is huge news. If you’re not among the converted, the following will mean little to you, and you should probably skip ahead to another piece. And since we know the series’ creator, Julian Fellowes, is currently writing its third season, now is an excellent time to suggest a few plotlines in accordance with the new religious epiphany:

• Having gotten a taste of sharing their estate with the needy when they turned Downton into a military hospital for the wounded veterans of World War I, Lady Cora should offer to put up a Chabad shaliach, and designate Branson, the chauffeur, as a driver of a mitzvah tank to roam around Yorkshire and convince countryside Jews to put on teffilin.

• Speaking of Branson, he’s more than welcome to marry Lady Sybil. The class differences don’t bother us at all, but it would be nice if he went ahead and converted. You know, continuity! Peoplehood!

• As for Mrs. Patmore, the cook, she seems to be doing much better after her eye surgery, but we still haven’t seen even a shtickle of challah in her kitchen. Braid, Mrs. Patmore, braid!

• As Jews, the Granthams can’t stay away from politics for much longer. With the Balfour Declaration having just been given, it would be nice if Lady Edith decided to move to Palestine. We already know she’s fond of farms, and maybe the Holy Land’s soil is all it would take for her to lay down roots and team up with early Zionist pioneers. She could forthwith be referred to by the staff as an Israel Firster.

• Finally, someone show Violet, the dowager countess, how to be a bubbe. Joining Hadassah may be a good first step in the right direction.

Any more suggestions? Post them in the comments, and we’ll pass them along to Fellowes…

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.