Idol Chatter

A handsome Midwestern man discovers that his family is actually of Jewish heritage and that his mother was forced by the Nazis to catalog stolen art during World War II. Now the matron is working to see that the art is returned, but family members are being hunted down by a mysterious entity, even though they have since changed their names.

What would seem like a typical plot on “Law & Order” is actually one of the latest storylines on the daytime drama “The Young and the Restless.” It seems that resident heartthrob and Newman Enterprises executive Brad Carlton is actually George Kaplan.

Stephanie Sloane, editor of Soap Opera Digest and a 16-year veteran of the industry, told The Jewish Week she has never heard of such a story arc on a soap. “Judaism is not often addressed in daytime [programming],” she said. “There is only one other prominent [Jewish] character in daytime [Nora Hanen on ‘One Life to Live’], and the stories are not about her being Jewish. We don’t see her celebrating the High Holidays. Her religious affiliation is not often addressed.”

But as a veteran of the soap world once pointed out to me, we do see Norah often wearing a cross pendant around her neck.

And while Sloane has a point about recent soaps not giving Jewish characters rich spiritual lives, she is clearly forgetting that “Days of Our Lives” brought a Holocaust survivor storyline to daytime serials in the early ’80s.

In 1985, Dr. Mike Horton, a Protestant, and Dr. Robin Jacobs, an Orthodox Jew, fell head over heels for each other. But Robin’s dedication to her faith–and her even greater dedication to her Holocaust survivor father, who didn’t want her to marry a non-Jew–kept them apart. Although, there were brief glimpses of ecumenism–Robin led Mike through a Shabbat–she couldn’t disavow her heritage and ended up dating a Jewish pharmacist named Mitch. Meanwhile, Robin’s uncle suspects a new doctor at the hospital, Dr. Fred Miller, is an escaped Nazi who orchestrated the deaths of thousands, including Robin’s grandmother. Mike and Robin work together to bring down the former Dr. Friedrich Kluger, but Robin still won’t marry Mike, even though he offers to convert–although she will conceive a child with him. But that’s a different story.

What’s most interesting in this latest example is that life is, in a way, imitating art. The actor who portrays Carlton/Kaplan, Don Diamont, was raised a secular Jew and took his mother’s maiden name on his agent’s advice, leaving his former identity as Bruce Feinberg behind.

“While I probably didn’t acknowledge it at the time, the truth is it gave me a layer of insulation from the outside world. I didn’t look Jewish, and from my [new] name you couldn’t tell who I was,” Diamont said. “Then as I got older, it was just the opposite. I made it a point to let people know I was Jewish and that my name was Feinberg.”