Two houses, quite unlike in dignity, in fair Manhattan, is where we lay our scene. One is the House of Weissman, whose patriarch serves as an esteemed tenured professor of mathematics at Columbia University. The other is the House of Maisel, whose patriarch operates a garment factory, a profession commonly known as “the rag trade.”
We are of course in the milieu of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the award-winning series about Miriam Maisel, née Weissman (played by Rachel Brosnahan), an affluent Jewish girl, circa 1958, who seems to have it all: Upper West Side apartment, supportive husband, a toddler and a baby, and two very sophisticated and cosmopolitan parents. But by the end of the first episode, her husband has left her for another woman, and she is forced to move back in with her parents. Miriam decides to pursue a career in stand-up comedy.
Critics have seen Mrs. Maisel as an Eisenhower Era precursor to the Modern Woman. A review in the New Yorker notes that her “routines feel like feminist TED talks, with some ‘fucks’ thrown in.” The New York Times proclaims that Brosnahan’s star turns “comes at a time when it’s crucial to reclaim women’s place in stand-up history.”
But something deeper than feminism seems to be at work in the series. Consciously or not, it touches upon a historic division within the American Jewish community: the chasm between American Jews of Russian or East European descent and those of Germanic descent.