The Story of the Jews

The Story of the Jews

Acclaimed historian Simon Schama looks at the impact of the Jews and those moments when the Jewish experience has changed the fate of the world. This ground-breaking five-part BBC history documentary travels the globe from New York to Odessa, Berlin to Jerusalem, to tell ancient and modern stories that illuminate the passions and perplexities of the Jewish people today.

Watch The Story of the Jews and more acclaimed documentaries on BBC Select today. Restrictions apply*.

The Story of the Jews on BBC Select

In the Beginning

Simon Schama begins his exploration of the Jewish story at the start, 3,000 years ago.  Drawing on a rich store of archaeological and historical sources, Simon Schama explores how a distinct Jewish identity began to emerge more than 3,000 years ago. Traveling to Israel, Egypt and Jordan, this fascinating history documentary traces the slow crystallization of a religion whose radical notion of a singular, faceless formless God was expressed in a radical artifact: the Hebrew Bible.

Among Believers

How medieval Jews struggled to preserve their identity under Christian and Islamic rule.

In medieval times, Jews struggled to survive in a world dominated by two rival religions: Christianity and Islam. Historian Simon Schama traces the history of the Jews from the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD to the ghetto in 17th century Venice in this history documentary. He explores how Jews adapted to life outside of Jerusalem, the city at the heart of their religion.

A Leap of Faith

How the Enlightenment allowed Jews to integrate into modern European culture and commerce.

After centuries of being cast out of gentile society, the dawn of the Enlightenment promised the Jews a stake in nations where they had long been kept apart. Historian Simon Schama charts their struggles in this engrossing history documentary. From the late 18th century, many left ghettos and mingled with other communities. Their hope was to become fellow citizens, and finally treated as equals.

Over the Rainbow

How the Jewish people of eastern Europe made their mark on the modern world.

Traveling to Slovakia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine and America, historian Simon Schama explores the rich history of the Jews of Eastern Europe. In this vivid history documentary, he conjures up the unique culture of faith and ferment, poetry and music that was inspired by the struggle against oppression and how that rich culture found a new home with the mass Jewish emigration to America.


How the Holocaust and the creation of Israel have changed what it means to be Jewish.

Two recent historical events, the Holocaust and the creation of Israel, have changed  in profound ways what being Jewish means. Simon Schama attempts to place these two events in the broader sweep of the story of the Jews in this enlightening history documentary. The Hebrew Bible describes the ‘Promised Land’, the ideas of which continue in Israel, where around half the world’s Jews now live.

BBC Select free trial

BBC Select is available on Amazon Prime Video Channels, the Apple TV app and The Roku Channel for only $5.99 a month. Start a 7-day free trial and watch a range of acclaimed documentaries from the BBC and beyond. Restrictions apply*.

Get it on Apple TV
Prime Video - Channels
The Roku Channel