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New TV Show Has Proud Jewish Character Front and Center

Get ready haters. A new television show based on a series of books by an Israeli crime writer is about to drop on Peacock. And that’s not even the worst of it for you.

The lead character is a strong, proud Jew.

Viewers of “The Calling” will quickly learn it isn’t a typical TV police procedural. Just two minutes in, the lead detective of a fresh murder bows quietly over the dead body — and prays.

Detective Avraham Avraham is an unusual figure in the New York Police Department: A keen observer of human behavior from his study of philosophy and his Orthodox Jewish faith.

“I’m proud to play a Jewish detective that is religious,” says actor Jeff Wilbusch, who plays Avraham. “It’s very unique to have such a show. And I think it’s an important story to tell.”

Peacock’s “The Calling,” which co-stars Juliana Canfield as Avraham’s partner, is from celebrated showrunner, writer and executive producer David E. Kelley, with Oscar- and Emmy-winning Barry Levinson directing the first two episodes and Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro providing the music. It debuts Thursday.

Based on a series of books by Israeli crime writer Dror A. Mishani, “The Calling” puts a Jewish detective who quotes from the Torah front and center on U.S. primetime during a new spasm of antisemitism.

“We’re living in tricky times, sad times,” says Wilbusch. “I believe very much in the power of storytelling. You know, I don’t know how much power I have, but I’m very proud of the series.”

Wilbusch’s Avraham, or Avi to his colleagues, is a lone-wolf of a detective — brilliant but a bit stand-offish and sometimes too blunt. He doodles pictures of fish on napkins to relax and can read a room — and a suspect — like no other detective.

“The mood of the show is intentionally enigmatic,” says Canfield. “Avi is a detective who operates in a different way from your run-of-the-mill detective. And I think the show mirrors his approach in a lot of ways, which is to say the show and Avi are both deeply interested in character and human behavior.”

“He sees the world with empathy,” says Wilbusch. “He believes every single one of us is entitled to infinite respect — doesn’t matter where he comes from, which faith he belongs to, and the color of his skin.”

In one scene, Canfield’s character notices the shelves of books in her partner’s cubicle. “There’s a copy of the Torah and the Talmud, but there are also books written by great Greek philosophers and classical philosophers. So he uses Judaism as a sort of entry point into a way of thinking about the world philosophically. And that’s how he approached his detective work.”

The original book was set in Tel Aviv. Kelley and the creators decided when moving it to New York that they needed to keep religion and spirituality at its core.

“We just thought, ‘We’re not going to shy away from that.’ Far from being alienating, it’s engrossing and it’s enriching with the characters. So we decided to sail right into it,” Kelley says.

Oh, and the actor who plays the lead character? He’s Israeli and he was brought up in the Hasidic Jewish Satmar community of Mea Shearim!

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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