“Family Ties,” the iconic 1980s show about onetime hippies grappling with their Republican preppie kid, was of the latter variety. I don’t remember explicit references to the dad’s Jewishness, but the name of the actor (Michael Gross), his wandering hippie gestalt, the fact that his non-Jewish wife was played by an actress, Meredith Baxter Birney, whose career was launched playing the non-Jewish wife of a Jewish guy, and who then married the Jewish actor playing the Jewish guy — it all added up.
The show’s creator, Gary David Goldberg, confirmed as much to the L.A. Jewish Journal a few years back; he had based the parents on himself and his wife. And there was another nugget about Israel as romantic destiny:
Dating non-Jews was forbidden, but he broke that taboo (and many others) upon going off to Brandeis University on a sports scholarship. After he was expelled for ditching classes around 1970, he hooked up with Irish-Catholic Diana around 1970 and set off on a world tour with a Labrador named Ubu. Two years later, they conceived their first child in Israel, but ran out of money and had to beg the airfare home.
Goldberg’s family promptly embraced non-Jewish Diana “because by that point, they were relieved I didn’t turn up with a black man,” he says.
He and Diana Meehan stayed together and unmarried until 1990, and then married and stayed together forever.
Goldberg, who died Sunday, posited a world in which conservatives and liberals were members of the same family, and differentiated in love. May his memory be for a blessing.
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