San Diego viewers are gaining greater access to Jewish Life TV — created by Phil Blazer, the late founder of a precursor to San Diego Jewish Times.
The 24-hour network’s offerings include “Servant of the People” starring Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Jewish president of Ukraine who became known via the comedy series.
JLTV can be seen on Cox Cable (Channel 129), Spectrum TV (Channel 469) and DirectTV (Channel 325-1 — employing the dash on the remote control).
Brad Pomerance is JLTV’s senior vice president for programming and host of “Air, Land and Sea,” an international Jewish travel show that runs on Sunday nights.
He said the weekly lineup also includes Jewish-themed movies, documentaries, news shows produced in Israel, and classic American television shows featuring such Jewish stars as Jack Benny, Groucho Marx, Molly Goldberg, Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Eva Gabor, Alan Funt and Soupy Sales.
Also airing on JLTV are children’s programming, comedies, lifestyle shows, exercise with Gilad Janklowicz and other health and fitness shows, and Erev Shabbat services officiated by Reform Rabbi Mark Blazer, son of the network’s founder.
The programming “is more cultural than religious,” said Pomerance, a former entertainment lawyer who transitioned into a broadcast career.
A self-described “history nerd,” he has traveled to locations all around the world to ferret out little-known Jewish stories.
“There is a Jewish story everywhere,” he commented, echoing the motto of San Diego Jewish World.
Some of JLTV’s daytime offerings might prompt surprise.
The old “Annie Oakley” TV show about the woman who was an Old West expert with a gun was included because it is believed that her father, Jacob Moses (sometimes spelled Mosey), was of Jewish ancestry although he was raised as a Quaker.
“Annie Oakley” was her stage name. “The Lucy Show,” starring Lucille Ball, doesn’t have any direct Jewish connections, but is evocative of the Beverly Hills-Westside Los Angeles milieu with which so many Jews are familiar, according to Pomerance.
International series include “Servant of the People” starring Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who played the comedic role before becoming president of the Ukraine; “Fauda,” about special Israeli operations to fight Palestinian terrorism; and “Prisoners of War,” an Israeli show about Israeli soldiers who are captured and imprisoned in Lebanon.
The latter was the basis for the Showtime series “Homeland.”
Other notable shows include “Reviewish” in which 20-something and 70-something reviewers look at current movies; “The Word” in which comedian Scott Rubin and friends offer entertaining takes on Bible passages; and “Bubbes Know Best” in which Jewish grandmothers serve as matchmakers.
Various Jewish organizations produce special programming such as “Friends of Chabad” and the pro-Israel “StandWithUs,” which helps Jewish students on university and high school campuses tell Israel’s story and resist antisemitism.
“Friends of Israel” is a JLTV production that includes interviews with high-profile Christian leaders in support of the Jewish state.
Phil Blazer had San Diego County connections. He started the newspaper Israel Today, which evolved into the San Diego Jewish Times, a biweekly publication that is now defunct.
He also had a syndicated half-hour television show, “To the Point,” which got him thinking about starting a Jewish television network.
“At the time, there were 10 Christian channels,” Pomerance said. “He pushed and pushed and wouldn’t give up.”
JLTV recently was upgraded on the Spectrum Cable. Previously to see JLTV, Spectrum subscribers had to pay a premium price; now it is included for viewers in a more popular, lower-cost option, Pomerance said.
Cox Cable agreed to cablecast JLTV in June.
With JLTV outlets throughout the United States, Pomerance said the decade-old network now has a daily viewership “in the six digits,” meaning over 100,000 viewers. The company continues to sign up independent cable networks across the country.
Jewish Life Television Network earns its money from advertising, with no pay-for-view fees. Its advertisers are similar to those seen on any other network. On special occasions general advertisers are augmented by advertisers offering products or services directly aimed at the Jewish market.
Pomerance estimated that over 75% of JLTV’s audience are Christians. Many of these are Evangelicals, who are fascinated by the Jewish religion and by Zionism.
Donald H. Harrison is editor emeritus of San Diego Jewish World, a member of San Diego Online News Association. A version of this report first appeared on San Diego Jewish World.