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Jewish Top 10s: Fictional TV Characters

As we wait for our favourite shows to return, Shalom Life is proud to present our list of the best fictional Jewish characters on TV

By: Daniel Koren
Published: July 14th, 2013 in Culture » TV » News
l-r Lea Michele, Kristin Davis, David Schwimmer and Fran Drescher

It’s no secret that Jewish people have had their share of influences on Hollywood.

But while actors usually receive the lion’s share of the spotlight, we often forget about the writers who compose the dialogue, write the script, and perhaps most importantly, create the characters that these actors eventually bring to life, and share with the world.

Throughout history, fictional characters have had an extraordinarily powerful handle on pop culture and society, leaving behind a very ‘real’ presence. Where would be without ‘imaginary’ characters like Homer Simpson, George Costanza, Tony Montana, Norman Bates, Darth Vader, or Mister Spock?

These characters, though fictional, have stood the test of time, leaving a mark that is often more recognizable than the actors that portray them. It may be worth mentioning that many of these fictional characters, spawned from the brains of talented writers across the world, are also Jewish.

In this week’s Jewish Top 10s, we list the top ten Jewish fictional characters that exist on the TV shows we love and cherish. Its also interesting to note that most of the actors that portray these characters happen to be Jewish in real life. Let’s watch.

HONORARY MENTIONS


CHARACTER: Uncle Leo

TV SHOW: Seinfeld

PLAYED BY: Len Lesser


CHARACTER: Lennie Briscoe

TV SHOW: Law & Order

PLAYED BY: Jerry Orbach


CHARACTER: Jenny Schechter

TV SHOW: The L Word

PLAYED BY: Mia Kirshner


CHARACTER: Andrea Zuckerman

TV SHOW: Beverly Hills, 90210

PLAYED BY: Gabrielle Carteris


CHARACTER: Susie Green

TV SHOW: Curb Your Enthusiasm

PLAYED BY: Susie Essman


TOP TEN

10.


CHARACTER: Grace Adler

TV SHOW: Will & Grace

PLAYED BY: Debra Messing

WELL SAID: And I was at Bloomingdale’s this morning waiting in line to buy wrinkle cream, and this Jennifer-Love-Michelle-Sarah-Felicity looking ‘thing’ bumps into me and says, ‘Excuse me… ma’am!

The character of Grace Adler, the Jewish diva and female protagonist in Will & Grace, is of particular importance to the ‘fictional’ Jewish community of TV Land; her marriage to Jewish doctor Leo Markus was the first ever Jewish wedding to be shown on a prime-time sitcom. Riddled with insecurities, Grace displays many traits known to accompany the stereotypical Jew: she’s neurotic, paranoid, ‘careful with money’, and competes with her sisters for their father’s love. “They made Grace Jewish and I love that. I loved the Jewish jokes,” Debra Messing (who plays Adler) said in an interview. “There just hadn’t been a Jewish leading lady. I wanted to be really upfront about it, enjoy it, and not hide it. It’s hard to quantify how much was the writing staff and how much was Debra.”

9.


CHARACTER(S): Monica Geller Bing & Ross Geller

TV SHOW: Friends

PLAYED BY: Courtney Cox & David Schwimmer

WELL SAID: Monica – Dad, Chandler didn’t melt your records, Ross did.

Jack Geller – Is that…

Monica – And Dad, you know that mailman you got fired? He didn’t steal your Playboys, Ross did.

Ross – Yea, well Hurricane Gloria didn’t break the porch swing, Monica did.

Though Ross and Monica Gellar are only half-Jewish, the two still consider themselves a part of the Jewish culture, with Ross trying to teach his son Ben about Chanukah while disguised as the ‘Holiday Armadillo.’ Their parents, Jack and Judy Geller, are both typical Jewish parents, Jack constantly making inappropriate comments followed by “I’m just saying,” Judy always commenting on Monica’s weight and, before she married Chandler, how she’d never get married. Also in the lineage of stereotypical Jewish parents, it was obvious both parents favoured Ross, who is a doctor – palaeontologist to be exact – while Monica works as a chef.

8.


CHARACTER: Michael Ginsberg

TV SHOW: Mad Men

PLAYED BY: Ben Feldman

WELL SAID: Peggy – You know your book really does have a voice.

Michael – That’s what they said about ‘Mein Kampf.’ Kid really has a voice.

Ben Feldman, who plays Michael Ginsberg on AMC’s massive smash Mad Men, grew up in a conservative Jewish household and today considers himself a traditional Jew. Feldman was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of the character Michael Ginsberg. It’s ironic because Ginsberg is an advertiser, and Feldman claims it was his solid performance marketing himself that landed him the role. “The casting loved that I was a Jew in real life,” Feldman said in an interview with JTA. “They were looking for the typical character, a Jew with a heavy accent, and I played it up for all it was worth.” He sure does. Upon being hired with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (later changed to Sterling Cooper & Partners) in 1967, Michael Ginsberg becomes the firm’s only Jewish copywriter. Known for speaking his mind, the in-your-face, Brooklyn-accent wielding Ginsberg is currently en route to becoming the firm’s chief copywriter. The show reveals the character was born in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, where his mother died. He was later adopted at a foster home in Sweden.

7.


CHARACTER: Charlotte York Goldenblatt

TV SHOW: Sex and the City

PLAYED BY: Kristin Davis

WELL SAID: I hate his name, Harry, because he is, everywhere but his head.

In every great fictional social group, there’s the leader, the bold, outspoken thrill-seeker, the wildcard, and the prissy, reserved, but has-potential-to-develop prude. The illustrious Charlotte York Goldenblatt in Sex and the City is the latter. Though Charlotte is not born Jewish, as the most conservative and traditional of the group she certainly shares many of the same values and ideals as many Jewish women. (Though she has been known to be a bit of a dirty talker). Charlotte is a romantic, ‘love conquers all’ kind of gal; she marries her divorce lawyer Harry Goldenblatt even though he is the exact opposite of what she wanted in a man. Charlotte converts to Judaism in time for the wedding, a traditional Jewish ceremony.


Harry and Charlotte adopt a daughter from China, and later, during the Sex and the City movie, Charlotte gives birth to a baby girl. Harry, though not the stereotypically ‘handsome, alpha male,’ is seen treating Charlotte with the upmost respect, always doing things for her and catering to her every whim. That’s what you get when you marry a nice Jewish boy!

6.


CHARACTER: Rachel Berry

TV SHOW: Glee

PLAYED BY: Lea Michele

WELL SAID: You’re very talented. I should know, I’m very talented too.

Rachel Berry has a lot of attributes that make her stand out. Beside being Jewish, and a daughter to an interracial same-sex couple – who apparently named her after Rachel Green from Friends – she also has a sensational voice, which has helped establish Glee as the dominant music-themed TV show on the air these days. Rachel is the leader of the Glee Club, a strong-willed, determined woman ready to make a name for herself. From the moment we are introduced to her in season one, she can be seen as an activist that’s ready to fight for her cause, and is thoroughly passionate in what she believes in. She’s also obsessed with Barbra Streisand, and briefly dated overtly Jewish Noah Puckerman after he apparently received a message from God: “Rachel was a hot Jew and the good lord wanted [him] to get into her pants.”

Related articles: Lea Michele, David Schwimmer, Sex and the City, Glee, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Nanny, Friends, Will & Grace, Girls, The Big Bang Theory, Mad Men, Entourage, Glee, Curb Your Enthusiasm
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