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This character is Jewish. How do we know?
Well, remember when the show did the Christmas Special
? And there was that Aesop
and the other holidays in December? And she was shown with a menorah lighting candles? But then again, you never see her observing Passover, or the High Holy Days.
Fine, but then there was that episode about pork and how she keeps Kosher? Despite the shrimp cocktail and cheeseburger she had for dinner.
OK what about her Bat Mitzvah? You know, the characters were confused by the whole thing, and how they learned about her traditions. Which never got mentioned before or since.*
And that's the problem. A character who practices Informed Judaism will perform acts that most people can recognize as being Jewish, in contrast to the non-Jewish characters, but they don't show any more subtle signs of Judaism, even for an assimilated Jew, even the cultural aspect. Their Judaism becomes an Informed Attribute
. The characters listed on this page are Jewish because the writers tell
us, they don't show us, possibly because You Have To Have Jews
This is often a trope that pops up in a number of Western Animation Christmas Episodes
; due to the nature of the shows' audience
, the powers that be
will want to place An Aesop
in to show that the characters keep a diverse
set of friends or peers. As a result, a character's Judaism is mentioned at some point in the episode, or perhaps a menorah will just be shown in the background, in order to keep up that diverse appearance. After all, who really knows what other religiously affiliated holidays are celebrated by a large enough group of people
in the mid to late period of December? This will in fact be the only mention of religion throughout the episode (if not the series) , as Christmas itself (assuming the name is used at all) will not be depicted as having any religious significance, but rather just be a "Warm, Feel Good Time
", thus making this revelation of a major character feel shoehorned in. This is also despite the fact that since the Jewish calendar is a lunar one, there is no guarantee that Hannukah and Christmas will in any way overlap: Hannukah could be completely over way before Christmas starts.
Of course, there is a place between Informed Judaism and Anvilicious
. A character doesn't need to shout "Oy, how meshuggenah, a golem! I'm ferklempt!" to be non-informed Jewish, and likewise, not every character who has a Chanukkah Special is informed. It's more of a gestalt
of the sense of the character. Yiddish as a Second Language
, for example, can be a clue...though, of course, pushing any element too far lands you back here.
This has an element of Truth in Television
: Some Jews in countries where they've been able to assimilate increasingly practice their religion only on the most important holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), and only celebrate Chanukah to have a winter holiday. They don't keep Kosher or observe the Sabbath. A practitioner of Reform or Reconstructionist Judaism — quite common in America — is especially likely to disregard most forms of Jewish ritual, including the Kosher laws. "High Holy Days Jews" are the Jewish equivalents of "Christmas-and-Easter Christians." That said, even many of these still show the cultural aspects
of Judaism, often missing from these characters.
It is also true that Jews are not only people who practice Judaism
. Generally, in modern secular usage, Jews include three groups: people who were born to a Jewish family regardless of whether or not they follow the religion, those who have some Jewish ancestral background or lineage (sometimes including those who do not have strictly matrilineal descent), and people without any Jewish ancestral background or lineage who have formally converted to Judaism and therefore are followers of the religion.
Therefore, someone can be a Jew and no one else would know unless they asked. Many Jews do not do any religious rituals, and some even have Christmas trees ("Chanukkah bush").
often subjects these characters to extreme Flanderization
Contrast Ambiguously Jewish
, where a character displays stereotypically Jewish traits, but is never referred to as such; halfway between these two is reality. Compare Raised Catholic
, which shares some characteristics with this trope.
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- The young woman in this commercial for the Koolanoo Jewish social networking site is wearing a Star of David.(mildly NSFW)
Anime and Manga
- Benny of Black Lagoon is Jewish. It's first mentioned in the second volume, where the crew of the Black Lagoon encounter a Neo-Nazi boat. Other than that? We're talking about a sea pirate who drinks, smokes and, more prominently, who works with and for criminals, local mafias, smugglers and drug dealers on a daily basis.
- A significant portion of the Pokémon fanbase has decided that Meowth of Team Rocket is Jewish, mainly because the most popular VA in the English dub gave him a fairly heavy New Yawk accent.
- Legion of Super-Heroes has Colossal Boy.
- A few years ago, Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four happened to mention that he's Jewish, and he is seen praying in Hebrew (which he admittedly stumbles through) when he thought a beloved store owner in his old neighborhood was dying. Since Ben was always a gentle self-caricature of Jack Kirby, who was Jewish, this makes sense, and the fans seem to be fine with it. But it still seemed to come out of nowhere after all these decades of never mentioning it.
- The in-universe reason that Ben never brings it up is that he didn't want his appearance to be used as an excuse for anti-semitic propaganda.
- Interestingly, a short story from a Marvel Christmas Special comic book a few years prior to this reveal had Ben Grimm dicussing the difference between Christmas and Hanukkah with a little Jewish girl. This story seemed to imply that Ben is not Jewish himself.
- Similarly, during his long run as writer on Incredible Hulk, Peter David decided that long-time supporting character Doc Samson is Jewish, although it had never been mentioned before. As the Biblical Samson was an Israelite, this makes a lot of sense.
- According to Elliot S! Maggin, the Pre Crisis Lex Luthor is ethnically Jewish, although certainly non-practicing. Maggin himself is Jewish, and always had a slightly more tragic/sympathetic take on Luthor than other writers of the period.
- Other informed Jews from DC Comics: The Atom (Ray), and the Sandman (Wesley).
- Other informed Jews from Marvel Comics: Iceman, Justice (Vance), Legion, Moon Knight, Sasquatch, the Two-Gun Kid, Volcana, and Wiccan.
- Averted with Kitty Pryde. While the generally athiest Wolverine was unable to drive Dracula off with a makeshift cross, Kitty's Star-of-David pendant burned Dracula's hand, due to the fact that she possessed true faith (Unlike most stories where it's merely the cross that repels vampires, in the Marvel universe, it really is the religious faith, regardless of the symbol displayed, that actually does the trick.) A number of other stories also make use of her Jewish faith.
- Generally averted for Marvel characters who are also mutants (e.g., Magneto). The theme of being persecuted for two things tends to make it more-than-informed.
- Abby, in The Baby Sitters Club, is Jewish and does get a Bat Mitzvah, but apart from it being mentioned about her as a stated fact ("Abby is Jewish"), it gets little attention. Dawn also mentions in one book that one of their sitting charges, Nancy Dawes, is Jewish; it actually had relevance to the plot because it was the Very Special Episode book about racism.
- Animorphs has both Jake and Rachel as this; their Judaism was rarely ever mentioned and wasn't really connected to anything else.
- There are several smaller hints, particularly from Jake, if you notice the descriptions of his family dinners. In this case it's more a function of the stories themselves because we never get any reference to holidays for any of the other characters either. In fact all we know about any of the other characters' faiths is that Cassie's family has a pastor and that Marco's mother sang in the church choir.
- Rachel may not be Jewish herself. In Elfangor's Secret, she only says that her father (through whom she is related to Jake) is.
- Captain Underpants, as shown in book five where his Secret Identity has a Jewish wedding.
- Pretty Little Liars has Hanna, who is revealed to be Jewish in Pretty Little Secrets
Live Action TV
- Dick Tracy's sidekick Sam Catchem is Jewish, and always has been, but since it rarely has much bearing on the cases they investigate, it doesn't get mentioned much. The creative team of Mike Curtis and Joe Staton has changed things up a little by having Sam invite the Tracys over for Chanukah.
- Riff from Sluggy Freelance only mentions his Jewishness when Chanukah rolls around (though he does bring a Star of David with him when he goes vampire hunting).
- Parodied in Kid Radd, when Kobayashi reveals in a holiday Omake comic that he's part of a Jewish order of Ninja.
- Choo-Choo Bear of Something Positive is Jewish. We've seen comics that featured pictures of him at his Bar Mitzvah, and one where he and his cousin Twitchy-Hug explained Passover to the audience. Only thing is... Choo-Choo is a cat. A boneless, hairless, gelatinous cat.
- It's mostly Fanon, since it never comes up in the comic and is based on a joke by the author, but fans of Homestuck have taken Terezi to be Jewgish due to a conversation where she admits to not knowing about "Jegus" (referring to a Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff misspelling). It Makes Sense in Context.
- Hilariously, it was revealed later on that there was an actual Jesus-analogue in the history of Terezi's world. Terezi's ancestor was one of the followers of an underground cult he inspired after his death. In other words, Terezi is the descendent of an alien Christian.
- The Simpsons: Dolph Starbeam, Duffman (or one of them at least, given that there are multiple similar-looking actors), and Artie Ziff have been identified as being Jewish.
- Don't forget Krusty, who was the first one to be identified as such, and had an entire episodes revolving around it.
- Tish from The Weekenders Implied by her having Eastern European parents, getting a type of Bat Mitzva at 12 and 1/2, which is the usual age for girls in reform and many conservative temples (For some reason they don't call it a bat mitzva), and has a great uncle named Moishe (forgive my spelling). Stated in the holiday special, where it is revealed that she celebrates Chanuka.
- It should be pointed out that one early episode has her celebrate Lent, and the fans seem to have a Broken Base on whether she is Catholic or Jewish.
- Sam from Danny Phantom — her religious identity is only ever mentioned in the Christmas Episode. It's even worse with her parents who fill the mold of stuck-up WASPs. Though this can be considered a case of Reality Is Unrealistic in that there are many Jewish people who act like WASPs (hence the Jewish-American Princess stereotype).
- Arnold from The Magic School Bus. Once again, a Chanukah mention during the Christmas episode is our only clue.
- Similarly, on Arthur, the Frensky family's Jewishness didn't come out until its holiday episode. They're making up for it since; there's been an episode in which Francine vacillates between a relative's Bar Mitzvah and a bowling match, and another in which she mentions playing on her temple's sports team. Plus, she's attempted a Yom Kippur fast.
- This may be a form of Adaptation Decay. In the source books Francine shows no sign of being Jewish, and celebrated Christmas (as she apparently did in early episodes).
- Ron Stoppable from Kim Possible: his Bar Mitzvah is the focus of an early episode, which gets a Continuity Nod during a Christmas Episode. Though you'd have never guessed if you observed his dietary habits.
- Moishe from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends seems to have been rolled in just to fulfill this trope.
- Harold from Hey Arnold. In one episode, he is lectured by his rabbi for stealing a ham, with more emphasis on breaking Jewish dietary restrictions than the theft itself
Rabbi Goldberg: But secondly, and most important, you stole a ham. Ham is not kosher - not kosher at all. We don't eat ham. We haven't for 5000 years, and we don't need to start now.
- Could be a bit of Fridge Brilliance, maybe? It'd be bad enough if he had stolen something and intended it for his own use, but if he's not able to use it, that'd be stealing for the sake of stealing, and that'd be worse, wouldn't it?
- In another, has a Bar Mitzvah (yes, he's in fourth grade, but he was held back). And once, he uses the Yiddish word "kibbitzer" (meaning "person who butts in").
- Eugene may be as well, as they included a kosher joke in his song during the food groups pageant. Also, his last name is Horowitz.
- He was paired with Harold in that pageant.
- In a The Mighty B episode where Bessie and Penny keeps sneaking into Bat Mitzvah parties, we learn that Portia Gibbons is (probably) Jewish when Bessie sneaks into the Bat Mitzvah party of Portia's cousin.
- Billy wishes the audience a happy Chanukah at the last possible minute in Billy and Mandy Save Christmas claiming that's what they celebrate at his house and rubs in the fact that he gets more presents.
- Jude on 6teen showed no signs of being Jewish until one of the Christmas Episodes where he said he had to get home because of Hanukkah. There is some irony that Jude was the name of one of Jesus' friends/apostles (and no, he's not the same as Judas). Not to mention Jude is German for Jew.
- Kitty from X-Men: Evolution. The only evidence that she's Jewish is a scene of her lighting the menorah in her home in the Christmas Episode... and, of course, being very definitely Jewish in the comic the show was based on.
- Mipsy in As Told by Ginger mentions transferring funds from a Bat Mitzvah fund in one episode.
- Pepper Ann, as well as her mother, sister and aunt. Besides her obviously Jewish grandmother, the only other indication of her Judaism is in the Christmas episode. In the Musical Episode her mother sings about cooking pork products for dinner, but it could be that they just don't practice Kosher, and it was All Just a Dream anyway.
- Regular Show: "The Christmas Special". While not confirmed in any of the dialogue, Muscleman wears a sweater with a picture of a Dreidel on it.
- As noted in the description, Judaism is a tribal religion, and does not really work on the conversion/evangelism basis that the world's largest religions adopt. Unlike with Christianity or Islam, there's not really such a thing as a "lapsed" or "ex-" Jew, so there are a number of people that don't really do anything associated with the religion that are still identified or self-identify as Jewish. Further exacerbated by the fact that the religion is heritable (you're considered Jewish if your mother was Jewish).
- Drake. Because he's half-black and a rapper, most casual listeners have no idea he's Jewish.
- Actor William Shatner once said, "These days, I'm Jewish only by a technicality", having given up any pretense to practicing his religion-of-birth in his late 30s.
- Stephen Fry claims to have used his Jewish ancestry to make himself seem more exotic and interesting as an adolescent, but has never actually practiced Judaism and admits to have known boys who's "Jewishness probably means much more to them then it did for me"
- Major League Baseball player Ryan Braun is culturally Jewish, but didn't have a Bar Mitzvah, is apparently more of a Humanist as far as religion is concerned, and is, according to some commentators, "only in it for the jokes".
- In some countries, like in Russia, for example, being Jewish is considered an ethnic or cultural, not a religious thing. Thus a lot of Russian Jews (who are, in general, mainly secular) still consider themselves Jewish, despite not keeping Kosher, not observing Sabbath, not having Bar/Bat Mitzvah and generally never ever practicing any religious rites. During large-scale emigration to the Israel in the 70es these secular, educated, urbanite Jews were in for a major cultural shock after coming into much more religion-heavy Israeli society.
- The late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (yes, a cardinal of the Catholic Church!), who converted to Catholicism as a young man, always thought of himself as a Jew who was also a Christian. The same is true with several other Jewish prelates of the Catholic Church.