Jews Love to Argue
"Two Jews, three opinions."Describe Jews Love to Argue here. What am I? Your slave? You do it! Um, okay... For whatever reason, Jews and arguing go together like Passover and matzah. You call that a simile? Hey, I'm trying. Give me a break. This probably has to do with the layout of the Talmud, which contains a whole lot of back-and-forth arguments, arguments about what other people are arguing about, and often not even a resolution to the arguments (Or an argument if there is an argument or not...). Oho, so you're the big gemarakupnote now? ...I have no idea what that means. Anyway, this is a joke more common among Jews themselves than among gentiles [non-Jews]. Such conversations are generally (in fiction) liberally peppered with Yiddish as a Second Language. That's your gevaldigenote description? If I had known you'd write such dreck, I wouldn't have come over. I'm trying not to spend too much time on this. Give me some slack. So you don't think our culture is worth your time? That's not what I meant. I just have other things to do. So you just come here to bang a kettle? A— Dammit, what the hell is your problem? I get just a few lousy minutes out of my busy day to make this, and that's not good enough for you? Oh, you call yourself busy, just sitting around opening tab after tab— Shut up! You don't know what I have to go through every day to... Um... while those two are going at it, compare Jewish Mother, Alter Kocker, Passive-Aggressive Kombat, Jewish Complaining. And what would you know from comparisons, anyway?
— A saying
open/close all folders
- In American Splendor, Harvey Pekar notes that old Jewish women will argue over ANYTHING at the checkout counter of a grocery store.
- One strip in Torpedo has the titular contract killer out of town for a few days, so his assistant decides to take a few contracts himself, thinking it can't be that hard. However, it turns out two Jewish shopkeepers had mutually asked that he kill the other, so he spends some time going back and forth between the two shops as they increase the price. Finally he snaps and drags them both out in the middle of the street so they can settle the argument without involving him. Several hours later, they come to an understanding by beating the crap out of the poor guy.
- A scene in The Hebrew Hammer where the Jewish Justice League talks about the best man for the job.
- Woody Allen's kvetching in Annie Hall inevitably turned into some kind of argument.
- In You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Israeli Jews love to argue... with Palestinians. It's really quite civil and all in good fun, though.
- God On Trial is a movie about a group of Jewish prisoners at a concentration camp, arguing whether or not God is to blame for their predicament. Arguing is all that happens in the movie.
- Monty Pythons Life Of Brian: The film satirizes factionalism in religion and politics, but because the main characters are Jewish, it becomes a somewhat accidental example of this trope.
- The Judean resistance groups against the Romans can't agree on anything, and are the Trope Namer for We ARE Struggling Together, fighting each other more than fighting the Romans.
- When Brian tries to blend in by buying a gourd at a market, the merchant insists that Brian try to haggle his price down rather than just take the first offered price.
- The people listening to sermons from the line of prophets seem to enjoy dissecting the message and arguing with the prophet.
- Brian's followers quickly dissolve into factions who argue about which holy relic is more holy.
- In High Anxiety, Mel Brooks and Madeline Kahn need to get past customs, despite Mel's character being a suspected murderer! How do they do this? By posing as a constantly bickering couple of Alter Kockers that the airport staff are relieved to finally get rid of. It almost works— until Mel's gun sets off the metal detector...
- David and his father in Independence Day bicker near-constantly, even while en route to the White House.
- A Jewish congregation was arguing over whether one should stand or sit during the Shema Yisroel. Half of the congregation said one should sit, the other half insisted one should stand. Every time the Shema was recited they shouted at each other, “Sit down!” and “Stand up!” The fighting became so bad that the congregation was split in two, each half contending that they knew the tradition in that synagogue.
Finally, the rabbi decided to visit a one hundred year old member of the synagogue who was living in a nursing home. He took a delegation from each of the arguing sides with him to see the oldest member of the “shul”. “Now, tell us,” said the rabbi, “what is our tradition?” “Should we stand during the Shema?” “No,” said the old man. “That is not our tradition.” “Well, then,” said the rabbi, “should we sit during the Shema?” “No,” the old man, “that is not our tradition.” “But we need to know what to do,” said the rabbi, “because our congregation members are fighting among each other.” “That,” said the oldest member of the congregation, “that is our tradition.” (This version of the joke from here.)
- In Discworld Dwarfs are often compared to real life Jews (this was not the author's original intention but he seems to be running with it.) One of the main reasons? They argue a lot, especially about their faith. As Cheery Littlebottom says in The Fifth Elephant:
"Dwarfs are very argumentative. Of course, many wouldn't agree."
- In The Chosen Danny Saunders and his father entertain the congregation by arguing Rabbinical lore in front of them. Tragically, that is the only time they can communicate which is the point of the plot.
- The short story "Pushing the Envelope" by Desmond Warzel begins and ends with a Jewish Mother arguing with her son: first, that she wants him to move out of her house; then, after he does, that she never sees him anymore.
- Seen in many a Philip Roth novel, particularly Portnoy's Complaint
- Earth: The Book features a lot of quick zingers referencing Jews arguing and complaining. In the "Future Asked Questions" of the religion section, the aliens comment that the chapter seemed to spend a disproportionate time on Jews, sparking an extremely passive-aggressive (and stereotypically Jewish) argument with the book's editors.
- One of the implied main themes in The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank) is that people around her love to argue with each other over trivial things, and this does't even include how Anne herself has a very rough relationship with her mother. This may be understandable, though. Having nine people hiding in a secret, tiny annexe for nearly two years is gonna build up a lot of stress.
- Noted frequently in The Kingdom and the Crown where most of the main characters are Jewish.
- In Foucaults Pendulum, Belbo uses this trope as an excuse to poke holes in Diotallevi's flimsy claim to Jewish descent.
- In World War Z, Israeli intelligence agent Jurgen Warbrunn discusses the "Tenth Man" rule. If nine men share the same opinion or theory, the tenth must always disagree. No matter how compelling the evidence, he must always dig deeper and try to prove the others wrong. This is why Israel was able to protect itself against the Zombie Apocalypse. Leading to the old joke: "If nine men out of ten agree, then the tenth is probably Jewish."
- A Running Gag in The Alienist and its sequel, Angel of Darkness, is how much the Isaacson brothers, who are both detectives, argue with each other.
- The Ray Bradbury story "Téte-À-Téte" is about a constantly arguing old Jewish married couple, although in this case they do not actually listen to what the each other is actually saying. When the husband dies, the story's protagonist uses a recording to let the wife continue arguing with her late husband.
Live Action TV
- The Daily Show commonly features this trope due to the influence of Jon Stewart.
- While doing a story on Tomorrow's Pioneers, a Palestine kid's show with some less-than-Israel friendly content, the show fired back with a fake Israeli equivalent called "Dr. Bagelman's Hour of Hate". The show quickly devolved into the hosts quarrelling. Stewart quipped, "I shouldn't laugh, but that's actually just an audio recording from my Bar Mitzvah."
- Stewart uses this joke in his stand up, including why it proves there isn't a Jewish conspiracy to control the banks. They couldn't get the meeting started without an argument.
- The show once sent correspondent Wyatt Cenac to a Jewish rest home in Florida to talk about the 2008 election. Eventually, the group interviews degenerated into such a morass of argument (over the issue of what to order for dessert) that Cenac was left sitting on the sidelines, genuinely stunned.
- When Ron Paul was excluded from the Republican Jewish debate over his "misguided and extreme views," Stewart mocked the validity of the debate, since it was obvious they only wanted people with the exact same opinions, by saying "because if there's one thing Jews hate, it's arguing."
- Curb Your Enthusiasm is a show about this trope. Larry David and a predominantly Jewish cast argue about the slightest trivialities, then argue about the fact that they're arguing.
- The Big Bang Theory: Howard Wolowitz and his mother.
- Grandmas House is made of this, too.
- Kenny vs. Spenny seems to count. Both of the guys are of Jewish heritage, though neither are observant.
- Seinfeld features a great deal of very Jewy arguments over the trivialities of day-to-day life. Jerry is Jewish and, according to Word of God, George is half Jewish on his mother's side.
- Lampshaded in Frasier. After Frasier's jewish girlfriend gets into a heated argument with her overbearing mother and both of them manage to swiftly get over their problems and come out of it much happier than before, he and Martin try to do the same thing to resolve some of their issues, only to hurt each other's feelings so badly they make each other cry, prompting Martin to wail "We should never have tried this! We're not Jewish!"
- Referenced in Thirty Rock:
Kenneth: [If] I can't get Liz Lemon to respect me, how will I run a network bossing around those Jewish executives who were trained from birth to argue?
- In the first episode of the PBS miniseries Constitution USA, host Peter Sagal, who is Jewish, compared the unending arguments over the interpretation of the US Constitution to an old joke with the punchline that arguing is a Jewish tradition (the first bullet point under Jokes, above).
- In Orange Is the New Black Black Cindy references this as part of her heartfelt reason for why she wants to convert—the contentious, uncertain nature of the Jewish attitude toward religion appeals to her.
Cindy: Honestly, I think I found my people. I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad I'd go to hell. If I was good I'd go to heaven. If I asked Jesus, he'd forgive me and that was that. And here y'all said ain't no hell, ain't sure about heaven, and if you do something wrong you've got to figure it out yourself. And as far as God is concerned, it's your job to keep asking questions and to keep learning and to keep arguing. It's like a verb. It's like, ... you do God. And that's a lot of work. But I think I'm in, at least as far as I can see it. I mean, maybe I'll learn more and say "fuck the whole thing," but I want to learn more and I think I gotta be in it to do that. You know, does that make sense? Shit, did I just talk myself out of it?
Religion and Mythology
- The Bible: This is what the Midrash and the Talmud are, Rabbis arguing. In the Torah, Jews argue with God. Abraham frickin' haggles with God over the amount of righteous men needed to save Sodom and Gomorrah. Just to clarify: The Talmud is a record of rabbis arguing, often over other arguments which are over the Midrash's arguments with itself. Traditional Talmud study is basically nonstop arguing. So really people are arguing about arguments about arguments about arguments. Then they start comparing 'those'' arguments...
- The name "Israel" which God originally gave Jacob (Genesis 32:28) means "He wrestles with God". While the story of Jacob struggling with the Angel is usually thought of in a purely literal sense, the more figurative meaning—that Israel's people (i.e. the Jews) are always "wrestling" (arguing) with God—is every bit as valid. Due to the complexities of the Hebrew language, the exact nature of how they wrestle is unclear. It could actually be a mental 'struggle' in Jacob's own mind. There are several varying translation for 'isra', from 'rule' to 'straight'. They are the "Israelites," so wrestling with God is part of their name too.
- Moses also argues with God when he wants to destroy the People of Israel and make Moses into the (first of the) new People of Israel. Moses argues with God and wins the argument. And this happens over. And over. And over.
- This trope even unwittingly appears in Muslim tradition, where, during Muhammad's Night Journey, it is Moses who convinces Muhammad to haggle with God on the number of required prayers for Muslims when God commands Muslims to pray fifty times a day; Moses, probably seeing the difficulty with which Jews were having in following all 613 mitzvot, advises Muhammad to ask God to lighten the load. Muhammad goes up to God's throne and comes back to Moses several times, each time asking (more or less) "What do you think, Moses?", and Moses replying (more or less) "Still too much," eventually bringing it down from fifty to five. Moses encouraged him to get it down to three, but Muhammad said, essentially, "that's a bit much". (This all occurred in the Meccan period, when the small Muslim community knew little of the Jews except that they were fellow monotheists, hence the qualifier "unwittingly.")
- It also ends up in Christian tradition: a good part of the gospels is about Jesus arguing with Pharisees. A good part of the epistles is about Paul arguing with other Jewish converts(over whether gentile converts have to keep Torah).
- There's a book titled, Arguing with God: A Jewish Tradition. Abraham was just the start.
- There's also a story of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, a prominent (and extremely conservative) Roman era rabbi, trying to convince the Sanhedrin that he was in the right about a particular kind of oven being impervious to Levitical uncleanness. Even when overruled, he managed to call on various signs from the natural world (trees, a stream, the beams of the Sanhedrin building) to show he was in the right. Each time, the Sanhedrin dismissed the sign as the sign-bearer stepping outside of its jurisdiction. Finally, Eliezer beseeched God himself to step in...which he did, identifying Eliezer as correct about the oven being tamei-proof. Cue the Sanhedrin head rebuking God for this, even quoting Deuteronomy to the effect that the demands of the law put jurisdiction only among the rabbis; "it is not in the heavens". Let that sink in; the rabbis dismissed God for overstepping his legal bounds. Best part? Immediately afterwards, at the throne of Heaven, God was laughing with delight, saying "My children have defeated me, my children have defeated me!".
- Another story from the Talmud highlights the degree of affection involved in the process. Rabbi Yohanan's study partner, Resh Lakish, dies, and the other rabbis find him someone new to work with. But where Resh Lakish would argue every point Yohanan made, no matter how obviously correct, the new guy was willing to say "you're right". This did not help Yohanan's mood. According to the Talmud, Yohanan replies that Resh Lakish would pick apart everything Yohanan said, and in answering the rebuttals the discussion would move forward. But this new guy - hah! "But you [the new partner] say 'we learned a teaching that supports you.' Of course I know that I am right!" And on that thought, he goes out to shed some Manly Tears for his old argument partner..
Stand Up Comedy
- Susie Essman once speculated that if she and her mother were hiding from the Nazis like Anne Frank was, holed up in an attic without being able to make any noise at all, ever, her mother would get them all killed by bitching about a dish not being properly washed.
- Borscht Belt comedy is full of argument-centered humor. All references to the comic's spouse will be about how they constantly fight and don't get along.
- Jon Stewart claimed in one of his stand-up shows that the old "Jews control the banks" conspiracy couldn't possibly work, because nobody would ever agree on where to have dinner, let alone control all the world's financial institutions.
(in an authoritative voice) All right, the Jewish meeting to control the banks will now commence. (in a grouchy voice) Hey, who died and made you king? Never mind me. I'm no one here. I have no opinions.
- Fiddler on the Roof, especially Tevye and Golde. Occasionally, Tevye and God!
- Most notably in this clip.
- "Four Jews In A Room Bitching" is the title of the opening number of March Of The Falsettos.
- Salome has five Jews arguing with each other about the nature of God.
- Mushnik does this frequently in Little Shop of Horrors.
- Margin for Error:
Consul: It is with some reluctance I find myself agreeing with a Jew in anything—
Moe: Well, us Jews has got so many different points of view it ain't always avoidable—
- This video of two Jewish brothers imitating an old Jewish couple arguing about the logistics of doing a drive-by.
- Fractious of the Whateley Universe also has obsessive-compulsive disorder, so she can't keep from arguing, even with her friends. Still, given that one of her friends has the codename Loophole...
- Jackie Mason as Rabbi Krustofsky on The Simpsons.
- Jakob, the tour guide in "The Greatest Story Ever D'ohed".
- In Rugrats, Tommy's maternal grandparents, Boris and Minka. Any time Boris asks Minka anything, her response was always, "What do I look like here? Your servant girl?"
- Life With Louie has Louie exploring different religions after his grandmother dies. When he tries to examine Judaism for their views on God and the afterlife, the Rabbi answers all his questions with "Some Rabbis say yes. Other Rabbis say no." When Louie finally asks the Rabbi what he thinks, he's only able to answer that he thinks that some Rabbis say yes, and others say no.