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Jewish and Nerdy

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Jews are, perhaps, the originators of the modern Nerd stereotype. Why? Maybe their long, scholarly tradition, maybe their immigrant past (comparable to Asian and Nerdy and the Bollywood Nerd), maybe their overbearing Education Mamas, maybe for some other weird reason. But for whatever reason, you will rarely see a stupid Jewish character on TV (unless he or she is more of a Ditzy Genius or Genius Ditz). In Real Life, many prominent doctors, authors, scientists, and philosophers have been of Jewish descent.


These characters often sport Nerdy Nasalness that may accompany a Brooklyn or Yiddish-inflected accent as part of the stereotype. Maybe even with Einstein Hair to go with, if they have one.

Compare Asian and Nerdy and Bollywood Nerd, two other ethnic nerd stereotypes; and Hollywood Nerd for the general appearance. Contrast Matzo Fever and Black and Nerdy, both inversions of a more prevalent ethnic stereotype. Intelligence as a character trait may lead to instances of Ambiguously Jewish, thanks to this trope. Finally, contrast Hipster, which often deals with Jewish or Ambiguously Jewish characters acting stereotypically 'cool.' Compare Nice Jewish Boy.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Benny from Black Lagoon is Jewish and a computer geek.
  • Leo Kakinoki in Ghost Stories is an elementary school student obsessed with the paranormal, and the English Gag Dub makes him and his family Jewish.

    Comic Books 
  • Billy Kaplan/"Wiccan" from Young Avengers. In a team where every member is some degree of Ascended Fanboy, he's still one of the biggest nerds, and goes from Ambiguously Jewish to canonically Jewish during The Children's Crusade.
  • Gertrude Yorkes of the Runaways is both incredibly well-read and Jewish.
  • Kitty Pryde from X-Men; in the comic she wears a Star of David necklace. She is a computer nerd.
  • In Robin Tim's friend Ives is plenty nerdy, playing tabletop RPGs and arguing on what counts as actual cannon from the Star Wars expanded universe and what computer operating systems are better, he is also Jewish which means Tim takes note when he spots him leaving a Catholic church (Ives was there for a cancer support group meeting).

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • According to writer Travis Beacham, Dr. Hermann Gottlieb of Pacific Rim has Jewish ancestry but is non-practicing.
  • Animal House:
    • Subverted by Donald "Boone" Schoenstein (Peter Riegert). Though Ambiguously Jewish, he is arguably the fourth coolest guy in the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, as well as The Lancer to the supercool Eric "Otter" Stratton. (His girlfriend does think he's a loser, though.)
    • When Delta is tricked into using the wrong answers to cheat on a psych test, Hoover discovers their mistake (too late) by checking with �the Jewish house�.
  • Marv Murchens (Daniel Stern) of the Home Alone movies is a double subversion. Though certainly geeky in appearance, he has a mind scarcely superior to that of a young child. However, on occasion, he will be the voice of reason and more intelligent than his partner.
  • David Levinson of Independence Day, played by Jeff Goldblum. A Nice Jewish Boy and Gibbering Genius whose Establishing Character Moment is playing chess with his lovably crotchety dad, he verges on Almighty Janitor in that he has an MIT education but is happy in his cable company job in New York City. When the alien ships first appear, he's sharp enough to figure out the purpose of the signal the ships are sending out, and with dad in tow heads to Washington D.C. to warn the President of the United States of the threat. (It helps that the ex-wife he's still devoted to works as the White House Communications Director.) Later, he figures out how to bring down the shields that protect the aliens' ships, finally giving humanity a chance to stop them. Even his first name plays into this trope, as this situation is the David Versus Goliath tale from the Old Testament on a huge scale. It's worth noting that while Goldblum has played nerdy characters in many films and is himself Jewish, Levinson is the only one of those characters explicitly presented as Jewish and thus able to qualify for this trope.

  • The Dresden Files: Butters is a total geek and mentions in a couple of places that he is Jewish.
  • Most of Chaim Potok's characters embody this trope, especially his protagonists.
    • Everybody in The Chosen, a novel about a friendship between two Talmud students.
    • In The Beginning has an interesting contrast: the protagonist's father is a Badass Polish Jew whose backstory includes joining the Polish army against his family and community's opposition and killing an unspecified, but quite large, number of Cossacks. He is very clear that the appropriate response to a pogrom is violence, and passes this belief on to his son, the protagonist... who couldn't possibly act on it, being a pale, skinny, glasses-wearing, utterly brilliant, chronically-ill bullying target.
  • Stanley Uris (from Stephen King's It) must count, what with loving birdwatching, being almost obsessively neat and smartly-dressed, and growing up to become an accountant.
  • Albert Kaussner from The Langoliers, a spaghetti western buff and Indiana Jones fan with a yarmulke on his head. He's also the resident Badass Normal, being the one who finally takes down the insane Craig Toomy.
  • The Rules of Supervillainy protagonist, Gary Karkofsky, constantly references Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and other pop culture. He's also very-very Jewish. Curiously, he's also a Kavorka Man and Pop-Cultured Badass.
  • Minerva Green, better known as Min, is the protagonist of Why We Broke Up and applies. She's Jewish and a smart, bookish movie buff with a quick wit. She shares qualities of both a nerd and a Hipster and falls somewhere between the two.
  • In Goodbye To Berlin, Natalia Landauer is a well-read Jewish heiress who wields her book smarts like a cudgel.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Rachel Berry from Glee is a musical-theater nerd, though the show also has a rare stupid (or at least Book Dumb) Jewish character in Jerk Jock Puck. And then, of course, there's Jacob Ben Israel.
  • Ross Geller from Friends is a brainy paleontologist and easily the most socially awkward Friend.
  • The two nerdiest characters from Beverly Hills, 90210, Andrea and David, are both Jewish. In the Sequel Series, Navid is by far the nerdiest main character and is also Jewish.

  • In Zach Sherwin's song "Street Cred", Sherwin discusses how, rather than participating in underground battles and being in gangs like the rappers he admired in his youth, his childhood consisted of joining his synagogue's youth group, being on his high school's debate team, and getting a job at the local TCBY.

  • Fiddler on the Roof: Chava is sometimes portrayed as this, due to her love of reading books. The 2015 Broadway revival gave her glasses.

    Video Games 

  • Mordecai Heller of Lackadaisy was eventually confirmed by Word of God to be Jewish and is one of smartest members of the cast. Unlike many examples he's also extremely brutal.
  • Ethan Siegal of Shortpacked! and Dumbing of Age is a toy collector, a near-fanatical editor of the Transformers Wiki, and can recite He-Man audiobooks from memory.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • South Park: Kyle is the smartest kid in his group and has a poster of Einstein on his wall. He also sports a classic, unfortunate Jewfro underneath his hat. However, he's cool enough to be just one of the guys. His cousin from New York, on the other hand, is extremely nerdy, delicate and stereotypical, to Kyle's annoyance.


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