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You Have to Have Jews

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"In any great adventure, if you don't want to lose,
Victory depends upon the people that you choose.
So listen, Arthur, darling, closely to this news:
We won't succeed on Broadway if we don't have any Jews."
Sir Robin, Spamalot

For a minority forming less than one quarter of one percent of the world's population, Jews are astonishingly well-represented both as creators of media and as characters appearing in that media. This is largely because much of the most popular media is created in the USA, and specifically in the two parts of the USA with the highest per capita Jewish populations, Los Angeles and New York City. Therefore, this trope is an example of both Hollywood Provincialism and Big Applesauce.


Of course, like so many others, this rather sensitive trope began as an inversion of another trope. There was a time when working in media was one of the few options for ambitious, intelligent, well-educated people who happened to be Jewish. Anything considered to be academic or high art would be under considerable pressure to appear "respectable," and cater to the segregationist views of the time. Anyone who was not (or could not pass for) white, heterosexual, Christian (most likely Protestant), and often times male might be considered a risk to the company's reputation. Since radical new media, such as film, radio, Comic Books and, later, television were often callously dismissed as vulgar, they tended to hire the people no one else would take — i.e. Jews. Despite the doomsday warnings of segregationist Moral Guardians, new media took off and people who once had to scramble for an employer became part of history. In short, many might say that the Jewish people who ran Hollywood did so because they were the ones who built it . Most major Hollywood studios, including the Big Five (20th Century Fox, RKO Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and the Little Three (Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and United Artists) had at least one Jewish founding member, with the prominent exception of Walt Disney Studios (as such, some say that Walt Disney hated Jews, when in fact his beef was specifically with left-wing Jewish labor leaders he suspected of infiltrating his studio), and every American studio currently has Jews in at least some high ranking executive and creative positions. Creative types usually write what they know, and despite the ever-lingering specter of antisemitism in the early twentieth century, many writers, directors, producers, etc. most certainly would have passed on their own perspective into their work, intentionally or not.


This trope does not lend itself to a simple list of examples, as such a list could easily smack of antisemitism ("what's with all these Jews?"). That is not what this trope is about at all. It is, nevertheless, noticeable to viewers and readers who live in areas where Jewish populations are much smaller (e.g. the UK, where Jews were, according to the 2001 census, outnumbered three to two by Jedi). As it's a Trope in Aggregate, please add examples only where this trope is lampshaded, or possibly averted if it's really incongruous.

It should also be noted that often, while Jewish heritage is common in media, Judaism and Jewish culture are often rare: The audience will be told that a character is Jewish, but uniquely Jewish cultural events will not be discussed, unless there is a Very Special Episode revolving around Hanukkah or Passover, the character is an anti-Semite or loves Jewish culture, or the main character(s) is/are Jewish.


Contrast White Male Lead, although in many genres they do intersect. This usually results in All Jews Are Ashkenazi.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In the 2009 one-shot comic Watchmensch released by Brain Scan Studios which parodies the Watchmen series, Rorschach is depicted as a lawyer who is known instead as "Spottyman" and is pretending to be Jewish. While a Jewish lawyer in NYC is nothing remarkable, a Gentile pretending to be Jewish is usually doing so because of this trope.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The leads in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle were almost turned into two Jewish guys due to Executive Meddling. The producers added in two Jewish roommates as the lead characters' friends.
  • Mel Brooks, being a proud Jew who makes films the run on Rule of Funny, often inserts Jewish references that are made more humorous for how incongruous they are.
  • Woody Allen's Gag Dub film What's Up, Tiger Lily? replaces the Japanese detective's name with "Phil Moscowitz".
  • Doug the Head in Snatch. obviously believes in this trope. He appears the stereotypical Jew, wearing a yarmulke, saying "oy vey", running a slightly dodgy jewelery and precious stones business. He isn't actually Jewish, but he affects Jewishness because he believes it's good for business.
    Turkish: ...and in the diamond business, it is good business.
  • In Lord of War, Yuri's father puts a great deal of effort into convincing people he's Jewish because he got to the U.S. from the USSR by claiming refugee status. He also believes it's good for his business networking.
    Yuri: A contact at the synagogue landed me my first gun: an Israeli-made UZI.
  • Explicitly stated in Reversal of Fortune by Alexandra, Claus Von Bulow's current girlfriend; she says she told Claus to "hire the Jew (Alan Dershowitz)''.
  • In Walk Hard, there are Jewish procuers, because, you know, "those Jews control show business."
  • Joe Versus the Volcano includes a Polynesian tribe that descends partially from ancient Jews, so one of their tribal chants is the Israeli folk song "Hava Nagila."
  • Black Christmas (2019): There has to be at least one Jew in this Christmas movie. Fran helpfully drops the fact that she's Jewish when wishing Riley a Merry Christmas. The sorority also has a Hanukah menora prominently placed in the main living room, which makes a comeback as an Improvised Weapon in the climax.
  • There of course would have to be a gag in Wedding Crashers where in the montage of weddings the protagonists crash to hook up with one night stands, they go to a Jewish wedding. Neither of the characters are Jewish.

  • Lampshaded in the FAQ (Future Alien Questions) section of Earth (The Book) for religion.
    Q: We were surprised you devoted so much time to Judaism, since it made up only one fifth of one percent of the world's people.
    A: What do you mean?
    Q: It just seemed disproportionate.
    A: Oh. Well. Sorry you had a problem with the pages about the Jews.
    Q: We didn't have a problem with them.
    A: Really? Because it sounds like you had a problem with them.
    Q: No no no. In fact some of our favorite pages in the chapter were Jewish.
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay explains this in relation to The Golden Age of Comic Books.
  • In Ender's Game, the Polemarch, Strategos, and Hegemon of Earth are all Jewish, and a popular military myth claims that Jewish commanders never lose wars (presumably they never heard of Simon bar Kokhba). It's noted, however, that the soldier who turned the tide of the war was in fact not Jewish.
  • When one Harry Potter fan complained that there didn't appear to be any Jews at Hogwarts, JK Rowling responded that a minor character called Anthony Goldstein (who had all of three lines in the entire series) was Jewish.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jon Stewart (né Leibowitz) is fond of exercising J-Word Privileges with this trope, as when he jokes on The Daily Show about the "Jew-run media". Once while accepting an Emmy award, Jon claimed the secret to the show's success was "diversity"; he then indicated the dozen or so white men making up the writing staff and pointed out one who "used to have a beard" and another who "isn't Jewish".
  • Rick Sanchez blamed this trope for his dissatisfaction over his career trajectory as a TV journalist. In an interview that quickly went viral, Sanchez blamed the abundance of Jews in the media, and specifically Jon Stewart, for his failure to become a leading name at CNN. Apparently he couldn't think of a single reason other than his Cuban heritage for why he wasn't the most respected journalist at CNN.
  • Surprisingly, considering the city in which the show is set and the Jewish heritage of its producer, averted in CSI: NY. Neither the main characters nor the actors who play them include any Jews. Particularly notable in that its sister show CSI: Miami, which is set in a city that houses substantially fewer Jews than NYC, does include Jewish cast members (the most prominent being Jonathan Togo, who plays CSI Ryan Wolfe).
  • On a sketch from Mr. Show, David Cross played a Right-Wing Militia Fanatic who claimed that his property was his own country. He ran cameras off his land whilst yelling that HBO stands for "Hebrew Box Office" and various complaints about the liberal Jew-run media.
  • Invoked and subverted in Breaking Bad by Amoral Attorney Saul Goodman. His real name is James "Jimmy" McGill and he's Irish-American, but as he tells Walt, he uses the name "Saul Goodman" professionally because people (or at least criminals) are more likely to hire a Jewish lawyer. Better Call Saul would later show that he also used the name in the past while pulling scams on people with his friend Marco for beer money, and then again when he started selling burner cell phones to criminals. Since his customer base already knew him as Saul Goodman, he saw it as only logical to continue operating under that name as a lawyer, since he'd most likely be getting the same people as clients.
  • David Simon, creator of The Wire, had to explain his intentions when he put a very Jewish man (Maurice Levy, played by the equally-Jewish Michael Kostroff) into the role of the "evil lawyer". He explained that every gangster in Baltimore is represented by one of three or four Jewish lawyers who specifically are hired by leading gangsters. To him, the role was about realism, not being politically incorrect. In contrast, the "good lawyer" of the show (Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman) is also Jewish, though it's much less noticeable (besides the character being non-observant, she is played by the non-Jewish Dierdre Lovejoy). (For the record, David Simon is himself Jewish).
  • In the first season of Louie, Louie CK gets a part in The Godfather. His agent tells him Matthew Broderick asked for him specifically, and that they're remaking the Coppolla original "but with all Jews".note 
  • In Mad Men: Roger orders Peggy to hire the highly eccentric Michael Ginsberg as a copywriter against her better judgment simply because Roger thinks that every ad agency needs a Jew to be successful. Contrast this with an episode in the first season where Roger "ha[s] to go all the way down to the mail room" to find a Jewish employee for a meeting with a Jewish-owned department store.
  • Referenced in the first episode of House when Wilson wonders how Foreman could have gotten through medical school without learning a thing or two about Jews (specifically, that they don't all keep Kosher). (The series does not contain this trope, as given that it's set in a hospital in Central Jersey, there may be too few Jews in the cast—although the absence of East and South Asians is even more glaring.)
  • Season 2 of Defiance introduces Cai, an Irathient (alien race from another planet) Jew. He was orphaned as a baby and raised by a human Jewish couple. He is a practicing Jew and works as a lawyer.
  • Played with on All in the Family. Archie's racist assumptions were being challenged when he found out many people in his life were Jewish, despite not fitting any of his (or the audence's) pre-concived steriotypes.
  • Mocked when Seth MacFarlane hosted the Academy Awards. When Mark Wahlberg and Ted showed up to present the awards, Ted took note how a number of respected, Oscar-winning actors just happen to be Jewish. When Wahlberg said he himself wasn't Jewish Ted told him "wrong answer if you wanna work in this town" before elaborating to the crowd how he was Jewish and how much he wanted to donate to Israel.
  • Played for Laughs in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody when London reveals she celebrates Hanukkah, despite not being ethnically Jewish. She also occasionally throws Yiddish slang terms out there.
    London: Miss out on eight days of presents? Not this Shiska.
  • Scrubs lampshades this in an Imagine Spot for Elliot where she imagines creating the perfect robot finacee - and he's also Jewish. She then says her parents will kill her for marrying a Jew.
  • Band of Brothers has an accidental example. Joe Liebgott is portrayed as a Jew in the miniseries, to play up the emotional impact of the concentration camp episode. However in reality he wasn't actually Jewish - and his comrades mistakenly thought he was. His family revealed this information after the miniseries aired.
  • One episode of Lovejoy features a diamond merchant with a black hat and Yiddish accent and so on. When Lovejoy catches him eating a ham sandwich, he explains the schtick: "It's expected."
  • Invoked in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry hires a lawyer named Berg, assuming he was jewish, but becomes disenchanted once he sees him riding a motorcycle. He confronts the lawyer and accuses him of being a "fake jew", then hires another lawyer, after making sure that one is Jewish - doesn't end too well. Larry David, of course, is Jewish, but the episode's writer Alec Berg, on whom the character is based, isn't.

  • Lampshaded by this supercut: a great number of hip-hop artists have Jewish lawyers. The accompanying article explains this connection between Black people and Jewish lawyers goes back a long way. Jews were by and large the only white people to actively support the Civil Rights Movement, and so Jews were as disproportionately represented among civil rights lawyers in the '60s as they seem to be among rappers' counsel today.

  • Lampshaded hilariously in the Monty Python musical Spamalot, in the number "You Won't Succeed on Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)". They succeed after all because Patsy turns out to be Jewish, though he's reluctant to reveal it to heavily armed Christians. In the UK, the song was changed to "You Won't Succeed on Show Business (If You Don't Have Any Stars)" because there's no Broadway in the UK and Jews have not had the same impact on entertainment there.

    Video Games 
  • Many of the prominent citizens of Rapture in BioShock are of Jewish descent like lead designer Ken Levine (as he acknowledged in an interview), including its founder Andrew Ryan, Sander Cohen, Dr. Steinman, and scientist Brigid Tenenbaum (a Holocaust survivor). However, considering the setting, most if not all of them are atheist or at least non-religious, much like Levine himself.
  • Crusader Kings has an odd case of the fan base demanding this. Jews were not originally included in the game, with the justification that there weren't any Jewish rulers in the game's time frame. Then the DLC The Old Gods pushed back the start date to a time when the Khazar Khanate existed, where large portions of the nobility converted to Judaism. This wasn't in the game, so people began modding. Then Paradox announced the Sons of Abraham DLC, which, among many things, introduced Jews to the game proper.


    Web Original 
  • The website Jew or Not Jew, which speculates whether certain celebrities/historical figures/fictional characters are Jewish, inverted this with the Seven Dwarfs. They concluded that six of the dwarfs are Jewish (Dopey being the non-Jewish one) because apparently in a large group of Jews you have to have at least one non-Jew.

    Web Videos 

    Real Life 
  • In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claims the predominance of Jewish lawyers in New York City was due to a shift in business culture. For decades the Ivy League WASP-dominated law firms wouldn't sully their hands with the "dirty tricks" parts of business law (e.g., hostile takeovers), leaving those cases to the rising Jewish law firms. Around the late 1970s, "dirty tricks" became the established culture of big business, and the Jewish firms were poised to take advantage of it while the WASP firms struggled to adapt to the new paradigm.
  • For many centuries, Jews were prohibited from owning land and otherwise discriminated against. As a result, they wound up being merchants, moneylenders, and members of the new middle class. Christian and Muslim usury laws which made it a sin to collect interest also played a big role in getting Jews into finance (Jewish law prohibits charging interest on loans to other Jews, but not to Gentiles). Another profession that didn't require owning land or being a member of the upper classes was entertainment; in addition, "outsiders" have a different vantage point on the majority culture, which may help make them better entertainers.
    • Jews could also cross the borders between Christian and Muslim kingdoms and get an in to the economy on the other side that couldn't be gotten directly. As a bonus this also made them handy diplomats and spies on occasion.
  • This bit by Woody Allen:
    "When I was thrown out of college I got a job on Madison Avenue in New York. A real dyed-in-the-wool advertising agency on Madison Avenue wanted a man to come in and they'd pay him ninety-five dollars a week to sit in their office and look Jewish. They wanted to prove to the outside world that they would hire minority groups, y'know. So I was the one they hired. I was the show Jew at the agency. I tried to look Jewish desperately. Used to read my memos from right to left all the time. They fired me finally, 'cause I took off too many Jewish holidays."
  • In Yuri Slezkine's The Jewish Century the writer sets up the ethnographical model of "Apollonarian" (territorial food producers) and "Mercurian" (wandering artisans) peoples. In his model Jews (except for Israelis who are Apollonarians) are Mercurians who, like Parsees, Roma, etc., survive by staying outside the conventional system and doing things awkward for an Apollonarian for reasons of tradition (that is, Jews were merchants because some aspects of that work were awkward for gentiles; just as some synagogues hire "Sabbath goy" gentiles to work on the Sabbath in a reversal of that). Under this theory the reason you have got to have Jews is that some jobs needed to be done by Jews or someone like them.


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