11 Jewish facts about ‘The Addams Family’ movies

Arielle Kaplan

This article originally appeared on Kveller.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and … Jewish?

Well, not quite. But between Morticia Addams’ Yiddish pet name for her husband, Gomez, and to the very Jewish writer (Paul Rudnick) behind the movies’ scripts, it’s safe to say that the Addams family is, at least, Jew-ish.

Hulu keeps adding to its vast trove of movies and — huzzah! — “The Addams Family” and its sequel, “Addams Family Values,” are available to stream now. Notably these hit movies (from 1991 and 1993, respectively) are not based on the 1960s sitcom but on the TV series’ original source material: the drawings of New Yorker cartoonist Charles Addams.

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In honor of the iconic movies’ arrival to your TV or home computer, we searched far and wide to gather all the Jewish facts from “The Addams Family” movies.

1. Family matriarch Morticia (played by Anjelica Huston) endearingly calls Gomez (Raul Julia) “bubeleh.” It’s a sweet Yiddish term that translates, in this context, as “darling” or “sweetheart.”

2. Jewish director Barry Sonnenfeld — best known for “Men In Black” — made his directorial debut with “The Addams Family.” In the sequel, Sonnenfeld makes a cameo.

3. While filming a scene for “The Addams Family” when Gomez discovers Morticia tied up, bondage style — legend has it that Julia kept flubbing his line, which was in Spanish. So Sonnenfeld told the actor to take it from the top “for the Hebrew version.” According to Rolling Stone, Julia asked, “How do you say ‘leather straps and red-hot pokers’ in Hebrew?” When Sonnenfeld confessed that he didn’t know, Julia asked about Yiddish. “Leather straps and red hot pokers? Oy vey iz mir!” Sonnenfeld replied, sending the whole set laughing.

4. In “Addams Family Values,” everyone’s favorite spooky teenager Wednesday and her brother, Pugsley, are sent to a sleepaway camp. But not just any camp — a Jewish summer camp! While not explicitly mentioned in the movie, Camp Chippewa is a real camp in Wisconsin that’s popular among upper-class, Jewish households.

5. Marc Shaiman, one of the producers and composers of “The Addams Family” music, is Jewish — and his cultural background clearly inspired his work on the film. There’s “Family Plotz,” a beautiful instrumental song that accompanies Gomez as he reminisces about his long-lost brother Fester. When Fester returns to his family after a mysterious 25-year disappearance, Gomez celebrates  by dancing to “Mamushka,” a traditional Addams family celebratory dance that is remarkably hora-like.

6. In “Addams’ Family Values,” Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) marries the golddigging nanny Debbie Jelinksy (Joan Cusack). As Wednesday, the flower girl, walks down the aisle, a spooky rendition of “Sunrise, Sunset” from “Fiddler on the Roof” is played on the piano.

7. Scott Rudin, the producer of both movies, is Jewish. “I was a Jewish kid from Long Island who didn’t want to be a Jewish kid from Long Island,” Rudin said.

8. Wednesday’s love interest in “Addams Family Values” is Jewish (and played by the Jewish actor David Krumholtz). Portrayed as a stereotypical Jewish teen, Glicker wears glasses, is allergic to everything and has a neurotic mother. The pair meet at summer camp and share one kiss under the pretense that they’d never see each other again. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Rudnick said that Glicker “was a reflection of Barry, Scott Rudin and myself because we’re all nice Jewish boys.”

9. Actually, the Addams Family was filled with Jewish contributors. The late Judith Malina, who played Grandmama Addams in “The Addams Family,” is a Jewish German immigrant, and Dan Hadaya, who played Tully Alford, the evil lawyer who plotted to steal the Addams fortune, was born to a Sephardic Jewish family.

10. The legendary Jewish talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael — aka Sally Lowenthal — had a cameo in “The Addams Family.” She played herself on her talk show, “Sally Jessy Raphael,” and did a bit about “Voodoo Witch Doctors in the United States.”

11. When “The Addams Family” sitcom aired in the ‘60s, it was seen as subtle commentary on racism in the United States. While audiences were growing to love the quirky and spooky Addams family, Jews and black Americans were moving into previously all-gentile and all-white neighborhoods. Here, the Addams family served to represent the social issue that “monsters” were invading their territory. Likewise, “The Addams Family” and “Addams Family Values” addressed the same issues, and inviting viewers to accept the monsters for their loving personalities, despite their different appearance. Welcoming the stranger — clearly that’s a Jewish and an Addams family value!