TV show’s portrayal of Jews receives mixed opinions

Caleb Ellis

Fox’s recent hit television series “Glee” has quickly emerged as a front-runner in a mess of shows offered nowadays. The simple charm and comedy that follows the misfits that make up the show’s glee club has attracted fans of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs.

The series is set in fictional William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, a typical American suburb. It is the mission of Spanish teacher William Schuester (Matthew Morrison) to revive the school’s choir club, and assert it as the best in the nation. This is by no means a simple task: the socially rejected nature of Glee club fends off many of the most applicable students.

Eventually, Schuester successfully woos together a host of remarkably talented and hysterical students, ranging from the popularity-conscious football stars and cheerleaders to the over-dramatic theater pupils and slackers. The show spares no one comically, launching lighthearted and well-received jokes at people of all backgrounds and high school stereotypes.

One group subjected to this attention is the Jewish people. Two members of the club are Jewish: football star and regulation bully Noah ‘Puck’ Puckerman (Mark Salling), and the ultra-talented yet ultra-overwhelming

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Rachel Berry (Lea Michele).

“When I first heard them reference Judaism on the show, I was pretty excited. It sort of made me feel a connection to the characters, even though I can hardly

sing,” said Springfield (Ill.) High School graduate Elly Schoenburg, 18.

The show frequently incorporates subtle jokes and references pertaining to the Jewish characters. In one episode, Puck recalls his annual screening of Schindler’s List, while ironically eating sweet and sour pork from a Chinese takeout restaurant. In the same episode, Puck is urged by his mother to date a Jew, so he sets his sights on fellow Glee club Jew, Rachel. This culminates in a short-lived adolescent romance, plagued by social disgrace and unresolved feelings for other members of the club. The two soon realize that there is little attraction towards each other beyond their Jewish heritage. They break up, with Puck claiming that he feels like “a bad Jew.”

“Although I felt like their relationship wasn’t meant to be, I really enjoyed it. It was fun to see two characters who share my faith be represented on the show together,” Schoenburg said.

Given the show’s wide age range among fans, multiple generations have taken notice to the addition

of Jews.

Adult viewer Laurie Morgan of Creve Coeur concurred

with the opinion of the younger audience. “The first time I heard them make a joke about [Jews], I found myself cracking up. I thought they did it in a totally appropriate and non-offensive way. I thought it was really just great,” Morgan said.

Although some believe the implementation of Judaism is a pleasant and welcome surprise, the Jew jokes mildly annoy others.

Maine West graduate Teddy Nykiel, age 18, was among those who felt the jokes distasteful.

“I understand the way they were trying to make some of the jokes, but I felt like it just supported too many Jewish stereotypes. I wouldn’t say it got to a point where I was mad, but at times I was sitting there asking myself, ‘Really?’” said Nykiel, who recently graduated from the suburban Chicago high school.

However, Jews are not just depicted on “Glee;” some cast members themselves are Jewish. In reality, Diana Agron, who plays cheerleader and pregnant teen Quinn Fabray, was raised Jewish in San Francisco. She has commented on the irony of her playing a devout Catholic and rival to Rachel, who is Jewish. According to, she agrees that the show has taken a comedic and appropriate

approach towards Jews and all other groups that the series jests with.

“Glee” recently concluded its first season on Fox (Channel 2), and will begin its second season on Tuesday, Sept. 21.