Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Culture

These Are The All-Time Best Jewish Moments In Movies And On TV

Most Accurate Wedding Sequence:
“Have Gun Will Travel,” ‘A Drop of Blood’ 1961

The length and accuracy of this scene is owed entirely to Shimon Wincelberg, a long-time Hollywood television scriptwriter who worked on everything from “Star Trek” to “Law and Order.” His melodious Ashkenazi chanting is dubbed over the actor’s in this scene—his only speaking role in his many decades in the industry.

Most Accurate Divorce Sequence:
“Hester Street” 1975

The scene conducted in a mixture of Yiddish and Hebrew, is one of the best extended depictions of Jewish ritual ever to appear on the silver screen. The film was inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry for its historical significance.

Best Use of Jewish Ritual in a Movie about Aliens:
‘Shema Koleinu,’ “Independence Day” 1996

Jewish ritual is surprisingly frequent in the genre. See also: Hanukkah and shiva rituals on “Babylon 5.”

First appearance of Jewish ritual in an X-Rated film (probably):

“Fritz the Cat” 1972

Adapted from the Robert Crumb comic strip, synagogue services make a brief appearance. Skeptical of prayer, the movie depicts all the congregants identically: as old dogs in prayer shawls.

Oldest Prayer to Appear on TV:

Priestly Blessing, in “Mad Men,” ‘Tea Leaves’ 2012

Michael Ginsberg, the anxiety-ridden Jewish character, makes his debut in this episode. The prayer, which is given by kohanim to congregations and parents to children, is sprung on Ginsberg by his Holocaust-survivor father in a moment of tenderness.

Best Use of Aramaic:

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” 1981

“Berikh Shmei” is traditionally recited when the ark is opened on synagogue mornings. The Lost Ark is opened to excerpts from this prayer—with decidedly more gruesome results.

Most frequently depicted Jewish ritual:

Kaddish. This ritual is, by leaps and bounds, the most commonly depicted. Unlike the real-life version, the Kaddish of television and movies is almost never said together with other Jews, or anyone else at all.

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.