Oscar the Grouch by the Forward

The Jewiest (and least Jewish) Muppets

Some Muppets don’t even have lower bodies. But they might all have faith traditions.

Last night, Twitter’s favorite rabbi, Danya Ruttenberg, invited the internet to speculate on the religious affiliations of every Muppet ever.

This is a daunting task worthy of at least another tractate in the Talmud. There are SO many Muppets and, technically, even the awful, flocked foam characters in “The Happytime Murders,” which were produced at the Henson Creature Shop, count in the canon. Still, the subject could not be scuppered due to the sheer size of the task. Therefore, we must list the Muppets from most to least Jewish.

For the purposes of this exercise, we will stick to named Muppets — no Muppet extras, no singing vegetables and nothing outside the core Muppet franchise. So, no “Labyrinth,” no “Dark Crystal” and no Fraggles. If Kermit has not made an appearance in the show or film they come from, they don’t count. So: “Sesame Street” is in and anything else that doesn’t have “Muppets” in the title is out. OK, let’s get going.

MOST JEWISH

Statler and Waldorf (Modern Orthodox)

Originally Stavisky and Waldman, these loge-sitting critics started on Second Avenue before hanging up their act to critique other artists. It’s a shame, because their two-hander, “Two Motls, One Kishka,” reportedly showed promise. It’s no mistake that these two resemble some notable Jewish senators.

Fozzie Bear (Formerly Orthodox/Now non-Observant)

As Ruttenberg points out, it was Baer in the Old Country. Sources tell us he is actually a relation to World Heavyweight Champion Max Baer. Fozzie’s side of the family remained committed to religion and his father was a cantor. But Fozzie soon broke with tradition to become an entertainer in the Borscht Belt, leaving his tenement home with nothing but a bindle and a seltzer bottle. He’s since abandoned most of his faith traditions. His father was appalled that he shared the stage with a pig.

Oscar the Grouch (Conservative)

Oscar is a sometimes ill-tempered but large-hearted monster with relations in Israel (cousin Moishe Oofnik) and a member of B’nai B’rith. Why he elects to live in a trashcan is his business, but many believe it’s a political statement.

Miss Piggy (Reform)

The porcine diva is Jewish and heiress to the Piggy’s department store fortune. How can such a treyf creature be Jewish? She just is.

Scooter (Reconstructionist)

The Muppets’ longtime stage manager was shul-shopping for a while before he landed here. But once he discovered Reconstructionism, it just made sense to him, y’know?

Snuffleupagus (Imaginary/Chabad)

Snuffy gets docked points for not being real – nevertheless, here he is blowing the shofar.

Grover (Reform)

He was taken out of Hebrew school for hyperactivity, but as a profusion of children’s books can confirm, he is still very involved in Jewish tradition, and always learning lessons on Tikkun Olam. Grover is actually his last name, so this one’s pretty obvious.

Bert (Non-Denominational)

Bert is a typical beleaguered Jewish Manhattanite — though apparently many Episcopalians count him among their ranks. He’s on the board of the New Shul. Ernie, meanwhile, is Unitarian.

Gonzo (Alien/Space Conservative)

Gonzo only discovered his Space Judaism in 1999’s “Muppets in Space,” but once he did, he realized his rich cultural heritage and annoyed the chickens in his act by taking Space Shabbos (Thursdays) off.

Doctor Teeth (Culturally Jewish)

Bandleader of the Electric Mayhem, Doctor Teeth used to hang around Benny Goodman and was an intern at the Brill Building before Motown changed his life. When Chevy Chase left Steely Dan for SNL, Teeth was briefly their replacement drummer. He left on sour terms and Donald Fagen still owes him money.

Janice (Jew-Bu)

She went in to have her deviated septum fixed and walked out without a nose. A lifelong addiction to quaaludes followed after one fatal visit to an Esalen retreat, where she went in an attempt to recapture what she experienced at Camp Solomon Schechter.

Sweetums (Kahanist)

Sweetums is dangerous and should be avoided.

LEAST JEWISH

Kermit (Quaker)

Kermit has some neuroses to be sure, but he actually is a member of the Society of Friends.

Big Bird (Irish Catholic)

Like Jews, Big Bird is plagued by doubt and full of questions, but his mannerisms all indicate that he comes to them through Catholicism and may someday consider the priesthood.

Animal (Baháʼí)

A Jew does not play drums this way.

Cookie Monster (Baptist)

We would love to claim this blue-haired monster as a Member of the Tribe, but, alas, it was not to be. He gladly eats hamantaschen, though, and often goes to churches of different denominations to sample their communion wafers. He’s yet to find one he likes and briefly floated the idea of developing one where gorging on cookies was a sacrament.

Sam Eagle (Anglican)

Needs no explanation, but in case you were wondering, he is a staunch supporter of Israel.

The Yip-Yips (Evangelical)

The Good News of Christ somehow reached them during their journey to Earth. They are Martians, yes, but Martians who know Jesus.

The Swedish Chef (Swedenborgian)

Asked about his faith journey in Swedish daily Aftonbladet, the Chef described his journey in these terms. “bork der flicke støøbin yubetcha!”

Elmo (Lutheran)

Not a Jew. In fact, problematic.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.

The Jewiest (and least Jewish) Muppets

Author

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

The Jewiest (and least Jewish) Muppets

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close