On the television dramedy “Glee,” the Fox TV show that focuses on the members of an Ohio high school choir, lead character Rachel Berry officially came out — as a Jew. There were hints beforehand: her name, her allusions to her big nose, her love for Streisand. But it wasn’t until the episode that aired on September 23 that she officially came out and said it.
She was fighting for the role of Maria in “West Side Story,” and said, “Natalie Wood was a Jew, you know. I have had a deep, personal connection to this role since the age of 1.” (While rumored to be a Jew, Wood was Russian Orthodox.)
Not only was Rachel’s coming out satisfying for all those who have been suspecting as much, but it also helped fill a big void in Hollywood — the Jewess. Jewish female characters don’t make it onto the screen often, a fact that is easy to overlook because of the heavy representation of Jewish men in Hollywood: from the Apatow clan, to Stiller and Sandler, to Larry David. These slightly nebbishy but nonetheless adorable guys give us our fill of Yiddishkeit, but they almost always come with a shiksa counterpart.
With the character of Rachel Berry, played by “Spring Awakening” alumna Lea Michele, Jewish women finally have someone to call their own. This girl’s got chutzpah and spunk; she is arrogant but never affected; she has a solid heart. Indeed, she has a bit of a young Streisand thing going — something the actress, who is half-Jewish in real life, has noted herself.
“I got my dream song!” Barry told “Access Hollywood.” “I got to sing a Barbra Streisand song [in an upcoming episode.] I can’t say which it is, but it’s one of her most popular songs. Ever since I was a little girl, a Jewish girl, it’s like always been playing through my head. So I had the opportunity to sing that on the show.”
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.