6 Simple Ways To Characterize Jewish People In TV Shows

6 Simple Ways To Characterize Jewish People In TV Shows

Is it really so difficult for someone on TV to be Jewish when it isn’t Christmas?
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Ah, Christmas. The time of year when TV writers reveal that one of the characters in their United-States-set Christonormative show is, in fact, just for this episode, Jewish. Never mind that this character has never said or done anything to make you think that they’re Jewish; now they have a menorah, so the network executives can sit back and relax knowing that they’ve done their part in representing minorities, and forget about the issue for another year. Sometimes it feels like the Hollywood hivemind thinks that Jewish people only exist while celebrating Chanukah, or that it is too difficult to characterize a Jewish person when the story they’re writing isn’t explicitly about Judaism.

Speaking as someone who is Jewish every day of the year, and who is a writer, a story doesn’t have to be “about” Judaism in order to have Jewish characters! Here are six simple ways to show that a character is Jewish without waiting for everyone else to break out the Christmas lights – and I don’t mean by playing into stereotypes.

1. The Pizza-Toppings Argument

Many Jewish people keep a kosher diet, the most prominent rule of which is to not mix dairy products and meat products. If there’s a scene in the TV show in which the characters order a pizza, and someone in the group is Jewish, a conversation similar to the following could ensue:

“Okay guys, I’m ordering pizza. What do we want?”

“Mushrooms!”

“And sausage!”

“Not on my pizza.”

“Okay, so, sausage on half, and mushrooms on all of it.”

Simple.

2. Hanging Out on Friday Night… Or Not

Christians go to church on Sunday morning. Jews go to synagogue on Friday night and/or Saturday morning. If the Christian characters in a show can’t attend an event or solve a problem right now because they have to go to church, on different days of the week that’ll be an issue for Jewish characters, too.

This also goes for characters who don’t attend religious services. Sometimes in TV shows characters use “I’m at church” as a cover-up for what they’re actually doing. That would work on a Sunday for a Christian character, and a similar excuse for a Jewish character on a Friday or Saturday would be that they’re “at the synagogue”. Pretending to be at a religious service is an equal-opportunity lie for people of all religions!

3. Family Photos

Do we see a character’s house? Are there pictures of family members on the walls? Is anyone in the photos wearing a kippah or tallit? Odds are good that these pictures were taken at family events. A Jewish wedding photo might include the couple standing under a chuppah or being lifted up on chairs. If the character had a bar or bat mitzvah, there might be a picture of them as an early teenager reading from the torah. If the character’s family took a trip to Israel, they definitely took pictures at all the hot tourist locations—the Dead Sea, Mount Masada, or the Old City of Jerusalem. Also, since this is the 21st century and all, these pictures could easily be on a character’s smartphone!

4. Other Background Details

What else is in the Jewish character’s house? Is there a mezuzah on their doorpost? A set of Shabbat candlesticks on the kitchen counter? A poster from a Debbie Friendman, Dan Nichols, or Barbra Streisand concert on the bedroom wall? A t-shirt from a NFTY event in the closet? If the character is married, is the ketubah on display somewhere? Of course, not all Jewish people have these specific things, but we have options here.

5. What They Say

Not all Jewish people speak Hebrew, but you can’t be a part of a culture without some of its words and phrases slipping into your speech. The Jewish terms for “grandmother” and “grandfather” are “Bubbie” and “Zaydie”. It’s also possible, but a little rarer in non-Hebrew-speaking-countries, for someone to refer to “Mom” and “Dad” as “Ima” and “Abba”. They might use Yiddish words, too—to snack is to “nosh”, to chit-chat is to “kibbitz”, to complain is to “kvetch”, someone with a lot of nerve has “chutzpah”, non-Jews are “goyim”, and “tuchus” is a handy word for “butt”. A Jewish person who would like to congratulate someone might tell them “Mazal tov!” or “Yasher koach!” Where a Christian person might thank Jesus or Mary for a bout of good fortune, a Jewish person might recite a prayer of thanks called the shehecheyanu. Again, we have a lot of options here. And speaking of options…

6. Include Other Jewish Holidays Besides Chanukah

There are a lot of them, so take your pick. I’ve talked about this before: Chanukah is fun, but religiously it isn’t really that big of a deal. Yes, some Jewish people only celebrate Chanukah, just like some Christian people only celebrate the secular aspects of Christmas. But right now that’s the kind of Jewish people that we’re most likely to see on TV. And there is so much more to Judaism, and to Jewish people, than that. We deserve some screentime the rest of the year!

Cover Image Credit: eonline.com

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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10 Types Of Questions To Ask God For Transformation

What is my abnormal normal?

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I believe one of the best ways to get to know who God is by asking Him questions about what you don't understand. God wants us to come to Him boldly (Hebrews 4:16). He wants all of you. He wants you to come to Him when you're frustrated, angry, depressed, lustful, sick, hateful, prideful, selfish and more. He wants you to bring all that to Him so that He can produce in you what you can't do yourself.

TD Jakes introduced this prayer in a sermon that is completely life-disrupting but indescribably worth it. The prayer is about our "abnormal normal". These are things that we do that we think are completely normal so much so that we wouldn't be able to identify it on our own but these things actually aren't normal.

I believe that the word normal is being used from the lens of 'healthy'. I remember TD Jakes daring his audience to pray this prayer but to be careful because you don't know what will spring up when you ask God to reveal this to you and, of course, help you with it.

Listen... when I prayed this prayer some time ago... I just remember situations springing forth revealing things to me that I was not prepared to deal with. It's almost the ballpark of when you ask God to show you who your real friends are and you get betrayed or people start acting 'funny'. But I believe this prayer is tougher because you're forced to deal with you in a way you may not be ready for.

But have no fear because you're in God's hands. He'll give you beauty for your ashes (Isaiah 61). You might experience some pain but it's indescribably worth it with God.

Dear God,

Why do I keep falling short even though I'm doing all that I know how to do to follow you?

Why should I follow you?

1. FRIENDS/RELATIONSHIPS

Giphy

Who are my real friends? Who really loves me out of my circle/s? Who can I count on for what counts in this life? Why do I keep experiencing the same things in my relationships? God, you haven't given me the authority to control people or their hearts so what am I doing that keeps me ending up at the same place with people? Am I just retaking the same test over and over again?

Do I have any patterns? What are my patterns? Where am I not holding myself accountable? How can I hold myself accountable so I won't go throw bad patterns in relationships?

2. PRIDE

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What is pride? Where am I prideful? Where does pride come from? Why does my pride keep coming back? What triggers my pride?

3. INSECURITY

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Why aren't insecurity and humility the same thing? Who do you say I am? Who do I have around me that could be perpetuating insecurity, doubt or self-consciousness? How does my insecurity affect the people around me? How can I build confidence YOUR way instead of the world's way? What does being confident in who I am in Christ look like? What does this mean?

4. RACE

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How do I love EVERYONE as my neighbor (Mark 12:30-31)? How do I have grace for and love people that hate my race? How do I have grace for and love people that spread hate? Why would you want me to have grace for people that spread hate? How do I have grace for and love people that have bullied me/ mistreated me/ persecuted me/ lied on my name/ cursed my name/ judged me?

How do I have grace for and love people that have hurt the ones that I love? How is my heart supposed to have enough capacity to love like this?

5. LBGTQ

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If you are Love (1 John 4:8), then why do my Christian friends recommend, with their actions, to express hate to our gay friend? Are they not our neighbor anymore because they're gay? Does the greatest commandment of love (Matt 22:36-40) not still stand even for gay people? Does the blood of Jesus Christ not cover them as well? Do we not all need the same grace? But how do you want me to walk in Grace AND in Truth as Jesus did before us as an example?

Because I'm not walking like you Lord completely if I don't also extend the truth of your word to my brothers and sisters in Christ, I'm asking for you to speak through me when I don't know what to say.

6. LUST

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How do I know when I've crossed over into lust? What are the differences between lust and love? What is so harmful about lust? Lust perverts things and I don't want to fall prey to this, what are things that are opening that door for me? Are there people around me that are enabling this in my life?

No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)

7. OPPORTUNTIES

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How do I stay disciplined to your will and being with you? What are the opportunities that are for me and the ones that are not? I've heard Pastor Michael Todd of Transformation Church talk about ambition being evil, why would ambition be an evil thing? What is the most important thing for your children to do? What is our purpose for your kingdom on earth? What have you set us here to do above all of the other favor you've given us?

(Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plan's in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails)

8. IDENTITY

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How do I learn who I am in Christ? What does it mean for me to be apart of the body of Christ? If we're all your children, does that make everyone my brothers and sisters in Christ? How should I treat all my brothers and sisters in Christ? Why is it toxic to others if I don't know who I am in Christ? Why is it harmful to the body of Christ when I don't know who I am?

Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. (Isaiah 43:6-7)

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name. (Psalm 86:9)

I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. (Psalm 86:12)

9. ENVY/JEALOUSY

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Am I supposed to be affected if someone I don't like walks into a room? Why is it hard for me to celebrate the wins of others? Why is it hard for me to celebrate the wins of people that I know don't honor your word? Why am I coveting even the lives, experiences and things of my close friends? Why do I compare myself to people who I'm close to and wouldn't want to compete with? Why do I secretly compete with people even the ones I care about?

10. PURPOSE

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What is the purpose that you've created for my life? What did you put me on this earth to do?

*Championship Playbook Scripture:

This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentlenesses and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and the one who is wise saves lives. (Proverbs 11:30)

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)

13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

When I ask God questions I'm able to learn more about who He Is and I begin to experience another dimension of adventure in my relationship with Him! I would recommend always asking Him and trusting Him with what you don't understand!

These questions are for you to ask God in time of prayer and really be still and waiting on His answer. Asking God questions, even ones that I'm not sure I want the answer to, has to lead to God transforming me. I mean literally transforming me in my heart, how I love others, how I treat others, my discipline, my character, and more. It's indescribable.

Asking God questions like these also always leads to me, in addition to transforming, getting my own experiences of seeing deeper levels of His glory. And I get to see Him do it through MY life. I can't explain how awesome that is! As His children, we get the opportunity to experience the same God who used the same power to perform the miracles that we read about in the bible.

Those miracles in the bible are so mind blowing but it really does take faith for me to believe that He did them. So if I'm the child of the same God who literally says in His word that he'll be with us how he was with Moses, why wouldn't I trust Him? Why wouldn't I partake in the abundance that He wants me to experience with Him? Am I going to not experience it just because I don't 'feel' like being obedient?

Where is your kingdom mindset? Because my kingdom mindset tells me that do not experience more of Him because of how I feel is hustling backward. What do I mean by that? I mean that why would you invest in how you feel (Finite; fickle; changes all the time with no loyalty to you) over investing in the King of Kings who created the heavens and earth (infinite; omniscient; omnipresent; impossible to be defeated; impossible for Him to not love you)?

I feel selfish experiencing His glory and not sharing it. I want my brothers and sisters in Christ to know that there's always more of Him for you to learn about and experience. Be Bold! Ask the Questions! Try Him out! See what He can do through you and your family!

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