Never Have I Ever is a gift. Seriously, it is the diverse, thirsty Netflix show of my dreams. I am also a major fan of Jewish star Jaren Lewinson, who is so funny and charming as Ben Gross, the Jewish nemesis and not-so-surprising surprise love interest of the show’s sassy Indian-American heroine, Devi Vishwakumar.
Still, I was a little blown away by the sheer amount of Jewish jokes and references in this show! The sources for these ranged from references to the Torah to hilarious bar mitzvah memorabilia to some pretty ill-thought comments about the Holocaust. (PSA: Never tell your Jewish nemesis you wish they’d been killed by the Nazis.)
So, I decided to take you all on a wild ride through the many funny Jewish lines in Never Have I Ever. Join me, won’t you?
Ben Gross’ bar mitzvah with Blake Griffin.
In our very first introduction to Ben Gross, we learn that his father is a top entertainment attorney in Beverly Hills, which means he had enough pull to get Blake Griffin to come to his son’s bar mitzvah. And oh, the caricature of Blake Griffin lifting Ben Gross up for a slam dunk is just too real.
Mr. Shapiro looking at Jonah when he said the Holocaust.
That feeling when your teacher mentions the Holocaust and then looks directly at you, the most prominent Jewish person in the class? Yeah. Ben Gross’ facial expression reacting to Mr. Shapiro’s micro-aggression is 100%:
Devi’s mom making fun of Ben’s height.
“He’s like 5″2.” Well, joke’s on you, Nalini! Short Jewish men are where it’s at!
Devi’s RBG sex fantasy with Paxton.
“I mean look at you.” Paxton, Devi’s crush and the hottest boy in school, tells her in her fantasy. “You have the body of Priyanka Chopra with the incisive intellect of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” Do we all wish our crushes told us we had the incisive intellect of notorious Jewish Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Yes, yes we do.
That whole Nazi kerfuffle.
Okay so this is less of a Jewish joke and more of an unfortunately realistic Jewish reference. Having had a truly awful day, the straw that breaks Devi’s back is a snarky interaction with Ben (he is her nemesis, after all). Devi mumbles under her breath, “I wish the Nazis would kill you,” during a class about, you guess it, the Holocaust.
“Devi, what was that?” the teacher asks. Yeah, seriously, Devi, my jaw dropped!
“Yeah, Devi, please share your mumble with the rest of the class,” Ben says, who is obviously not cool with this statement.
“I said I wished the Nazis would kill Ben,” she repeats. Oh, Devi, coming through with the self-destructive teen behavior.
Ben is, as Mr. Shapiro says, shooketh.
You said it, not me.
So obviously after that comment, Devi gets sent to the principal’s office along with Ben.
“What the hell, Devi? You can’t just go around wishing Nazis would kill classmates,” she says.
“Especially ones who are…” Yes, Principal Grubbs?
“Jews?” Ben suggests.
“Yes, exactly. Your words.”
YOUR WORDS. A wonderful nod to the fact that some people think just saying the word “Jew” can be offensive.
Luckily, Devi does realize the error of her ways, saying, “Ben, I’m really sorry. I don’t want Nazis to kill you.” Never has an apology for something so truly awful been so adorable.
You’re gross, Gross.
“You’re gross, Gross.” The pun we have all been waiting for, and one many Jewish kids named Gross have most likely been dealing with their whole lives. We’re sorry.
The episode starts with this gem:
As part of their history lesson, Mr. Shapiro asks, “What if Anne Frank had an iPhone?” Oh, Mr. Shapiro, you are so behind the times.
Mr. Shapiro assigns a group project to the class: Come up with an app that could have been useful during the Holocaust. (Is this what really happens in high school these days?) Ben Gross’ idea? Jewber.
“Jewber’s a good idea. You guys are crazy,” he says to his unenthused group. “A ride-sharing app to help the Jews escape the Nazis?” Please also note that Twitter is crossed off his brainstorming list. There are definitely too many Nazis there. Anyway, his schoolmate Eleanor makes an excellent point:
“No it’s not. It’s an app that tells a stranger the exact location of a Jewish person.”
“Whatever. It’s a good idea from the smartest person in the room, and you’re all hating on it ’cause you’re anti-Semitic,” Ben says.
“I actually am Jewish,” his other classmate Eve says.
“Oh. You’re fine, but you guys suck.”
Wow. Ben and Eve encapsulating so many Twitter fights, right there!
Ben’s bar mitzvah, again.
“Why does the Hindu association have puja at my high school?” Devi asks her mom of an upcoming celebration. “Ben Gross’ bar mitzvah was at the Dolby Theater. They have the Oscars there.”
“Jewish people know how to save,” Devi’s mom says. “We got straight to Home Depot to buy a cement fountain.”
Does this joke rely on Jewish stereotypes? Yes. And as a Jewish person who does not know how to save and needs a cement fountain, I politely disagree. But Ben Gross would have totally had his bar mitzvah at the Dolby Theater. That’s just authentic writing.
Fake rapper Andy Samberg.
Episode 6 is all about Ben Gross, and narrated by Andy Samberg, who introduces himself as “American actor, producer, writer, and fake rapper Andy Samberg.” Your Lonely Island stans beg to disagree. That shit is very real.
That easter egg Popstar poster.
Ben is also a Samberg super-fan, as seen by the poster of Samberg’s mockumentary Popstar hanging in his room, which makes a lot of sense for a young Jewish teen. Respect.
Billy Crystal and his nachos.
When Ben invites his girlfriend Shira to an LA Clippers games, she declines, saying she’d much prefer to go to a Lakers game because “my followers don’t want to see Billy Crystal eating nachos or whatever.” Does legendary Jewish actor Billy Crystal eat nachos at Clippers games? If so, can we all go watch Billy Crystal eat nachos when this is all over, please?
Ben Gross can’t take the spicy Indian food.
At the end of this episode, Ben has dinner with Devi and her family. It’s adorable, but the food is “far too spicy” for him. And, while plenty of Jews enjoy spicy food, for this super sensitive Ashkenazi Jew, this scene hit home.
Eve is the perfect first woman.
When Fabiola comes out as gay to Eleanor, she confesses she has a crush on her classmate, Eve. “How appropriate that Eve could be your first woman,” Eleanor says. A good Genesis joke right there, thank you.
Ben’s birthday cake.
It’s Ben’s birthday, and his parents offer him a birthday cake, which has a big Fondant bust of Ben on the top. It’s white and blue, it’s got a big nose… I’m torn. One thing that is accurate? Ben’s mom saying, “I didn’t know who you were a fan of these days, so I decided to make it after my favorite star.” She may be an absent Jewish mom, but she’s still her son’s biggest fan.
“Bubelah, you say the word and I’ll get 2 on the phone and tell him I’m not coming,” Ben’s dad says right as he is about to leave for 2 Chainz’s spice launch in the Caribbean with his mom, slipping in a classic Yiddish term of endearment. But obviously, Ben doesn’t say “the word,” and lets his parents leave. Aw, Ben.
Running Jewish joke: Ben calling Devi David.
Throughout the show, Ben Gross calls Devi “David.” What might be negging and kinda gross on another show (a boy turning an Indian-American girl’s name into a common American boy’s name) winds up being kind of adorable in this show. When Ben giddily announces to Devi, “David, you came!” during his birthday party, my heart kind of melted. And yes, we are counting this as a Jewish joke because David is the name of a celebrated Jewish biblical king and the half-Jewish wonder that is David Rose in Schitt’s Creek.