As Hanukkah nears, the best gift of all is quickly approaching: Midge Maisel will be back, blessing our screens. What really sets the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel apart is creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s ability to make the show so relatable to its Jewish audience. The amount of times I can personally relate to the Maisel/Weissman family dynamics is incomparable to any other show.
As I’ve been rewatching the previous seasons in preparation for marathoning the new season, I couldn’t help but wonder if Sherman-Palladino infused this much Jewish culture and religion into her past work. So, like any other post-grad with spare time, I binge-watched all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls and Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life to see if Sherman-Palladino’s first hit show was as Jewy as her current one.
After eating lots of Pop Tarts and Chinese food, like a true Gilmore girl, I found my answer. Sherman-Palladino did, in fact, sprinkle Jewish religion and culture throughout all of the seasons. But in Gilmore Girls, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s much more subtle because the Gilmores are not a Jewish family.
Still, there are plenty of Jewish moments to plotz over. Here are some of the stand-outs, in no particular order:
1. Friday night dinner
Emily Gilmore’s Friday night dinners, which she forces Lorelei and Rory to attend while paying for Rory’s schooling, are a staple of the show. They were never to be missed or forgotten. They were an elevated experience from your average family meal — with everyone donning nicer clothes and sometimes even with candles on the table. Does all this ring a bell?
Yes, these dinners look a lot like how many Jewish families gather around the Shabbat dinner table to end their week together. While this may not have been intentional on Sherman-Palladino’s part, as a Jewish person watching the show, I couldn’t help but notice the subtle similarities.
2. The chuppah
Early on in season 2, when Lorelai almost married Max Medina, Rory’s high school teacher, Luke builds her a chuppah to get married under. A chuppah, of course, is a canopy a Jewish couple traditionally stands under during their wedding ceremony. Even though neither Lorelai nor Max were Jewish, the thought behind this gift was sincere. Honestly, I want my own Luke to build me a chuppah like that.
While most of Gilmore Girls was lighthearted, every once in a while the town of Stars Hollow gathered for a funeral. At Stan’s funeral, the town rabbi leads everyone in the Mourner’s Kaddish, which in Judaism is usually chanted when mourning the loss of a close relative or friend. At the funeral you could see men wearing kippahs and tallit, both traditionally worn by men at services. These details are small and are probably unnoticeable to many, but that the fact that Sherman-Palladino represents Jewish rituals accurately matters.
Yes, Gilmore Girls also falls prey to certain Jewish stereotypes. Many of the doctors and lawyers mentioned in the show have stereotypical Jewish names. Paris’s therapist is Dr. Shapiro (and of course Paris, a Jewish character, is in therapy!).
Every so often, you can hear a Yiddish word tossed around on Gilmore Girls. While not nearly as often as in the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, if you listen closely, you’ll find plenty of kibitzes and oys. In fact, one of Lorelai’s most quoted lines is, “Oy with the poodles already,” a meaningless phrase that she puts together because “oy” and “poodle” are the two funniest words, in her opinion (honestly, true). And then there’s the time the elementary school in Stars Hollow puts on a rendition of Fiddler on the Roof. In that episode you can see Kirk trying to learn some Jewish words and about our traditions.
I already loved this show so much, but after rewatching, I now appreciate it in a whole new way. And I’m even more excited about the fact that Liza Weil, the Jewish actress who played Paris Geller on Gilmore Girls, will be making an appearance on the new season of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. A true Hanukkah gift, indeed.