Velma Dinkley, bespectacled sleuth, beloved bookworm… and fellow Jew? That’s right! Velma might just be a member of the tribe, and even if she isn’t, one cannot help but notice an unmistakable aura of Jewishness about her. Let’s dive in.
A perpetual teenager, Velma Dinkley is the “brains” of the mystery machine in “Scooby-Doo” — one of the most enduring children’s shows of all time. Along with trap-obsessed frat boy Freddie Jones, sorority queen Daphne Blake (who has Jewish ancestry!), cowardly stoner Shaggy Rogers and his “ruvable” sandwich-gouging Great Dane, Scooby Doo, Velma Dinkley has spent the last 60 years putting fraudulent fairground operators and haunted hotel owners out of business.
Despite being legally blind without her glasses, nothing can blunt Velma’s razor-sharp intelligence; her investigative skills are primarily old-school deductive reasoning coupled with a healthy empiricism, though her success is, in part, ascribable to the sheer incompetence of her adversaries whose schemes are often overly complex to execute and easily foiled by “meddling kids.”
According to the “Captain Kirk law” on the esteemed online database Jew or Not Jew, “thou canst assume a character played by a Jew is also Jewish, if thou so desires.” Velma’s iconic line, “My glasses, where are my glasses?” was coined during a reading where Jewish voice actress Nicole Jaffe, who played Velma at the time, dropped her glasses and cried out that she couldn’t see without them — Jaffe, like her character, was myopic. Anyhow, the producers thought the accidental utterance was absolute gold and the phrase would subsequently make its way into the script and almost every episode of “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” thereafter. Velma would also later be voiced by the fabulous Mindy Cohn as well as played Randi Rosenholtz in the live-action “Stage Fright!” musical, who are both, you guessed it, Jewish!
Velma has arguably undergone one of the most transformative character trajectories as opposed to those of her compatriots: In “Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy,” a direct-to-DVD movie released in 2014, Velma divulges that her family name is actually Von Dinkenstein, which was Americanized to Dinkley in the 1880s, when her ancestors came through Ellis Island as refugees from the old country. Though the etymology of the name alludes more to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” one cannot dismiss the Ellis Island connection where millions of Jewish refugees disembarked in search of a new and better life in the United States.
Her great-uncle Basil Von Dinkenstein, who supposedly inspired Mary Shelley to write her gothic masterpiece, was a monster-making obsessed “mad scientist.” Overall, her family seems to have a very solid background in the sciences — the Ashkenazi diaspora is renowned for its hundreds of scientists, of which Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer are two of the most legendary.
Velma Dinkley made book smarts and razor-sharp wit look cool long before Daria came on the scene. She is a fan favourite because she speaks to a common struggle: She’s the smart, awkward one who often leads the gang in the right direction but doesn’t get as much credit as the others.
“Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated,” the series that aired from 2010-2013, explores a much darker personation of Velma: She is eerily elusive, possesses a much more pessimistic worldview and isn’t above making a snide comment or two. She sees Scooby as an obstacle to her potential happiness with Shaggy and is willing to do anything to get him out of her way (though this changes by the end of the series thanks to the wonderful thing that is character development). It is here where her possible Jewishness shines brightest: Velma listens to klezmer music and frequently exclaims “oy” and “oy gevalt” in moments of cynicism. A similar but more G-rated, quirky and instantly relatable version of an oy gevalting Velma can be seen in the subsequent series “Be Cool, Scooby-Doo,” who can be summed up in one word: awesome!
The Velma Dinkleys post-2020 are radical departures from their previous incarnations, though have plenty of chutzpah all the same. She is implied to be Latinx in 2020’s “Scoob!” Previously un-sexualized or paired with male love interests, Velma officially came out of the closet in 2022’s “Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!” where she schmaltzes on costume designer/ex-con Coco Diablo big time and her glasses — quite literally — melt off her face. And she’s of South East Asian descent in her eponymous series, “Velma,” which was a magnet for controversy even before its release in 2023. The MA-rated series explores a love quadrangle between the gang, minus Scooby who is notably MIA. “Velma” is coming back for a second season.
In terms of being Jewish or not, a key determiner would be which Velma you put under scrutiny; her personations vary from the “Scooby-Doo” comics to the movies and TV series throughout six decades. Regardless of her identity, she’ll hopefully entertain and inspire many more generations to come.