The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a very Jewish show. We’ve established this. Season one had jokes about everything from giant mezuzahs to explaining Yom Kippur to a gentile. It also introduced our heroine, Midge Maisel, as a funny Jewish comic from a very Jewish family (her dad, Abe, is played by the marvelous Tony Shalhoub).
Spoilers ahead for season two.
Season two is somehow even more Jewish than the first – there’s lots of Judaism references; a whole episode dedicated to Yom Kippur; a plotline about Tisha B’Av (a day of communal mourning, don’t worry, we couldn’t remember what it was either); and a joke revolving around the Jewish prayer for healing, Mi Sheberach. There’s also plenty of cultural Jewish references: jokes about the Jewish deli; Jewish mothers being matchmakers; the ultimate Jewish vacation destination (the Catskills, obvs), and so much more. After watching it all just for you, we rounded up the top 15 Jewish jokes from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season two.
Some amazing one-liners:
– “I’m a man. I’m a Jew. I suffer.” Benjamin dealing with being cold.
– “I’m not even sure what brought him there. Fate. The gods. When I was 4, I took two lollipops when the rabbi told me to take one, and this is my punishment?” Midge, when Abe shows up unexpectedly at her stand-up.
– “It’s in his genetic profile to boast about his offspring.” Midge’s brother, Noah, regarding Abe.
– “How the fuck did these people make it out of the desert to begin with?” Susie, regarding all the Jews at Steiner’s Mountain Resort.
– “My mother is your biggest fan. She even listens to your Christmas album.” Midge to Shy Baldwin about her very Jewish mom listening to Shy’s Christmas music.
– “I’m not going to pay for fake snow and papier-mâché reindeer again. $400 for embroidered yarmulkes that say ‘Midge and Joel forever.’ Explain that to an orphan.” Abe to Midge regarding a second wedding.
– Every single thing Shirley says:
Joel’s mom Shirley, played by the fantastic Caroline Aaron, is your classic Jewish bubbe. Her lines — and scenes — are just so good. She’s a mahjongg-loving, overbearing Jewish grandma. There’s the time she calls Joel’s secretary, telling him it’s an emergency. When Joel calls back? She was out of cheese.
There’s a discussion of laxatives at breakfast (classic):
There’s her indignant anger at the Cossacks in the resort end-of-summer show:
There’s the moment Joel has a collect call, and Shirley yells at him to get his tuchus out to answer it:
There’s her commitment to wearing her coat, cause if she takes it off, she’ll get cold:
Anyway. We love Shirley. This whole article could be Shirley. But let’s get into the top 15 jokes:
15. Jewish guilt as tradition (episode 8)
Midge takes her friend, Imogene, out to lunch because she feels guilty that she hasn’t been spending time with her. Imogene tells Midge, “I love your quaint Jewish traditions,” a.k.a. feeling guilty. We chuckled.
Also in this scene, Midge orders for Imogene: “My dear friend Imogene here will have hot pastrami Reuben on rye, chicken in a pot, potato knish, matzah ball soup, cheese Danish, a lime rickey, and a couple of black-and-whites for dessert.” We need that order, like, yesterday.
There’s another great scene in the deli with Benjamin, which we’ll just include these two fantastic screencaps:
(Getting the brisket at the deli: good move.)
14. Buried in Israel, not Florida (episode 5)
[Random woman]: “My parents gave us matching burial plots for our anniversary.”
Shirley: Oh, that’s so nice. One less thing you have to think about. Where are they?
Shirley: I would love to be buried in Florida. Doesn’t it sound wonderful, Rose?
Rose: You being buried in Florida? I guess it does.
Rose: She asked a question… I answered a question.
Shirley: Moishe’s insisting we get buried in Israel.
[Woman]: I could never be buried in the desert.
Shirley: Oh, I do like dates though.
Midge: I never want this conversation to end.
Did you think Shirley wouldn’t be on this list? The episodes in the Catskills deserve their own article, they are so good, but we have to focus on this moment in the hair salon when Shirley and other Jewish ladies are talking about where they’re going to be buried. Shirley wants to be buried in Florida — but Moishe is insisting on Israel. Classic.
13. “Marie’s not a Nazi, she’s just flexible” (episode 1)
When Abe and Midge travel to Paris to bring Rose home, they encounter a shouting French woman in the courtyard of her building. When Abe gets fed up, he storms out, telling Rose, “I am telling that Nazi downstairs that you are leaving tonight,” referencing the French Vichy regime (when they collaborated with the Nazis during World War II). Rose, deadpan, replies, “Marie’s not a Nazi. She’s just flexible.” This Holocaust humor, for lack of a better phrase, is very spot-on.
12. Pickles to stop you from getting drunk (episode 4)
Abe is in vacation mode, trying to figure out how to moderate his drinking. One solution? Eating more pickles, which is maybe the most Jewish solution he could think of. When the pickles aren’t working, he says, slurring, “I’m having my lawyer contact the chief counsel at Claussen Pickles. There will be a lawsuit.” Meanwhile, Midge and Rose are both laughing hysterically at him. (Bonus points for mentioning *the* pickle brand.) Really, all the scenes with Abe on vacation (working out in his romper, playing shuffleboard, and so on) are amazing. Go, Tony Shalhoub!
11. Maisels at the bank (episode 3)
Moishe: Look at this. The high ceilings, the tile floor, like the Vatican.
Shirley: I feel like I forgot something.
Joel [to the banker]: How we doing here, Curren?
Moishe: Why would a fakakta bank in the tuchus of Brooklyn try to compete with the Pope?
Shirley: I need to start writing things down, but by the time I find a pen, I forget what I was supposed to write down.
Moishe: It’s so open, so flaunting, so gentile.
Joel: Jews use the bank, too, Pop.
Moishe: Show me one. [To a random woman] You a Jew?
Joel: Pop! [To the woman] Sorry.
This scene is great because it totally subverts the Jewish stereotype of controlling all the banks. Moishe and Shirley (our gal) are really dubious of the bank; Shirley has hidden all their money in various locations in their home and factory. So when Joel tries to bring his parents to use the bank, they are wary.
There’s a second kicker to this joke: Shirley asks the banker if there’s going to be another Great Depression soon. He tells her, “If I could, I’d be the president of the bank. Or the United States.” Moishe’s response? “Step on enough Jews, you’ll get there.”
Joel’s facial expression, Moishe’s feeling of persecution, the total avoiding of the conspiracy that Jews control the bank… it’s all so great.
10. Wyoming’s First Jew (episode 10)
Anytime Lenny Bruce appears in this show made us smile. This joke is about him being kicked out of every other state, and the only place he’s going to be able to work is Wyoming, where they’ve never even seen a Jew. His honesty, and delivery, is so spot-on (he’s Lenny freakin’ Bruce!), so this obviously had to be in our top 10 of jokes.
9. Steiner welcome (episode 4)
Again, back to the Catskills!! The welcome scene at the Steiner Mountain Resort (where Midge and her family have spent 27 consecutive summers) is a delightfully wacky opening song. Take note of the full lyrics:
Steiner Resort Welcome Song:
Nothing could be finer than to spend they day at Steiner in the [clap] summer [clap clap]
Nothing much convinces like the taste of Steiner blintzes in the [clap] summer [clap clap]
[just the girls] Play all day and dance all night / [just the boys] all us happy Israelites
So skip the luxury liner to enjoy a schvitz at Steiner in the summer
[clapping + stomping, repeat unknown times] Steiner! Steiner! Steiner! We’re finer! Finer! Finer!
Honestly it is so weird, but probably right in line with the Jewish resorts of the era. (Steiner Resort isn’t a real place.) Also, the mentions of blintzes, Israelites, schvitzing… yep, sounds just like a summer trip.
The other part of this welcome scene that was really great? The shout-outs to all the newlyweds who met at Steiner the previous summer.
“On a happier note, let’s wish all our newlyweds mazel tov, yes? Some of whom met right here at Steiner Mountain Resort and made a blessed, lifelong commitment.”
Let’s just point out their names: very Jewy. And that one couple met playing shuffleboard, omg. Pauly ends his toast with, “To all our happy couples, may you have life, luck, and lots of little Steinerites!”
8. Kissing Hitler (episode 4)
We’re still in the Catskills, and back to the beauty salon. There’s a whole background conversation between two women named Edie and Ida about kissing Hitler. Yes, really:
Ida: Did you see that Tony Curtis said that kissing Marilyn Monroe was like kissing Hitler?
Edie: Kissing Hitler? How would Tony Curtis know what kissing Hitler was like?
Ida: I don’t know. He said it, not me.
Edie: He had such thin lips!
Ida: Tony Curtis!?
Edie: Adolf Hitler! His lips were almost nonexistent.
Ida: Maybe that’s why he was so angry, do you think?
Edie: I don’t like thinking about that man; he was awful.
Okay, firstly, points for historical accuracy: Actor Tony Curtis famously said that kissing Marilyn Monroe was like kissing Hitler. Second, points for how Jewish ladies talk and gossip, and how Edie says she doesn’t like thinking about Hitler. Points all around.
7. Repairman on Shabbat (episode 2)
Joel: Why haven’t you gotten it fixed?
Guy who works at the factory: Yankel, the guy who comes and fixes the machines, only comes on Fridays.
Guy: I don’t know, it’s only Fridays. Before 1:00. That’s when he goes to Temple.
Joel: Only on Fridays. Okay. … [To Moishe] You need a new repairman.
Moishe: Yankel will be here Friday before 1:00.
Joel: You need a repairman who comes when things break. You can’t run things like this.
Moishe: I can’t? I’ve only been doing it for 30 years, what the hell do I know? You’re right. Yankel’s gone.
Joel: You run a factory! You need machines that work!
Moishe: Ah, should I have him killed? Firing may not be enough.
Joel: He comes one day a week. Not even a full day! He leaves at 1:00.
Moishe: He should skip temple? You want the man who fixes our machines to make God angry. How does that end well for us?
Joel: You need a new repairman.
In this very Amy Sherman Palladino scene — they walk and talk at a very fast pace — a machine at Maisel’s clothing factory is broken. The guy who works there says their repairman, Yankel (Amazon spells it “Jankel,” but that looks very funky to me, even if Yiddish-to-English spelling is totally up for interpretation) only comes Fridays before 1 p.m. Joel yells at Moishe about this, and Moishe’s response is, as always, A+: “You want the man who fixes our machines to make God angry!?!” Moishe always has the best Jewy lines. (Maybe because the actor, Kevin Pollak, is one of the few actual Jewish actors on the show…)
Also the premise is so absurd: a repairman who only comes on Fridays before Shabbat. Only a Jewish show could think of that.
6. Who needs love when you have lox? (episode 8)
AMEN, Midge!! This is a bit in her stand-up about how her friends and family members currently hate her. But who cares? Because New York has amazing bagels. And who needs love when you’ve got lox?
5. Astrid fasting for Tisha B’Av (episode 6)
Astrid, Midge’s sister-in-law, converted to Judaism. And she really leans in to her new Jewish identity (her conversion feels like the punch line of too many jokes, which isn’t great, but that’s an article for another day). In the Catskills, it’s Tisha B’Av — the saddest day of the Jewish year, a day of mourning, when you’re supposed to fast. The only one fasting? Astrid. It’s played to comedic affect. And honestly, the joke lands every single time.
Later, when she’s in services with the rabbi, the episode is spot-on. The subtitles mention kinnot, mourning prayers you recite on Tisha B’Av, and they’re sitting on the floor, as is the custom. There’s also a really funny bit where Rose turns the prayer book the wrong way, and Astrid corrects her.
Oh, Astrid. You deserve better!
As she said, in Yiddish, “you’re telling me!”
4. Nice Jewish Doctor, your parents must be kvelling (episode 5)
Once again, we love Lenny Bruce. So much. When Midge and Benjamin finally connect, she brings him on a date to see Lenny Bruce. Obviously. After the set, Lenny comes over to talk to her while Benjamin is checking in at the hospital.
Lenny tells Midge, “You’re kidding. You went to the Catskills and bagged yourself a doctor? Your parents must be kvelling.” Midge responds, “I haven’t bagged him yet. One date.” Their banter is just so great, and Lenny’s use of “kvell” and understanding that a “nice Jewish doctor” is huge.
They then discuss if she’s told Benjamin yet that she’s a comedian, and Lenny asks if she’s really ready to go back to making Jell-O molds. We just had to screenshot this part of the scene as well:
(Jell-o molds are very Jewish. Props, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.)
3. Hebrew, Aramaic, or Yiddish?
Ms. Moskowitz: At first, I thought it was in Hebrew, but then I realized parts are in Yiddish. And this is ancient Aramaic, which has been a dead language for 2,000 years.
Joel: Can you figure out any of the money?
Joel brings in his secretary, Ms. Moskowitz, to try and decipher Shirley’s books. Parts are in Hebrew, other parts are in Yiddish, and it’s even in ancient Aramaic?!?! This joke is aimed at the Jewish viewers: often all three languages are used for different purposes (fun fact: the Talmud was written in Aramaic).
2. Jewish mom jokes
We cheated. This is three different jokes. There are just so many good bits featuring Jewish mothers.
Radioactive Jewish mothers (episode 3)
A bit in Midge’s stand-up is about reading pamphlets about what to do in the case of nuclear war. She riffs off of the idea of not bringing anything “unnaturally disturbing” into the fallout shelter. So there would be hundreds of Jewish mothers roaming the Upper West Side. “If that’s not a deterrent to nuclear war, I don’t know what is,” she ends.
Rose and Ida setting up Midge and Benjamin (episode 4)
There are so many great scenes that sum up the mothers plotting to set up their offspring — but Midge confronting Benjamin to tell him they have to do something in public to please their mothers takes the cake.
Okay, one more Jewish mom joke (also episode 4):
(This actually follows the kissing Hitler joke from above.) (What a great scene.)
1. The Yom Kippur scene in synagogue
This scene was just so fantastic. It was set during the viddui, the Yom Kippur confessional prayer. There were jokes about being starving during fasting, Rose being super proud of their seats, Astrid being too over-the-top Jewish (I’ll say it again: poor Astrid), Moishe and Shirley sitting because they’re “elders” (even though Abe complains they’re all the same age), and the synagogue running out at the end to break the fast. And, at the dinner, Midge wants to tell the family about her stand-up career and Joel asks if that’s really the best thing to do in a room full of hungry Jews.
Plus, at the synagogue, a whole bit about how Ethan is eating chocolate, and Moishe complaining that the 4-year-old (!) is not fasting (!!!). (Moishe and Shirley remain the best Jewish characters in the series.)
It’s really just the best, and most Jewish, moment of the series.