While most will be busy celebrating Christmas on December 25, Jewish people typically have their own celebration of sorts. My entire life, I looked forward to Christmas because of the tradition that my family celebrated like many other Jewish families: movies and Chinese food. If you don’t want to go out this year, order some delivery and prepare to binge. Here is a list of perfect Jew-y films you should be watching.
Fiddler on The Roof (1974)
Tradition! Tradition! Every Jew or Jewess needs to see the movie that went on to be a Broadway show about a simple man Tevye, trying to marry off his three daughters and live a Jewish life in the growing anti-Semitic sentiment that threatens everything (sound familiar??).
Annie Hall (1977)
Putting a Woody Allen film on here is very, very controversial, I know. Let’s be honest, he’s always been a creep. But Annie Hall is a landmark film that should be seen without the social politics. It is a film of the most neurotic Jew you could meet courting a non-Jewish woman (played by queen Diane Keaton). It is a classic that showcases the best of Woody Allen without the baggage that comes along with his real life.
The Frisco Kid (1979)
Gene Wilder is absolutely brilliant in this film, starring as Avram Belinski, a Polish rabbi traveling to San Francisco to serve as the temple’s new rabbi. He’s naïve and inexperienced as a traveler, falling into tricks that leave him stranded along the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish community, who he mistakes for Orthodox Jews at first. He is befriended by a bank robber played by Harrison Ford, who has a kind heart for the helpless schmuck.
An American Tail (1986)
The Mousekewitz family leave mother Russia for a better life in America “where the streets are made with cheese” in this classic animated film. The movie is actually based on Stephen Spielberg’s family, with both stories and names chosen from stories of his grandparents. The lead character is named lovingly after his maternal grandfather, whose Yiddish name was Fievel.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
We all know and love it; the beloved story is written (in part) based on the youthful trips of screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein to the Borscht Belt of the Catskills. The movie itself isn’t particularly Jewish (besides for Jennifer Grey) but it showcases an experience that we all go through: a coming of age. Baby might not have had a bat mitzvah, but nobody puts Baby in the corner.
Crossing Delancey (1988)
Though it isn’t as widely known as others, Crossing Delancey is a gem which features a meddling bubbe, a worldly married author, a sweet pickle shop owner, and a woman caught between what she thinks she wants rather than what she really needs. The film is charming and shows what feels like a nod to the old world while holding true to tradition.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Often seen as the quintessential Jewish New Yorker rom-com, When Harry Met Sally answers the age-old tale of whether men and women can just be friends. It exposes the complications of sex and features an infamous scene at Katz’s Delicatessen. The best part, IMHO, is the interludes of couples speaking about how they met and fell in love.
Though it’s never explicitly mentioned that Cher is Jewish, we can assume so based on her role as a quintessential “Jewish American Princess” (and the fact that her last name is Horowitz). Clueless is modern adaptation of Emma by Jane Austen. Cher is a yenta with great intentions. She tries to get her teachers to fall in love, she tries to help Tai not only fit in but sets her up with a guy, and she wants to find love for herself. Of course she finds it in her step-brother (which is gross, but also played by real Jewish babe, Paul Rudd).
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Though it is never said that the camp is Jewish, this film is based on the experiences of director David Wain at Camp Modin in Maine, as well as those of Michael Showalter at Camp Mohawk in the Berkshires. There are a lot of references significant to Jews — David Ben-Gurion, Debbie Freidman, and camper Aaron giving the best advice, “The truth is: A lot of the time men can be real, and excuse the Yiddish, insensitive schmucks.”
Everything Is Illuminated (2005)
Elijah Woods stars in the adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s book of the same name. It’s the story of a Jewish American man trying to locate the woman who saved his father during WWII with the help of an eccentric fellow. It doesn’t shy away from the tragedy of the Holocaust, but it offers some sweetness and humor along the way.
Merry Jewish Christmas!