This Episode of ‘Golden Girls’ Teaches Us How to Shut Down Antisemites

When someone expresses hatred in Dorothy's house, she is prepared to set them straight.

“The Golden Girls” is an iconic show for many reasons. From the vibrant main characters —  Dorothy, Sophia, Rose and Blanche — to all of their exciting situations, this show always recognized that older women know how to have fun. In addition, the series had a progressive outlook, as the women respected people from all backgrounds. I have been watching “The Golden Girls” ever since I was a small child and I have always found it to be entertaining. In addition, I believe the show has provided me with great life lessons and role models. While I found the series to be hilarious, I also recognize that the show is full of important moments. The episode I want to focus on today is one where the women displayed their respect for Jewish people. When an antisemite comes by the women’s home, she is in for a rude, but absolutely necessary, awakening.

“Dorothy’s New Friend” (season 3, episode 15), introduces the audience to Barbara Thorndyke (played by Bonnie Bartlett), a classy intellectual that quickly impresses Dorothy. Blanche and Rose do not like her and think she is a snob, but Dorothy thinks she is terrific and makes for great company.

One night, Barbara invites all of the women to The Mortimer Club, one of the nicest country clubs in the Miami area. For this special occasion, Sophia decides to invite the nice Murray Guttman as her date. When Barbara meets him, she pulls Dorothy aside and says he can’t come to the club. At first, Dorothy assumes that Barbara just dislikes Murray’s colorful suit. However, after emphasizing the last name “Guttman” multiple times, Barbara says that Murray can’t come to the club because he is Jewish. It’s not her choice, she says — just the club’s policies. “Yeah, but you tolerate it,” Dorothy firmly responds, clearly displaying how she feels about her new friend’s antisemitism.

Barbara continues to make excuses, but Dorothy won’t have it. “Blanche and Rose were right. You’re not the kind of person I want as a friend,” she says. Barbara the antisemite doesn’t understand what is happening, so Dorothy finishes their conversation with a clear cut exit: “Let me spell it out for you. Go to hell.” Mic drop.

Even though this is just one minute of a half-hour sitcom, it is the most memorable moment of the episode, and for me, one of the most memorable of the series. The loud television applause after Dorothy says “Go to hell” is extra validating — not only does the character go to bat against antisemitism, but the show makes it clear she’s in the right and that everyone in the audience should agree, too.

Dorothy’s character has always been iconic. She’s not someone who messes around. She doesn’t hesitate to stand up for what’s right when Barbara expresses her antisemitic views, no matter how much Dorothy was previously trying to impress her. When someone expresses hatred (or tolerance for hatred) in Dorothy’s house, she is prepared to set them straight.

The moment holds even more importance when considering Dorothy’s portrayer, the spectacular Bea Arthur. Arthur was Jewish in real life, with the birth name Bernice Frankel. As a celebrity, Arthur always used her voice to stand up for Jewish rights. In my opinion, that is what makes the “Dorothy’s New Friend” episode of “The Golden Girls” even more significant. The character of Dorothy may not be Jewish, so she has never faced antisemitism personally. However, Arthur possibly had faced some adversity in her life based on her Judaism, so I believe that this episode could be an example of her using her voice against antisemitism through a large platform. In my eyes, it looked like she was addressing all of the antisemites in the real world. After all, the character and the actress both share these similar ideas of acceptance. To me, it did not feel like it was just Dorothy Zborniak speaking; it felt like Bea Arthur was speaking too.

“The Golden Girls” ended before I was born, yet the series feels timeless to me and I am still able to connect with the stories. My parents have been fans of the series for a long time and they are the reason why I became so interested in the show; I love how “The Golden Girls” is so magical that it can bring together people from different generations.

While I love all of the four main women, Dorothy is a character that really sticks out. She feels the most grounded of all of the characters and the most confident. She is always ready to shut someone down if they cross her or her friends and she is passionate when it comes to her beliefs. I feel that Dorothy is a great television character to look up to, and this episode is a terrific example of that sentiment.

Interestingly enough, I saw this episode performed in San Francisco at the “Golden Girls Live!” drag show in 2015. One thing’s for sure: The performers did our main women justice. Even though it was a night of laughs and dramatics, there were still serious gasps during this scene and everyone was captivated. Then, when Dorothy (played by the late Heklina) said “Go to hell,” the audience erupted in cheers. It was fun watching this scene play out with a crowd of people to see the full impact of this moment. The studio applause that plays during the actual episode is already great, but seeing what the scene means to actual people really solidified its excellence.

Even though “The Golden Girls” went off the air more than thirty years ago, many themes and quotes from the show still ring true today. Dorothy calling out Barbara’s prejudices is still the right thing to do, and Barbara’s attitude is still unfortunately sometimes seen in 2024. If you ever meet a Barbara in real life, channel your inner Dorothy, or your inner Bea Arthur, and shut them down.

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Late Take is a series on Hey Alma where we revisit Jewish pop culture of the past for no reason, other than the fact that we can’t stop thinking about it?? If you have a pitch for this column, please e-mail  with “Late Take” in the subject line.

Rachel Rosenfield

Rachel Rosenfield (she/her) is currently a student at Brandeis University and is one of the 2023-2024 Hey Alma College Writing Fellows. She has been a writer for numerous publications, including Bookstr, Trill Mag, Glitter Magazine, Young Hollywood, and more. When she is not writing, she is watching movies, going shopping, trying new restaurants, and hanging out with friends.

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