Ever wished your daily struggles and complicated feelings could be explored by cute and furry puppets? That’s what the Muppets and “Sesame Street” have provided viewers for years. These lovable puppets were created by puppeteer Jim Henson while he was in college in the 1950s. During his time at the University of Maryland, he had his own show called “Sam and Friends,” where he crafted puppets like Kermit the Frog and performed with them. After graduating, Henson began to use puppets to create commercials, and was approached by the Children’s Television Workshop about a show for children — which became the “Sesame Street” we know and love. Henson didn’t want to limit his iconic puppets to kids’ TV, so in 1976, “The Muppet Show” (basically “Saturday Night Live” with puppets) premiered, running until 1981.
“Sesame Street” is still running and continues to be the gold standard for kids’ TV, especially for its inclusivity. It has spun off international versions featuring new Muppets that are specific to that country’s culture. The Israeli shows “Rechov Sumsum” and “Shalom Sesame” have explored Jewish themes like Shabbat and the story of modern Hebrew. There are even adorable picture books featuring Muppets celebrating Jewish holidays. (My favorite title is “It’s a Mitzvah, Grover!”) And while Jim Henson wasn’t Jewish, one of his main puppeteers, Frank Oz, was. Over its 52–year run, “Sesame Street” has featured many Jewish guests.
I wish I could tell you that I grew up with an American “Sesame Street” special that encapsulated the Jewish experience with furry monsters. I remember how impactful the iconic “Rugrats” Hanukkah special was in making me feel understood. Yet Judaism mostly exists in “Sesame Street” as a nod to Hanukkah within its broader holiday specials. However, Adam Sandler did parody his famous “Chanukah Song” on Sesame Street — so at least we have that!
When I read up on Muppets that were canonically Jewish, I found a few asides that intimate a Muppet’s religious background, like Kermit wishing The Electric Mayhem’s Zoot a happy Hanukkah. So this got me thinking: How do The Muppets themselves identify? Are any of them Jewish? Below are my unofficial rulings.
Statler and Waldorf
These two do the most Jewish thing possible: loudly kvetch about the theater they just saw. Jews.
He seems quite neurotic, but about things like his bottlecap collection. Seems more like a WASP, where the P stands for “puppet.” Not a Jew.
I can’t name one Jew who has earnestly sung about how much they love bath toys, even an adorable rubber ducky. Not a Jew.
An Eastern European immigrant who is a literal accountant in New York City. Jew.
Kermit the Frog
Hi-ho, or should I say shalom? Kermit’s a deeply frazzled entertainer with tons of energy. That’s enough for me to make him part of the tribe… Jew.
I’m not saying he’s not Jewish because the cookies he eats aren’t black and white. I’m saying that his whole bag is being gluttonous, AKA one of the seven deadly sins. Not a Jew.
While, unlike that of the best Jewish comedians, his standup doesn’t contain much trauma, Fozzie Bear (stage name of Fozzowitz Bearenstein, probably) is a true vaudevillian. Like a Marx Brother, but with fur instead of a mustache. Jew.
Oscar the Grouch
He’s fighting gentrification and eminent domain by wanting to stay in a neighborhood based on the Upper West Side? Jew.
Even though she’s arguably the Fran Fine of the Muppets, unfortunately Miss Piggy reads more Italian to me. A pig in love with a frog does not sound very kosher, tbh. Not a Jew.
Scooter joined the Muppet Show stage crew because his uncle J.P. Grosse owned the theater. This combo of working in the arts and nepotism gives me serious Fairfax, CA vibes. Jew.
He seems like “The Simple Child” in The Four Questions, but has been featured in too much Christmas merch for me to take him seriously. Not a Jew.
Even though Johnson is not a Jewish last name, it only took this Instagram photo of him eating what appears to be chicken noodle soup for me to make my decision. He is serving some Katz’s Deli realness. Jew.
In “Elmo’s World: Happy Holidays,” we learn that the bears from the Goldilocks story are Jewish! Hope his family’s latkes are not too cold, not too hot, but juuuuust right. Jew.
A Muppet, He Is. And a Jew, He Must Be.