Monday, April 18, 2011

Glee: A Passover Story

Tonight marks the first night of Passover, a time when millions of people will gather around the Seder table and from the Haggadah, read the story of four children, one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who does not even know how to ask a question.

These children have always seemed a mystery to me. What do they symbolize? Why would we invite a wicked child to our Seder table? And is there really a child who does not even know how to ask a question?

It seems that all my questions can be answered, simply by turning on my TV Tuesday nights, to watch the latest episode of Glee.

For those who don’t know, Glee is the “it” show on TV right now. It shows a realistic depiction of high school and deals with its problems through song and dance. The show is also the most “out” Jewish show.

Four main characters in the show are Jewish, yet each very different from the other.

As it happens, the four Jewish characters in McKinley High School’s glee club map quite neatly onto the four children of the Passover Seder. The way each of them performs his or her Jewishness shines a different light on Jewish identity, and on the themes of the Passover holiday.

First is Rachel Berry (Lea Michele). Rachel is quite obviously the Wise Child. Whether it be her asking annoyingly, detailed questions, or her endless bragging, Rachel is the type that want others to know her greatness, which can also be said of the Wise Child. Rachel is also a typical Jewish stereotype. Smart, Semitic-looking, and Magen-David wearing, Rachel is an in-your-face Jew, which, like the wise child, can become quite irritable after a while.

Noah “Puck” Puckerman, (Mark Salling) is easily categorized as the Wicked Child. In and out of Juvy (or Jew-vy, as he likes to refer to it as), Puck contradicts every Jewish stereotype possible. However, despite is un-stereotypical Jewish-ness, Puck, similar to Rachel, is very upfront about his Jewish upbringing. Singing songs by mostly Jewish artists, and eating Chinese food while watching Schindler’s List as a family tradition, Puck, with his defiant attitude, embodies the Wicked Child perfectly.

Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale) is the Simple Child. Not unintelligent, Artie is the simplest and the least interesting of those in the glee club. Artie has never performed his Jewishness in anyway, unlike Rachel and Puck, yet he is quite obviously Jewish. His name, along with his stereotypical Jewish appearance, is the only indicator of his Jewish background. Like the simple son, he shows up at the Seder, but does little more. Artie’s character symbolizes a Jew that is on his way to assimilation. Artie is Jewish simply by birth, and feels no ties to his religion or faith.

Lastly, is Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz). Tina is the child Who Does Not Even Know How to Ask A Question. Similar to Artie, Tina isn’t unintelligent; she is simply an unidentified Jew, with the exception of her interfaith name. Tina, although partially Jewish, is completely invisible, not just when it comes to Judaism, but in the glee club as well. Tina represents many people who are Jewish, yet have no connection to their faith, or religion, and because of this, Tina is a perfect example of the child who does not know how to ask a question.

It seems that Glee, besides being a source of catchy songs and complicated dance sequences, is also a show that helps identify the four children at the Passover Seder.

To read the full article in the Forward about all of the hidden Jewish meanings in Glee, click here.

1 comment:

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