Any favourite fictional Jewish characters?

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Any favourite fictional Jewish characters?

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Jun 18, 2007, 4:17 pm

I don't think they necessarily have to be likeable to be favourites - a good fictional character is one that elicits some sort of emotion in the reader, I think. Although, there is always the risk of caricature... but even in the cases of Shylock and Fagin, I think they are still both magnificent characters.
So... Shylock, Fagin, Daniel Deronda, Leopold Bloom from Ulysses, Emmanuel Goldstein from Nineteen Eighty-Four and that fantastic old man from A History of Love, Leo Gursky. There are probably loads more...
And what about favourite Jewish-themed novels?

Jun 18, 2007, 4:40 pm

A vote here for Marlowe's The Jew of Malta. I found him likeable, and enjoyed his ripostes when being questioned.

And another vote for Rebecca, who as far as I'm concerned is the heroine in Ivanhoe.

Jun 18, 2007, 9:41 pm

> 2

Yes! When we read Ivanhoe in high school, I thought the less of the "hero" for preferring namby-pamby Rowena to Rebecca.

Jun 18, 2007, 10:25 pm

I have read and re-read a book called Body & Soul by Frank Conroy. It is a book about New York from WWII to the Sixties. One of the main characters is a Jewish man named Aaron Weisfeld who owns a music store and is mentor to a young boy who is a piano prodigy. It's a wonderful book.

Edited: Jun 19, 2007, 10:14 am

As I'm trying to think of Jewish fictional characters, all I can really think of is that I've really forgotten a ton of them. But, I'm not sure any fictional character stands out for me more than Isaac Singer's non-fictional self (see Love and Exile).

As for Jewish themed novels, I've really enjoyed books by Isaac Singer (mostly short stories) and Chaim Potok.

Jun 19, 2007, 6:25 am

I read The Chosen by Chaim Potok for a high school assignment and really liked both of the main characters far more than I was expecting to, and the contrast between them was great. I keep meaning to reread it again now that I can read it without overanalyzing everything for school.

Jun 22, 2007, 3:47 pm

Being a Canadian, i must confess a partiality to Mordecai Richler. anything he wrote will likely not disappoint. Duddy Kravitz in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is one of his most famous earlier creations, though i found his later novel Barney's Version to be outstanding.

(one of the funnier lines from Duddy Kravitz, which i paraphrase, occurs when he tells his friend about masturbating with his left hand so it feels like someone else is doing it...)

I am not Jewish, but my mother is (does that mean i receive all the angst without any of the rewards?) and in particular the stereotypical 'Jewish Humour' is something i've quite enjoyed.

Jun 22, 2007, 5:43 pm

Condor, according to Jewish law, you are indeed Jewish. Anyone with a Jewish mother is Jewish, regardless of their personal beliefs or desire to be so. ;)

Edited: Jun 22, 2007, 10:49 pm

I know this site is about Jewish characters, but smileandnod saying that anyone with a Jewish mother is Jewish made me think about the "one drop of black blood makes you black." In the U.S. it was law beginning in 1705 (Virginia); by 1925 almost every state had such a law. They were not repealled until 1967.

In a book called The Passing of the Great Race It states: The cross between a white man and an Indian is an Indian; the cross between a white man and a negro is a negro; the cross between a white man and a Hindu is a Hindu; and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew."

They weren't taking any chances.

Jun 22, 2007, 11:03 pm

Getting very off-topic, but since neither of my parents was Jewish, I don't know much about this.

As I understand it, if the father were Jewish and the mother not, the child would not be Jewish. So lots of drops of "Jewish blood" don't count unless they come from the mother.

Where does that come from? You can be more certain about maternity than about paternity, but few cultures have taken that into account. The Bible gives male lineages, doesn't it? How far back does the law date?

Edited: Jun 23, 2007, 8:00 am

Gautherbelle, what exactly is your point? The "who is a Jew" question here is not being decided by some outside force-- racist government, culture, etc-- but by Judaism itself. Also, we'd do well to remember that Jewishness is not strictly about race-- the child of a female convert to Judaism is Jewish as well.

Jun 23, 2007, 10:32 am

myshelves: the general interpretation for the reason, as I've been told, is that we always know who the mother is, but we might be mistaken about the father. But then it's Judaism, so this reason isn't relevant, it's just a law as interpreted from the bible (either directly or through the endless commentary) so its followed. (Same for the rules for eating Kosher and a number of other traditions.). I couldn't site a source.

Jun 23, 2007, 10:35 am

Not making any particular point. It was more a stream of consciousness thought. Cool your jets, it was not in any way a criticism of who is a Jew or how it is decided who is Jewish. As I said something in your comment reminded me of "one drop of blood" that's all. Nothing sinister here.

Edited: Jun 23, 2007, 10:49 am

Gautherbelle: no offense taken. I just thought it necessary to clarify the difference between the examples you cited and the actual issue at hand here regarding the determination of Jewishness.

Jun 23, 2007, 4:54 pm

Back to favorite jewish characters: Augie March by Saul Bellow, Daniel Deronda by George Eliot, Yentl and Tevye by Sholom Aleichem, the boy and his brave aunt in Wartime Lies by Louis Begley, Ruth in the Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick, the mother in Jews without money by michael Gold, everybody in Awake and Sing by Clifford Odets, and Nadine Gordimer, Paul Celan and Osip mandelstam as themselves.

Edited: Jun 23, 2007, 8:17 pm

I like the characters drawn by Primo Levi.

The most recent book I've read is "Guardian of the Dawn" by Richard Zimler.

Edited: Jun 26, 2007, 10:57 pm

May I pick a cartoon character? I'd like to select a cat! It's the cat from the graphic novel The Rabbi's Cat by the French cartoonist Joann Sfar. Check it out. It's truly delightful!

Jun 26, 2007, 11:06 pm

SqueakyChu, I started reading that at work (I work at a bookstore) and was literally laughing out loud (and it takes a lot, let me say). I keep meaning to finish it.

Jun 26, 2007, 11:17 pm

In what store do you work? I'm from Rockville, Maryland, but work very close to Politics and Prose on Connecticut Avenue in DC. Do you work there by any chance? That's where I discovered The Rabbi's Cat! :-)

By the way, welcome to LibraryThing, smileandnod!

Jun 26, 2007, 11:32 pm

I work at Olsson's. I just moved to the area a few months ago, but I've heard of Politics and Prose-- haven't been there yet, though. I must say I am fiercely loyal to Olsson's! ;)

Thanks for the welcome, SqueakyChu. I can already tell this place is going to be very addictive.

Jun 27, 2007, 7:35 am

Where is Olsson's? I remember it from many years ago. Is it at Dupont Circle? Or downtown?

Are you interested in joining a local BookCrossing group? We are trying to get something together for bibliophiles in the MD/DC area.

Er, this place IS very addictive (...she says as she runs off to get ready for work!).

Jun 27, 2007, 8:45 am

We have six throughout the area-- I'm not going to say which one I work at here, this being the big, bad internet and all. ;)

Could you please explain to me what a BookCrossing group is? I think I remember hearing about BookCrossing some time back, but I thought it was a game of leaving your books lying somewhere and seeing who finds them... what do your groups do when you meet?

Edited: Jun 27, 2007, 6:43 pm

BookCrossing is a site which tracks books. It can be found at for more information.

We're trying to get a group together and haven't figured out exactly what we're going to do. I happened to meet two other BookCrossers at a book festival this past April at which time we tried to give away 500 free books. We had so much fun during the day that we decided to try to get together again and see if we could meet regularly. What we have in common is a passion for reading.

We'll probably meet at a Panera, talk about what we read, drink coffee and eat pastry (Yum!), chit-chat about anything, figure out how to start some official BookCrossing Zones (free book exchanges), and learn from one member how to make book strings (a crocheted verion of bookmarks). It'll be informal and kind of laid back.

If you decide you want to join us, just register on BookCrossing and let me know your BookCrossing screen name so we can send you a PM (private message) to let you know when and where we'll be meeting. I think we'll go to different Paneras in the MD/DC area, but the first meeting will probably be in Waldorf (Prince George County).

Now, back to the topic of this thread. I beg everyone's pardon for the tangent.

Oh...the other two BookCrossers are not Jewish ! :-)

Edited: Jun 29, 2007, 9:41 am

Philip Roth's alter-ego Nathan Zuckerman- while no one novel stands out the arc and complexity of his life as it intermingles within the pages of Roth's novel is quite a creation.

May 30, 2008, 12:48 pm

My favorite has to be Bubbie from Susan Sandler's Crossing Delancey.

Aug 31, 2011, 7:39 am

There are several good ones, most recently is Benyamin Ben AkiĀ­vah from The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia (my thoughts:

However, I hold a special place for Max Eisenhardt, a Jewish boy in Germany during the Nazi era and a survivor of Auschwitz. He is better known as Magneto from the X-Men comics.