Since 2006, the United States has celebrated Jewish American Heritage Month during the month of May. Yet as a queer Jew myself, I have only felt represented a small number of times on the screen. In honor of this year’s Jewish American Heritage Month, here are some of my favorite representations of queer Jews on screen.
After five seasons and 52 episodes, FX comedy Better Things concluded last month – but not without some good queer representation. This hilarious show centers around Sam Fox, a divorced actress who is raising her three children on her own, including her queer kid, Frankie. Yet the plotline is not your cliched coming out story, but instead revolves around a child whose gender identity and sexuality are fluid and whose mother accepts them.
It’s been more than three years since Broad City ended, and I can’t help but miss the show’s depiction of two friends finding their way in New York City. By the time the show concluded in 2019, both of its lead characters, best friends Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler, had come out as bisexual. Notably, the show does an incredible job portraying what it’s like to be two queer best friends who don’t want to sleep with each other.
In 2017, Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams made headlines with their depictions of Ronit Krushka and Esti Kuperman in the critically acclaimed romantic drama, Disobedience. Based on the 2006 book of the same name, this film follows Ronit as she returns home to her strict Orthodox Jewish family for a funeral and faces her ex-lover and childhood friend, Esti, who is now married to Ronit’s brother.
In many ways, the 2001 romantic comedy Kissing Jessica Stein was ahead of its time. This film centers around twenty-eight year old Jessica Stein, who sees a personal ad with her favorite quote about relationships, only to realize that the ad was placed in the “women seeking women” section of the newspaper. She answers that ad anyways, embarking on a relationship that is filled with endearing awkwardness and the classic Jewish anxiety I know so well.
In 2018, Netflix debuted To Each, Her Own, an original comedy-drama about a Jewish woman who plans to come out as a lesbian to her conservative family, but then finds herself falling for a male Senegalese chef. This hidden gem of a film is in French with English subtitles, and that makes it all the more enjoyable.
Transparent was one of the first times I truly felt seen as a Jewish person on TV. While the show has rightly been criticized for casting a cisgender actor in the role of a transgender character, its impact on transgender storytelling can’t be denied. This 2014 dramedy revolves around Maura Pfefferman, her ex-wife, and their three children, one who grapples with their gender identity in later seasons and eventually identifies as non-binary.
The 2020 comedy Shiva Baby can best be described as a queer Jewish comedy with aspects of horror that remind me of Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Based on a short film of the same name, this 78-minute film focuses on a bisexual Jewish woman who attends a Jewish mourning period better known as a shiva with her parents and runs into her ex-girlfriend, her sugar daddy, and his wife.
It cannot be overstated that there needs to be more queer Jewish representation in television and film. This Jewish American Heritage Month, I celebrate the positive examples of queer Jewish representation and implore Hollywood to create more examples of queer Jewish people like me.