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The 8 most prominent Jewish characters in soaps

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah—an admittedly minor Jewish festival blown all out of proportion due to its proximity to the major American holiday of Christmas.

Jews make up only 2.2 percent of the U.S. population, so it’s no surprise that they very rarely show up on that most Middle American of art forms, the daytime soap opera. Nevertheless, in honor of the eight nights of Hanukkah, we now present: The 8 most prominent Jewish characters in soaps (and count our blessings that there aren’t 10 nights, because we’d have had a hard time filling out the list).

Irna Phillips

If any one person can be dubbed the inventor of soap operas, it is Irna Phillips. She created The Guiding Light, As the World Turns, and Another World, among others. Born Jewish in Chicago in 1901, by the age of 18, Irna was attending the nondenominational People’s Church in her hometown, which accepted parishioners of all creeds and races. Its pastor for 50 years, the Reverend Dr. Preston Bradley, inspired GL‘s Reverend Dr. John Ruthledge, who always kept a brightly shining lamp in his study window as an inviting beacon for those who needed help—a guiding light, as it were.

Rose Kransky (Guiding Light)

While Phillips used her minister as the inspiration for Reverend Ruthledge, it was her own past as an unwed, pregnant teenager who sued her baby’s father in court in order to force him to admit paternity that inspired the creation of Orthodox Jew Rose Kransky. Rose did the exact same thing as Phillips when her married lover denied ever having had anything to do with her. While Phillips’ son was stillborn, Rose’s Johnny lived long enough to see his mother get her own spinoff.

Drew Jacobs (Guiding Light)

A scant 60 years later, GL once again featured a Jewish character. This time, Drew wanted her boyfriend to convert before they got married. Unfortunately, a nuance the show missed was that when Drew’s biological mother was revealed to be hooker with a heart of gold, Selena, that meant Drew wasn’t technically Jewish, either. She would need to convert first herself.

Nancy Feldman (Ryan’s Hope)

For a show set on New York City’s Upper West Side and across the street from a major hospital, no less, it’s amazing that RH somehow managed to have only two contract Jewish characters during its entire 14-year run. (Why, that would be like a show taking place in the fashion industry in Los Angeles with only token Jews, Hispanics, or homosexuals! Yes, The Bold & the Beautiful, I am looking at you.) Nancy was a nice Jewish girl who fell in love with nice Catholic boy Patrick Ryan. Their families objected. Nancy and Patrick broke up. Nancy left town. The end.

Jake Meyer (General Hospital)

This time around, nice, Jewish boy (a lawyer, no less!) Jake fell for nice Catholic widow Rose. Their families objected. They broke up. Rose left town. A few years later, Jake married Bobbie, a nice (presumably Christian) reformed hooker. There was a new writing team in place, so nobody objected—not even to the ex-hooker part.

Robert LeClair & Robin Jacobs (Days of Our Lives)

Robert had been on DOOL, on and off, since 1972. Then, in 1985, he suddenly revealed that he’d spent his teen years in a Nazi concentration camp (as actor Robert Clary, best known for Hogan’s Heroes, had). All of Robert’s friends were shocked. (Guess they assumed that tattoo on his arm was … what, exactly?) But Robert isn’t the point here. His story only served to prop up the romance of his niece, Robin, with Mike Horton. Jewish Robin couldn’t be with Mike unless he converted. Mike seriously considered it, but ultimately did not. (Perhaps because all of the scenes where Robin was teaching him about Judaism were so full of laughable errors.) Robin left Salem for Israel. Because Jews don’t get to move to Omaha or Poughkeepsie.

Nora Hanen Gannon Buchanon (One Life to Live)

When Jewish Nora married non-Jew Bo, the wedding was officiated by a priest, a rabbi … and Little Richard. And the rabbi was played by Camryn Manheim. To remind viewers that she was Jewish, Nora would periodically use Yiddish words. Also, one time, she and her son, Matthew, celebrated Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, by saying the Kaddish, a prayer for loved ones who have died. They actually should have waited a week and done that on Yom Kippur, when it’s called Yizkor.

Brad Carton (The Young and the Restless)

Like DOOL‘s Robert, Brad had been on Y&R for decades before he confessed that he was really George Kaplan, the son of a Jewish woman who’d been forced to forge and catalog stolen art while in a concentration camp. Evil Nazis had been after their family ever since. (Or something like that. It’s a story a lot of Y&R fans have deliberately blocked from memory.) Brad proudly declared his Judaism, then rarely mentioned it again. None of his weddings were Jewish (see the photo above). But when he died, he got a Jewish funeral. So, that’s something.

Happy Hanukkah!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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