In Praise of Pop Culture’s Jewish Fathers

By | Jun 14, 2013

Behold, the Jewish father: an oft-forgotten figure, generally second fiddle to the much-discussed Jewish mother. Though pop culture tends to be focused on the matriarchs of the Jewish family, a few notable fathers have broken through. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Ari Gold–Jeremy Piven (Entourage)

The wheeling-and-dealing Hollywood agent who loses his temper at everyone except his children.

Likes: Swearing, hugging it out, heated phone calls.

Dislikes: Adam Davies, Amanda Daniels, losing a deal.

Famous for: Making Vinnie Chase a Hollywood legend, despite the numerous setbacks. “LLOYD!”

2. Bernie Focker–Dustin Hoffman (Meet the Fockers/Meet the Little Fockers)

The attorney turned stay-at-home dad who lavishes praise upon his son and saves his every participation trophy

Likes: His son’s accomplishments, positive reinforcement, his wife Roz.

Dislikes: Negativity, his in-laws’ parenting methods.

Famous for: Being a proud dad, sexual innuendos.


3. Guido Orefice–Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful)

The Italian bookshop owner, who must shield his son at all costs from the horrors of the Holocaust.

Likes: Making people happy, his family.

Dislikes: Nazis and other Fascists.

Famous for: Creating an elaborate game out of surviving Bergen-Belsen that allows his son to make it through the war.


4. Jack Geller–Elliot Gould (Friends)

Father of series stars, Ross and Monica Geller, and father in-law to Chandler.

Likes: His kids (but mostly Ross), his wife Judy.

Dislikes: Chandler (initially).

Famous for: Putting everyone in awkward situations. Making embarrassing comments, but making up for them with the phrase “I’m just saying…”


5. Jim’s Dad–Eugene Levy (American Pie Series)

Jim’s good natured, and well-intentioned dad, who has absolutely terrible timing.

Likes: Trying to help Jim navigate through life, love, marriage and sex.

Dislikes: Teenagers making poor, uninformed decisions. He probably can’t eat pie anymore, either.

Famous for: Embarrassing his son, giving good advice, walking in at the absolute wrong moment.


6. Julius Levinson–Judd Hirsch (Independence Day)

The grouchy father of super-genius David (Jeff Goldblum) who embarks on an adventure to save the earth from an invading alien force.

Likes: His son, Judaism, complaining.

Dislikes: Looking like a schlemiel in front of the President of the United States, aliens, the fact that his son went to MIT to become a “cable repairman.”

Famous for: Pulling out the old siddur and yarmulke to pray for his son to return home safely from alien fighting, shepping nachas for his son while simultaneously berating him.


7. Larry Gopnik–Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man)

Physics professor besieged by bad luck: an adulterous wife, a pot-smoking son, and a blackmailing student, for starters. In search of wisdom from the legendary but elusive Rabbi Marshak.

Likes: Schroedinger’s cat, the foxy next-door neighbor, his son’s bar mitzvah.

Dislikes: Sy Ableman, Santana Abraxas, his brother’s unannounced visits.

Famous for: Being wholly unfortunate.


8. Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr)–Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen (X-Men Series)

The mutant supervillain, and archrival of the X-Men; father of the heroes Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

Likes: Mutants, metal, elaborate lairs.

Dislikes: Humanity, the X-Men, Nazis.

Famous for: Having the ability to manipulate metal, trying to take over the world every so often, running his own country.


9. Sandy Cohen–Peter Gallagher (The OC)

The ethical center of the television series about privileged teens in California.

Likes: Helping people out, the law. 

Dislikes: People who take advantage of others.

Famous for: Taking in the troubled Ryan Atwood, being a good father to his children.


10. Tevye–Chaim Topol + Zero Mostel (Fiddler on the Roof)

The dairyman trying—with varying degrees of success—to marry off his daughters to suitable candidates.

Likes: His daughters, raucous celebrations, tradition.

Dislikes: Intermarriage, assimilation, Lazar Wolf.

Famous for: Shoulder-shaking, wishing he were a rich man.

Read more inspirational stories for Father’s Day

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