Friends Countdown: Is Rachel Green Jewish?

FRIENDS – “The One with Phoebe’s Dad” Episode 9 – Air Date 12/14/1995 – Pictured: (l-r) Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller – Photo by: Alice S. Hall/NBCU Photo Bank Photo: NBC/? NBC Universal, Inc.

As a Jewish person, it was always very clear to me when watching Friends who was and who wasn’t “on my team.” The Gellers, sure — both Ross and Monica had quirks I could see in my own family. Rachel Green was a matter of debate. She always struck me as Jewish (and I’m not the only one), with her family hailing from Long Island (like mine!) and her preteen nose job. But I was never certain. In trying to properly decipher the clues, things didn’t completely add up. Take Phoebe’s Christmas song:

Monica, Monica, have a Happy Hanukkah,
I saw Santa Claus, he said “hello” to Ross.
And please tell Joey, Christmas will be snowy.
And Rachel and Chandler

Thanks to errant rhyming, it’s absolutely no help. Not to mention, both Gellers are confirmed half-Jewish, so Phoebe’s holiday-specific references aren’t even good hints. But! Thankfully, the rest of Friends has clues as to whether Rachel might have once been bat mitzvahed. Here’s the evidence:

She calls her grandmother “bubbe.”
Rachel’s grandmother, Ida Green, is called “Spuds” by the people in her building because she “smells like potatoes.” When Rachel meets cute dudes in her grandmother’s building, she confirms Ida’s identity with them by saying: “No sense of personal space? Kinda smells like chicken? Looks like a potato? That’s my bubbe!” In Yiddish, bubbe means “grandmother.” A-ha! 

Long Island, nose job, engaged to a Jewish dentist named Barry …
All stereotypes, yes, but it’s hard not to feel that the Friends writers are pushing Rachel in a Jewish “direction” with these particular references. The New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum, when prompted with the question of Rachel’s Judaism, tweeted, “A Rachel w Dad Leonard, marrying Dentist Barry (her last name likely cut down from Greenburg) pings all Jewdar.” (You can read the rest of the Twitter discussion on the topic here.)

And speaking of stereotypes, this person’s catch is pretty uncomfortable:

Friends creator Marta Kauffman and writer Jeff Greenstein said so.
It’s hard to deny evidence from the source. In 2011, Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman told The Jewish Telegraph that Rachel was not only a Jew, but she’s actually the only “real” Jew of the gang: “only Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) is Jewish according to halachic law [a.k.a. Jewish law]” because she had a Jewish mother, where Ross and Monica only had a Jewish father. Furthermore, Friends writer Jeff Greenstein chimed into Nussbaum’s conversation, adding that he thought Rachel was Jewish. And he wrote her.

Case closed.

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Friends Countdown: Is Rachel Green Jewish?