TV’s Newest Jewish Character

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It seems the Jewish community can now claim another Jewish character on television: Lois Griffin, from the Fox animated sitcom The Family Guy.

In last Sunday’s episode, it’s revealed that Lois Griffin’s mother, Barbara Pewterschmidt, is Jewish. The episode revolves around Lois and her husband, Peter, discovering what it means to be a Jewish family (in the typically off-the-wall fashion of The Family Guy).

Much of the content of the episode is not fit for reproduction here, but the premise brings up some interesting notions about Jewish identity and intermarriage. The family takes for granted that family members are now Jewish simply because Lois’ mother was Jewish, even though they have never done anything Jewish in practice. And while exploring their heritage, which includes joining a synagogue and holding a Passover Seder, Peter has a moment of crisis when he is visited by the ghost of his Catholic father, who tells Peter not to abandon his faith. The last act of the show then becomes about navigating the challenges of living in an interfaith home.

Having these issues played out on The Family Guy might not be the best venue to elevate conversations about intermarriage, children of intermarriage and Jewish identity, but the fact that one of televisions most popular sitcoms based an entire episode around these issues shows us just how common they have become. Art (and I use that term somewhat loosely here) is a reflection of life, and perhaps giving these subjects a prominent role will help remove their stigma and pave the way for more interfaith families to begin their own Jewish journeys.

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