Television

The 5 Jewish Lessons from ‘Gilmore Girls’

gilmore girls

I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much unification on my Facebook feed as when Netflix announced it was bringing back “Gilmore Girls.” It was as if Hanukkah came early, bringing with it the promise of coffee, fast talking and millions of cultural references.

My mom is not one for TV, but my sisters and I spent our teen and early adult years watching the show (and watching it over and over again). Although we were New York City kids, and none of us drink coffee, there was something about Lorelai and Rory that kept drawing us back.

Even though they aren’t Jewish (although Stars Hollow has a synagogue, so there must be Jews in there somewhere), there are a number of Jewish values we can learn from Lorelai and Rory.

1. Community. Judaism teaches: Do not separate yourself from the community. Lorelai seems to take this to heart by raising Rory in Stars Hollow. From Luke coming over to fix anything and everything in their house, to Rory cat-sitting for Babette, the people of Stars Hollow were there for one another. Both Lorelai and Rory see it as their responsibility to participate in town events, even when they seem totally wacky, as a way of supporting the town and the community they love.

2. Family. While the people of Stars Hollow may be their family of choice, Lorelai and Rory also belong to a strong family in the Gilmores. There are few bonds as strong as Lorelai and Rory, or Emily and Richard for that matter. The scene where Richard is in the hospital and Emily demands to die first, since she cannot bear to live without him, is heartbreaking, made even more so now by the actor who played him, Edward Hermann’s, death in 2014. Lorelai goes to her parents for money for Rory’s school because she knows they will give it to her, and Emily selects Friday night dinners because she wants to bring her family back together.

Even when they argue to the point where they seem unable to reconcile, the pull of family always brings them back. Judaism teaches us the same through Joseph and his brothers. Even though his brothers throw him in a pit and sell him into slavery, the family is able to work their way back together.

3. Ritual. And while we are on the subject of the Gilmores, they teach us how to have Shabbat, perhaps better than any TV show ever made. No matter what is going on, no matter who is angry at whom or who has a test or another obligation, Rory and Lorelai show up for Friday night dinner. Sure, they aren’t actually celebrating Shabbat, but they are showing us that ritual works well when it is consistent, when people stick to it even when it is inconvenient. Most of Jewish ritual has power because people have been doing it regularly, for thousands of years. Also, food. Food is really, really important to both Jews and “Gilmore Girls,” but that goes without saying.

4. Forgiveness. The Gilmores do not sugarcoat their relationships. Rory and Lorelai fight; Lorelai fights with her parents; Rory with her grandparents; Lorelai and Sookie; and let’s face it, Lorelai and pretty much every single person in Stars Hollow. And it is not always a quick hug and make up. Instead, the “Gilmore Girls” show us that sometimes forgiveness can be hard, but that it is worth fighting for.

Likewise, Judaism teaches that we must go to the person we have hurt and ask their forgiveness. It is a long road for Lorelai and her parents and, in later seasons, for Lorelai and Rory. But they always find their way back by asking for and granting forgiveness from one another.

5. Gratitude. If you didn’t cry when Rory gave her valedictorian speech at Chilton, well, you may not have a heart. The sincere expression of gratitude for her mother, her grandparents, and her life is an amazing expression of thanks. Judaism teaches: Who is rich, one who is happy with her portion. Rory and Lorelai exemplify this, holding onto one another, growing together, and never taking for granted their blessings.

And a bonus…if you can’t think of anything to say, just throw up your hands and say, “Oy with the poodles already!” I’m pretty sure that’s an ancient Yiddish proverb.


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Rabbi Rebecca Rosenthal

Rabbi Rebecca Rosenthal is the Director of Youth and Family education at Central Synagogue in New York City where she gets to spend her time dreaming about ways to engage families with children. When she’s not working, you can find her in the kitchen baking yummy treats and exploring all the activities (both Jewish and not) that NYC has to offer. Rebecca and her husband live in New York City with their three children.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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