It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 18(!) years to the day since that most iconic of 1990s prime-time soap operas went off the air. Happy chai anniversary, Beverly Hills, 90210!
Though the series may come off as dated and a tad earnest to modern viewers, Beverly Hills, 90210 was somewhat heavy-hitting in its time, tackling serious subjects like drug addiction, guns, eating disorders and sexually-transmitted diseases during its 10 seasons on the air.
Anti-semitism, too, was a subject that came up in “Bev Niner” over the years. Perhaps this is not surprising, given the show’s creator and superstar producer were Jewish, as were certain key members of the cast.
But beyond the series’ most notable characters (hello, Dylan McKay) and famous catchphrases (“Donna Martin graduates” and “I’d like to exchange an egg” both immediately come to mind), there’s a host of lesser-known Jewish stories and backstories connected to the hit show.
In honor of the 18th anniversary of Beverly Hills, 90210′s final episode — which my sister and I watched together at my parents’ house while wearing our old prom dresses and sipping champagne — we’re proud to round up 18 Jewish facts about the show.
With rumors of yet another 90210 reboot in the works — one that’s set to reunite Kelly and Donna — there’s no better time to celebrate. To life, to life, to Beverly!
1. The show’s creator, Darren Star, is Jewish.
Star was barely 30 when he hit it big with Beverly Hills, 90210 and its successful spinoff, Melrose Place. (Perhaps he was destined for success; after all, he had spent a portion of his bar mitzvah money on a subscription to Variety.) He then went on to create a little show called Sex and the City.
2. Gabrielle Carteris, a Jewish smartypants who played Jewish smartypants Andrea Zuckerman, had a Jewish wedding.
She married her Jewish stockbroker husband, Charles Isaacs, in 1992 at the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara. Her 90210 castmates were there, naturally — except unpopular bad-gal Shannen Doherty.
3. Both Andrea’s on-screen kid and Carteris’s real-life kids are Jewish.
Carteris’s pregnancy was written onto the show (Andrea has unprotected sex with new beau Jesse and, well, you know). In a super-weird twist of fate, while Carteris was in labor at LA’s Cedars-Sinai hospital, the TV in her room happened to be tuned to 90210 — the episode where Andrea gives birth. IRL Carteris and Isaacs have two daughters.
4. Carteris is a union leader who has been honored by the Jewish Labor Committee.
She’s been the president of the performers’ union SAG-AFTRA since 2016.
5. While on set, Carteris was asked to remove her Star of David necklace.
A network exec reportedly told her to take it off, as “middle America” didn’t want to see such imagery, according to the Forward. Carteris refused, unless other cast members were told to remove their crosses. This resulted in a mandate that no religious jewelry was allowed on set.
6. James Eckhouse, who played Jim Walsh, Brandon and Brenda’s dad, is Jewish — and that may be why he got the part.
The character called for a midwestern WASPY type, and Eckhouse found it “ludicrous” that he got a callback. Allegedly producer Aaron Spelling, after his reading, said, “I don’t know; there’s something about Eckhouse guy,” and Carol Potter, who was already cast as mom Cindy Walsh said, “Well, Aaron, it’s because he’s Jewish.
7. Producer Aaron Spelling was bullied as a boy for being Jewish.
“I grew up thinking ‘Jew boy’ was one word,” Spelling, who was born and raised in Dallas, wrote in his memoir. Spelling’s parents were immigrants from Poland and Russia; as the only Jew in his high school he suffered anti-Semitic abuse. He went on to become a major force in Hollywood, producing a series of hits, including Dynasty and The Love Boat.
8. Tori Spelling, Aaron Spelling’s daughter who played Donna Martin, is a Jewish mom of five kids.
She often posts adorable pics of her family doing Jewish things, like celebrating Passover.
9. As a child, Tori Spelling snubbed a classmate, future infamous White House intern Monica Lewinsky, by not inviting her to her birthday party.
Andrew Morton’s biography of Lewinsky, Monica’s Story, includes this vignette about Spelling’s bat mitzvah: “Pop superstar Michael Jackson and the world’s smallest pony were expected to be two of the competing attractions at this most glittering of occasions, and everyone in Tori’s class was invited — except Monica.” Burn.
10. Ian Ziering, who played wannabe playboy Steve Sanders, is Jewish — and his Playboy Playmate wife converted before the couple married.
Nikki Schieler converted before their 1997 wedding. The couple divorced in 2002, but in the intervening years she worked as a “Barker’s Beauty” on The Price Is Right! (I don’t know about you, but I loved this show as a kid — whenever I visited my grandparents in Florida I watched it every morning at 11.)
11. Ziering is now married to Erin Ludwig, and the couple is raising their two daughters with both Judaism and Christianity.
He looks forward to both Christmas and Hanukkah each year. “I was born Jewish, and my father is a Hebrew school teacher, so it’s always going to be important to me, but I have no problem celebrating other people’s holidays,” he told OK! in 2013.
12. A reenactment of the series’ most iconic episode, “Donna Martin Graduates,” helped raise money for a Jewish charity.
In 2016, a staged reading of the episode — in which West Bev students rally to overturn Donna’s suspension for getting drunk at prom — served as a fundraiser for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. Carteris participated, but instead of reprising Andrea she played Donna’s mom.
13. There were so many Jewish guest stars and extras.
An incredible array of now famous actors (see: Jessica Alba, Hillary Swank) once had spots on the show, including Jewish celebs Ashley Tisdale, Seth Green, and David Arquette.
14. Shannen Doherty (Brenda) announced a trip to Israel in 2012 on Twitter and incurred the wrath of BDS supporters.
Just like Brenda, Doherty doesn’t care what others think! She went anyway.
Heading to Israel next week, so excited!!!
— Shannen Doherty (@DohertyShannen) August 31, 2012
15. Adam Levine — of Maroon 5 and The Voice — played the Peach Pit After Dark.
Before they were Maroon 5, the Jewish rocker and his band were known as Kara’s Flowers and they played a gig at the Pit. (Other bands that made appearances include The Cardigans and The Flaming Lips!)
16. Brian Austin Green, whose father is Jewish, played the show’s other main Jewish character, David Silver.
David Silver, the geeky DJ, was definitely not in the “in” crowd in the series’ early years. That changed when David’s father, Mel, started dating (and eventually married) Kelly’s mom, Jackie. David, of course, stated dating (and eventually married) Donna.
17. The union of Mel and Jackie led to the birth of another character with Jewish roots, Erin Silver, David’s cute, little half-sister.
She would grow up and become a main character in 90210, an edgier if far less iconic reboot of the series that ran on the CW from 2008 to 2013.
18. Anti-semitism was a theme the series visited (and revisited) over its 10 seasons.
In “Hate is Just a Four-Letter Word” in the show’s the fifth season, when the gang is all at California University, the campus erupts in controversy when an an anti-Semitic African-American speaker is scheduled to make an appearance. This episode has both David and Andrea (whose grandmother is a Holocaust survivor) ponder their Jewish identity.