Jewish Characters on TV: The Best of 2009

There are lots of characters on TV that happen to be Jewish. Like the emergence of African Americans into mainstream American television in the 1960s, where many shows had a token black character, it now seems to be in vogue for every television show to have a token Jew. The following are the characters who in 2009 rose above the rest — the characters who, instead of merely being Jewish, did Jewish.

Ziva David, NCIS (CBS, Tuesdays 8 p.m.)

NCIS is the number one show on television these days. For some reason no one believes me when I tell them. Trust me, there’s good reason. Cote de Pablo‘s character, Ziva David, is no small part.

Ziva David started at NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) a few years ago as a liaison from the Mossad, where her father is the director. This year, after her partner Tony kills her boyfriend (a Mossad agent working in the US), Ziva returns to Israel in an episode call “Aliyah.” Her father questions whether she is loyal to the Mossad or NCIS and if it is even possible to work for both countries at the same time.

NCIS‘s entanglement with the Mossad began in 2004, but this year for the first time, questions of the relationship between America and Israel — and the dual loyalty that American Jews sometimes feel — were at front and center of the show.

Rachel Berry and Noah “Puck” Puckerson, Glee (Fox, Returning April 13, 2010)

Glee, the musical-comedy-drama following an Ohio high school’s show choir, has made a splash this fall.

From the get go, viewers were suspicious that Lea Michele‘s Rachel, the over-achieving star of the show choir and daughter of an interracial same-sex couple, was Jewish. This hunch was confirmed when Rachel vies for the spot of Maria in West Side Story, arguing that: Natalie Wood was a Jew, you know. I have had a deep, personal connection to this role since the age of one.

Noah “Puck” Puckerman (played by Mark Salling), the Mohawk-sporting football player also reveals his Jewishness, when he flashes back to his family’s annual Simchas Torah screening of Schindler’s List. He says, “It makes my mom feel connected to her Jewish roots.” While offering Puck some sweet and sour pork, his mom begs “Why can’t you date a Jewish girl?