Was Kotter Jewish?

I know. Sounds like a stupid question. I’ve always assumed that he was, but other than the stories about his uncles with names like Irving Feldman, was there any other evidence? Did he ever talk about a bar mitzvah or Channukka (sp?)? I kinda wonder if he was a closeted Jew, somewhat like Buddy Sorrell–but one ep of “Dick van Dyke” did deal with his co-workers getting him ready for his bar mitzvah, which he had never had.

There were many references to Buddy Sorrell being Jewish in Dick Van Dyck. For instance, he made a joke that he couldn’t have meat with cream soda.


I recall the Dick Van Dyke Bar Mitzvah episode as his friends thinking he was floozin’ around on Pickles, when in reality he was going to a rabbi’s place for religious instruction.

But to answer the Kot-TARE question, I believe there were enough stereotypical jokes to safely assume he was a jew.

Yeah, but I think it was left as an assumption, rather than explicitly stated.

But they also never explained why Vinnie Barbarino was always trying to give everybody “Personality scans.”

There was the Kotter episode where someone painted a swastika on his classroom door- maybe that was intended for Horshack though.

On second thought, that was All in the Family I was thinking of, not Kotter.

Is the Pope Catholic?

And it probably would’ve been intended for Juan Epstein.

No, that was for Juan Epstein - the only Puerto Rican Jew in NYC!

Ah hell, that’s what I get for trying to get a minute’s worth of work done between “Preview” and “Submit”

I assure you that when you are Jewish in Brooklyn, or in show business in New York, you don’t have to be closeted. Dick van Dyke was a bit patterned after Your Show of Shows, and I don’t think Mel Brooks ever pretended he wasn’t Jewish.

Now, was Rose Marie supposed to be Jewish? I don’t remember any evidence for or against.

I know she was kind of sort of based on Selma Diamond who wrote for the Show of Shows. I do not know if Selma was Jewish, She was a Canadian raised in Brooklyn. I think Sally and Rob were just generic Christian of undetermined type.
Rob’s character was based on the very Jewish Carl Reiner.


According to this Wikipedia article Selma Diamond was Jewish. Take it with a grain of salt without a better cite.

There’s a huge country outside of Brooklyn, though, for whom the character might have somewhat de-ethnicized.

Similarly with Joe Mannix and Theo Kojack. They weren’t really about an Armenian-American PI or Greek cop. There were a small number of references to Mannix’s Armenian heritage (probably because of Mike ‘Krekor Ohanian’ Connors), and there were a fair number of Greek references to Theo Kojack. But they were never part of the series, like Greek-American Arnie Nuvo (played by the Jewish Herschel Bernardi).

“Kotter” similarly is an uncommon surname that not be as obvious as if they had picked “Rosenberg” or, um, “Seinfeld.”

Again, I’ve always assumed that Kotter was Jewish, but other than his stories about his apparenly-Jewish-named relatives, was there any onscreen evidence?

And “Dick van Dyke” was a heavily de-ethnicized version from the crew from “Your Show of Shows.” I think Buddy was the only definitely Jewish character.