November 21, 2012
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Jewish culture

Jews and balloons

for The Brooklyn Paper

Photo gallery

Mr. Potato Head is probably the only Jew who’s not a fan of latkes.
Grover once went to a bar mitzvah on Shalom Street.
Dora would have no problem reading the Torah.
The name “Shrek” is derived from a Yiddish word.
Jewish actor, Andrew Garfield, plays The Amazing Spider Man.
Horton hears a Jew!

Santa Claus’s arrival at the finale of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is meant to symbolize the start of the holiday season, which makes the cherished event seem specifically Christian. Yet, Thanksgiving is a holiday for all Americans, regardless of religion, and if you peer a little deeper into festive fete’s famous balloons, you can find numerous links to Judaism — and we’re not full of hot air:

Mr. Potato Head

Aside from being voiced by Hebrew Don Rickles in the Toy Story movies, the timeless doll’s popularity is due to Polish-Jewish brothers and owners of Hasbro, Henry and Helal Hassenfeld. When Mr. Potato Head’s Brooklyn-born inventor, George Lerner (who may have also been Jewish), came to Hasbro with a toy inspired by a kid’s love of playing with food, the company was so captivated by the concept that they created the first-ever TV ads for a toy.

• Kung Fu Panda

Jewish comedian, Jack Black, voices Po, the furry, funny star of the Kung Fu Panda franchise.


The quirky, blue Muppet has never verbally confirmed his religious beliefs but he has taken a trip to “Shalom Street,” an Israeli version of PBS’s “Sesame Street,” where he teaches kids how to speak Hebrew (clip below).

• Dora the Explorer

Que? Believe it or not, Dora can speak Hebrew and does, muy bueno, in a series of books.

• Shrek

The name of this grumpy, yet delightful, ogre derives from the Yiddish word schreck, which means “fear” or “fright.”

• Spider Man

Amazingly, Andrew Garfield is the first Jew to play Peter Parker in “The Amazing Spider Man.”

• Dr. Seuss

Before he wrote “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham” Theodor Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, penned political cartoons that illustrated the plight of the Jews during World War II. His distaste for Nazis and discrimination can also be observed in books like “The Sneetches” and “Yertle the Turtle.”

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