Great Jewish Moments in Law & Order

As you may have heard, Law & Order original recipe has been cancelled (though rumors are rumbling it’ll return for another season on TNT). Sure, the sexy crimes one is still around, but sometimes you just want your plain, not-too-kinky L&O, right? Now that we’re doomed to watch re-runs forever, we’re celebrating the show’s Jewiest episodes. To quench your thirst for chosen criminals, victims and, of course, defense attorneys, here are The Eight Greatest Jewish Moments of Law & Order. (Remember, this is only for L&O proper, none of those xeroxes.)

The Fertile Fields Law and Order Still

Episode: The Fertile Fields
Original Air Date: April 7, 1992
Special Jew Guest Star: Jerry Stiller
Plot: Jew is burned by a group of black street toughs, but did they kill him? [Chung chung!]
Best Line: “You want to stay alive, stay below 86th Street.”
The Takeaway: It’s amazing it took until the second season to get a Jewish plot line. Sadly, it’s tame compared to later Jewy episodes. The best part, however, is seeing how rough and tumble the Upper West Side was back in the 90s. Apparently, Zabar’s on W. 81st was as high as a Jew could travel before getting slashed and burned.

Sanctuary Law and Order Still

Episode: Sanctuary
Original Air Date: April 13, 1994
Big Fat Greek Guest Star: Michael Constantine
Plot: When a Jewish driver kills a black child in Harlem, NYC devolves into a riot town — and it’s open season on the Semitic.
Best Line: “I know a Jew when I see one.”
The Takeaway: I didn’t know a Jew could start a riot so easily! Harlem erupts, but the trial centers around a boy who killed an Italian he mistook for a Jew. As if any NYC black kid can’t tell a meatball from a matzoh ball! Episode also features recurring defense attorney Shambala Green. I just like saying Shambala, and is that a Jewish last name?

Blood Libel Law and Order Still

Episode: Blood Libel
Original Air Date: January 3, 1996
Special Klan Guest Star: Chris Cooper
Plot: Lil’ anti-Semite ices a Jewish teacher who ratted on him. Smarmy kike-hater Chris Cooper shows up to hatch a conspiracy theory of “Elders of Zion” proportions.
Best Line: “It was just a joke. Ezra Pound made fun of the Jews, Hemingway too.”
The Takeaway: Now we’re talking! It’s a real live anti-Semitic plotline. The shot above is a coded message hidden in a high school yearbook. Clever schmucks. The real magic touch comes from Chris Cooper, guest starring as the “Klan Lawyer” Roy Paine, cooking up a theory of Hebraic misconduct starting with Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach). The theory is that we Jews stick together, and are even willing to cover up Jew-on-Jew murder by blaming the gentile.  There’s K-word all over this episode (and for a little history on that word’s origin, here’s a lesson from Richard Schiff.)

Episode: Terminal
Original Air Date: May 21, 1997
Special Jew Guest Star: Susie Essman (Pre-Curb Your Enthusiasm, she’s got like 2 lines.)
Plot: Gunman opens fire at a Jewish charity boat party. Was it antisemitism?
Best Line: “Listen, if I wanted to kill Jews I would just run a red light in my taxi. This is New York City.”
The Takeaway: It turns out the shooting had nothing to do with antisemitism, and the latter half of the show’s just standard gentile fare. However, when Briscoe and Curtis interview an Arab cab driver, he shoots back the best Jewish line of the entire L&O run. (It’s worth repeating: “Listen, if I wanted to kill Jews I would just run a red light in my taxi. This is New York City.”) It gets me every time; we’re everywhere! Who writes for this guy, Henny Youngman?

Return Law and Order Still

Episode: Return
Original Air Date: November 15, 2000
Special Jew Guest Star: Evan Handler (of Sex and the City fame)
Plot: An adopted Yid emigrates to Israel to avoid prosecution for killing his father’s business partner, only to have a Beit Din discover his conversion ain’t good enough to be granted a Holy Land passport. [Chung chung!]
Best Line: “A shonda!”
The Takeaway: Perhaps the most engaging of all Heebonically themed L&Os, this one features model-cum-actress Angie Harmon trying to speak Hebrew while three rebbes try to keep their jaws up. Watch Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), who’s gone gunning for the church a few times, study Jewish law to win the case. And Evan Handler, as much a potato-faced nudnik as ever, is a a delight.

Peter Jacobson as Randy Dworkin

Episode: Chosen
Original Air Date: January 15, 2003
Special Jew Guest Star: Peter Jacobson (his first appearance as defense attorney Randy Dworkin, pre-House)
Plot: Bookie kills a guy so he can keep sending piles of cash to Israel.
Best Line: “And while we’re still on the subject, let’s not forget about my great Aunt Sophie who spent six glorious years in that garden spot known as Auschwitz until American violence said, ‘Soph! you can go home now.’”
The Takeaway: If you’ve never seen a Randy Dworkin episode of L&O, this is the place to start. He lobs a fast one past McCoy. First, he stacks the jury with Jews. Then, he casually introduces the fact that his client donates all his money to fight terrorism in Israel.

Still from Bible Story

Episode: Bible Story
Original Air Date: December 5, 2005
Special Jew Guest Star: Mark Feuerstein
Plot: A thug is murdered outside of a synagogue after he rips up a holocaust chumash.
Best Line: “Look what this religious stuff does to people. Wasn’t it enough that my uncle survived? Why did he have to come home with a fake book?”
The Takeaway: This one’s got all the bells and whistles. A hate crime, a real estate feud and even a twist or two. It was an inside job! It was a fake book! It was Judaism’s fault! Enjoy checking out pre-Royal Pains Mark Feurstein, who plays a slick non-religious Yid.

Chevy Chase on Law and Order
Episode: In Vino Veritas
Original Air Date: November 3, 2006
Special Anti-Semite Guest Star: Chevy Chase
Plot: Famous actor gets pulled over for a DUI and starts accusing the Jews of screwing up his life. Turns out his son killed a Jew bitch!
Best Line: “What do you care? She was just some Jew bitch!” Also of note, the word “sugartits” slipped past the censors.
The Takeaway: Ripped from the gossip column! See, whenever Chase’s character gets drunk, he goes off whoopin’ and hollerin’ about Jewish conspiracies. It’s possibly your only opportunity to see Fletch fly into an anti-Semitic rage. Right at the opening scene, he gets out of his car, bloodied and drunk, and screams, “You’re a Jew, aren’t you?” right in the cop’s face. And it aired just four short months after Mel Gibson’s breakdown, ruining Chase’s chance to ever appear in a Lethal Weapon movie.

What do you think?

25 Responses

  1. Max Morenberg

    There was a good episode about an Iranian Jewish family in the jewelry business.

  2. Judah Ari Gross

    Two of the eight episodes were mysteriously on TNT today. Smells like a Jewish media conspiracy to me.

  3. Fred Z.

    Hysterical, you could Plotz! Isaw all of those episodes and love them!!

  4. d

    You missed 2 of the best Jewish themed episodes of all! Season 7, episode 4, “Survivor”: Survivor’s guilt leads a murder and season 10 episode 8, “Blood Money” about an Italian insurance company that duped Eastern European Jews in the late 1930s

  5. Mr. Heebman

    Wait – Angie Harmon? That woman is HOT, even if she is not a heeb. And the guy yelling “it’s a shonda!” was hilarious!

  6. Don John

    Dang who is that girl that Chevy is point his dirty sausage finger at?

  7. Wendy Lublin Cooley

    Then there was the 2007 episode TALKING POINTS with my own handsome, single, Jewish son, John Magaro. His Zayde is so proud of him!

  8. Striker1031

    This is good stuff. Sorry to see them change the recipe; but on the bright side now they are going to have L&O LA – Even more Heeb-tastic opportunities

  9. Jean

    I am in the process of buying the whole series on DVD. Can we get NBC to reconsider?

  10. Seth W.

    Big fan of show, especially Jew episodes. Have lived in Sweden for 6 years, where only re-runs play. Never saw Chevy Chase episode, but after Mel’s DUI thingy, his movies suddenly were in evidence everywhere. They were all over Swedish television and one noticed prominent Mel Gibson posters displayed in many video rental places. No kidding.

  11. blanquita

    anyone remember the name of the episode about the Iranian Jewish jewelers?? I’d love to see it again. Iranian Jews don’t get much screen time.

    Gut Shabbas.

  12. Dr. Debra Stewart

    My heart nearly stopped when I saw this site. “Heebs,” “Heeb-tastic,” “Yids!” What are you vile and disrespectful people thinking? I have been an avid viewer of Law and Order all 19 years and, more importantly, a dedicated Christian more than 50 years. I am an 8th generation TEXAN of Celtic origin and do not have a drop of Jewish blood in me, but I am incensed that you are so insolent and smugly proud of yourselves and what passes for demented wit. I do not like episodes that make Jewish people or Christians look stupid, and BTW, there are more Christians in this world than Catholics. Do you think you are clever, when you are merely infantile and sacrilegious? Do you even worship God or cherish your Jewish heritage? The dauntless effrontery that you express in this egregious web site could sure fool me. Dr. Debra M. Stewart, Tyler, TX

  13. no lo entiendo

    Dr. Stewart, are you for real? Haven’t you ever heard of formerly repressed folks reclaiming former insults?
    Also there is a long history of Jews being “infantile and sacrilegious.” Haven’t you ever heard of Lenny Bruce or Abby Hoffman?
    BTW, if Catholics aren’t Christians, who are you counting? Are Methodists Christians? How about Mormons? Oy.

  14. Dr. Debra Stewart

    I may have worded that comment re: Catholics too ambiguously for you to be able to understand. After all, as you said, you’re “historically” infantile and sacrilegious. Since clarity seems to elude you:

    1. I didn’t say or imply or think that all Jews were that way. I said you were that way, in my opinion. Not your esteemed predecessors. I don’t, however, include Lenny Kravitz or Abby Hoffman in that illustrious group. I do include Abraham Maslow, Victor Frankl, Daniel, Isaiah, David and Jonathan, Solomon, Deborah, Esther, Ruth and Naomi, and Jesus.

    2. I meant, that L&O seems to forget that , in addition to all the Catholics in America, there are other Christians- like Methodists and Southern Baptists and Episcopalians and Presbyterians and Pentecostals.

    3. As someone who is fortunate enough to cherish the understanding that God designed, created, and lovingly knows each of us, I am very definitely for real. No one can separate us from God, except we, ourselves, by our own volition.

    Sincerely sympathetic for anyone who chooses not to revel in the love that God has for all of His creatures and creations, but to wallow in anomie, Dr. Debra M. Stewart!

  15. amsterdamshusi

    There’s one instance in Law and Order that I feel has a more positive Jewish context. The detectives are investigating this high school boy as a suspect of murder and they come to his school to bring him in. They barge into the cafeteria and grab the kid. I’m paraphrasing here, but the kid says “what did I do wrong?” Jerry Orbach replies “well, for starters, you put mayonnaise on your corned beef, but that’s not why we’re here.”

  16. Jerry

    Then there was something on an SVU episode that kind of stuck in my craw. The episode “Ballerina” depicts a fair-sized group of Hasidic men in a Latin dance club looking to interact with Latina taxi girls (some of whom are also prostituting in the back rooms). One of the men is even in love with one of the (murdered) taxi girls, and he’s brought in as a suspect.

    So here’s my problem: this is an Orthodox Jew who not only has been touching a woman to whom he is neither married nor related, but he plans (in his delusions) to marry her, and she’s most definitely not Jewish (not to mention she’s already got a boyfriend).

  17. Nana Amani

    Blood Money is not on this list??? It’s a decent list but had you noted the aforesaid episode, it would have rendered it a great list. Best Line: I think they should close their eyes and think of my sister as a little girl; and ask themselves whether they owe me anything.

  18. Gimpel the Woodcutter

    My favorite episode was the “case of the missing bagel” where a Jewish vendor sells Detective Stabler a bagel laced with acid and he travels back in time to 19th century Czarist Russia to help Tevye the Milkman find his missing wagon and convince his daughter not to run away with a shaigetz, which Stabler can relate to since his own daughter is a problem child. Along the way Stabler and Tevye get into all kinds of delightful comic hijinks with yiddish dance-offs and bottles and folksy Jewish humor, until the cossacks show up and ransack everything leading Stabler to make a sobering reflection on man’s inhumanity to man, even though in reality he was drunk as hell and helping the Cossack’s kill everyone because his great great grandfather was a Polish Christian Peasant named Yagram Strablov and terrorizing Jews runs in his genes. The end.

  19. Joseph Tomczyk

    Gripped last evening watching Blood Money (S10/E8 – as per two other commentors above), I strongly agree that it merits mention in this list; and have wonder whether it’s based on a true incident.


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