The Shmooze

A (Not So) Brief History of Jews in 'Mad Men'

By Anne Cohen

If you’re anything like me, you’re currently anticipating a period of intense mourning: After seven magical, addictive seasons, “Mad Men” is coming to an end. Soon.

Season 7 of the award-winning show may be airing in two parts a la “Breaking Bad,” but it’s a sad reality that by close to this time next year, Don, Peggy, Joan, Roger, Betty, Sally, Pete, and all the other characters we’ve come to know and love (and yes, hate — I’m looking at you, Megan) will be but a distant memory to be revisited on Netflix in moments of nostalgia.

“Mad Men” is nominally the tale of Don Draper, 1960s ad man. But that only scratches the surface of what has morphed into one of the most carefully crafted, framed and nuanced shows on TV. “Mad Men” is the story of America. “Mad Men” is the story of a generation. “Mad Men” is the story of women. And “Mad Men” is the story of the Jews.

It’s no coincidence that the very first episode includes a rather shocking display of anti-Semitism: We’ve hardly even gotten to know Don when a slick, 1959 Roger strides into his office to ask: “Have we ever hired any Jews?” Don’s deadpan answer is even more revealing: “Not on my watch.”

Almost ten fictional “Mad Men” years later, we’ve come a long way. Sterling Cooper & Partners (formerly Sterling Cooper then Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, then Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Cutler Gleason & Chough) has a full-time Jewish copywriter, the ever-neurotic Michael Ginsberg; Peggy has dated a Jewish man; Roger married a Jewish secretary (and then divorced her), and Don has acquired a taste for Jewish mistresses. The company courts Manischewiz as a serious client (and then gets fired). The Jews have arrived. We are, as it were, the perfect example illustrating Don’s signature line: “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.”

And so, in honor of our favorite TV show, we bring you the definitive guide of Jewish “Mad Men” moments.

Season 1: Jews are out

1.“Have we ever hired a Jew?”


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