Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


How Jews Make It In America

The Semitic content of HBO’s newest series

Print Email
The cast of ‘How To Make It In America’, last week.(Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Heeb’s mini-review of How To Make It In America notes the latent and explicit Judaism in the new HBO series. It starts with the main character, a striving, 20-something hipster named Ben Epstein (and played by Bryan Greenberg)—an alter ego, perhaps, of creator Ian Edelman?—and it goes all the way through his (even more explicitly Jewish) high school friend, an i-banker named David Kaplan, as well as the hasidic kids around Ben’s Wiliamsburg apartment.

(The show itself, which is about Ben and his friend Cam’s dreams of success in the fashion world, is alright. The story of aspirational young people trying to make it in the Big City never gets old. At the same time, lines referencing Blue Ribbon and a Condé Nast expense account make the whole thing a bit annoyingly name-drop-y.)

The most Jewish characters on the show, whom Heeb doesn’t mention, don’t appear until the fourth episode. (The second episode airs on HBO this Sunday night; I’ve seen the first four episodes, because I’m special that way.) Ben reluctantly heeds Cam’s request and goes to ask his parents for some money. Sure enough, his mother, a teacher, is hosting a few other members of the union in their homey Upper West Side apartment, and insists that her son stay a bit, you know, just to have a little nosh.

Ben then goes to Bookculture, the Morningside Heights bookstore which will forever be known as Labyrinth to past denizens of that neighborhood, to see his father. He is played by Richard Portnow, whom HBO fans may remember as Uncle Junior’s attorney. The scene between father and son—filmed on Labyrinth’s second floor—is pretty much as Jewy as it gets. If that’s your sort of thing.

Chosen TV: How To Make It In America [Heeb]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

How Jews Make It In America

The Semitic content of HBO’s newest series

More on Tablet:

Blum’s Day

By Yale University Press (Sponsored) — Sociologist Pierre Birnbaum says it’s time Léon Blum—French Socialist, Zionist, wartime hero, and prime minister—got his due