Just how Jewish is Larry David anyway?

As the final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm premieres, we look at the Hebrew heritage of the world’s favourite kvetcher


Larry David and Bob Einstein star in The Palestinian Chicken episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm

To the billions of non-Jews in the world, Larry David is an unreasonable, misanthropic grump. Over 12 seasons and countless real-life shenanigans, the 76-year-old New Yorker has been the model for mopers for more than 20 years. But to the Jews of the world, Larry David is a reflection of our kvetchiest selves. He vocalises the struggles and the gripes that we feel would be to minor to mention. 

He goes places no other Jew would dare. But just how Jewish is Larry?


Larry David was born to Jewish parents in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn New York. Home to many eastern European and Russian Jewish immigrants in the 19th Century, the area still has a sizeable Jewish population to this day. His parents Rose and Morty David raised him in a Jewish home and he became Bar Mitzvah in 1960 in a Brooklyn shul. 

At university in Maryland, he joined the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity, an organisation started to allow Jews to join a fraternity after being rejected by others.

While Larry is self-described as atheist, and has previously described religion as ‘ridiculous’, he was raised in a Jewish home and is distantly related to Bernie Sanders, another famous Brooklyn Jew.

His work 

While David may not be religiously observant, Judaism features prominently in many of his works. The TV show that shot him to fame, Seinfeld gently referenced the Jewish roots of its titular star and gave Jewish viewers a wink and a nudge as to the background of its writing staff. In fact, it was even rejected by a Jewish TV executive who was worried the show was ‘too New York, too Jewish’ for a mainstream American audience.

The show frequently referenced secular Jewish foods and rituals, from the infamous marble rye to Bryan Cranston’s turn as a dentist who cracks Jewish jokes to his patients. There’s also a memorable circumcision episode where a neurotic mohel ends up and a plotline involving Julia Louis Dreyfus’s Elaine Benes getting romantically involved with schoolboys at her boss’s son’s Bar mitzvah. 

David’s penchant for Jewish storylines carried through into Curb Your Enthusiasm – the semi-autobiographical sitcom set in LA that features a rotating cast of some of Hollywood’s best Jewish actors. 

Bob Einstein played Marty Funkhouser, the grouchy anti-Palestinian chicken activist in the critically-renowned episode that sees a Palestinian restaurant owner call David a ‘Zionist pig’ while romantically involved with him. 

Larry’s reluctance to embrace his Judaism is often played for laughs in the show, including an episode where he has to pretend to be an Orthodox Jew to try and get his friend to the top of a hospital waiting list and in the process tries to use fake Yiddish to woo a Jewish doctor, ending up insulting his daughter when they’re trapped on a ski lift when Shabbat starts. 

His general vibe

Aside from his significant body of Jewish work and the fact that he’s ethnically Jewish if not observant, Larry David’s personality and mannerisms have endeared him to Jews across the generations. Held up the perfect example of an ‘Old Jewish Man’ as popularised by the viral Instagram account of the same name. 

Larry’s real-life and TV kvetching, grumbling and antisocial behaviours are held up as examples of the sort of grumpiness we all see in shul week in and week out. Indeed, David had a viral moment in 2021, when he was videoed sitting in the front row of New York Fashion Show with his hands firmly in his ears. 

He was even a poster boy, along with Bernie Sanders and Mel Brooks, of what GQ called ‘the year of the viral old Jew’. The author posited that LD’s appeal, aside from his relatable humour was that he really didn’t care what anyone thought of him. 

And after all, isn’t that the most Jewish trait of all?

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