Jewish film/TV characters may be identified by “Jewish names” but rarely are depicted living Jewish lives. Yet Jewish writers and directors often include Jewish references in their work.

Take The Mandalorian (Disney+). Part of the Disney-owned Star Wars franchise, the series was created by executive producer/writer Jon Favreau, a fellow Queensite, who was bar mitzvah. The Mandalorian provides what seem more than coincidental references to Judaism. 

“It is the way.” The Mandalorian—Mando to his friends—played by Pedro Pascal is a bounty hunter from the planet Mandalore. He and fellow Mandalorians affirm their unshakable code: “It is the way.” Jewish law is Halacha—the way—from l’holech: to walk or to go. Millennia old, halacha guides all aspects of Jewish religious life. 

Mando’s helmet. A helmet conceals a Mandalorian’s face and may never be removed in public. Orthodox Jewish men always wear a skullcap—kippa (Hebrew) or yarmulka (Yiddish)—women a wig or hair covering.Jews often have been abused by having their head coverings yanked off. Preceding and during the Holocaust, Nazis also publicly shaved off Jewish men’s beards. When some Mandalorians remove their helmets, Mando refuses. They call him a zealot—the term for Jews who fought the Assyrian Greeks and later the Romans. 

“Not a race, a creed.” Mando states that Mandalorians have no genetic component. They are united as followers of “the way.” He himself was a foundling. Jews have been called a race. Not so. Jews come in all “colors” from people like me of Ashkenazi (European) descent to those of North Africa and the Middle East, Africa, India, Southeast Asia and China. Conversion requires no genetic component.  

“You people.” A character refers to Mandalorians as “you people.” Mandalorians are viewed as a breed apart. “You people” often has been addressed to Jews, an accusation of being outsiders, an excuse to prevent Jews’ participation in national life. 

Bo-Katan Kryze. This Mandalorian woman aims to retake Mandalore from ex-Empire warlords. She, two other Mandalorians and Mando board a heavily armed cargo ship loaded with weapons for Empire forces. Four against many. The Hebrew Bible’s narrative repeatedly demonstrates that Israel, a small nation, can win victories over large empires. But more is at work. In Hebrew, bo means go (also, come) and katan small. Bo katan means go small—engage in asynchronous warfare in which small forces use stealth and mobility to overcome large, more ponderous foes. 

Moff Gideon. The series’ major bad guy is Moff—a title of significant rank—Gideon, played by Giancarlo Esposito. Dressed in black like the original films’ Darth Vader, Moff Gideon is a former Empire commander menacing peace-loving planets. Why Gideon? In the book of JudgesGideon, of the tribe of Manasseh, leads 300 men in defeating a large Midianite army (shades of Bo-Katan) to demonstrate God’s power. But this Israelite hero reveals a violent side. Slights lead him to kill the men of Succoth and Penuel in the tribal territory of Gad. Moff Gideon, like Darth Vader and the biblical Gideon, represents a good man ultimately falling prey to the dark side.

Can I tell you that Jon Favreau had exactly this in mind? No. But I suspect that his Jewish background induced him to see universal themes relating to Jewish ones. This definitely informs my fiction.

Enjoyed this post? Please pass it on. 


  1. Marty Weiner on February 5, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    Hi David
    I loved this analysis of Mandolorian especially the comment on bo Katan. Very creative!!!
    I did several sermons on early Star Wars.
    Shabbat Shalom

    • David Perlstein on February 5, 2021 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks, Marty. Your love of movies explicating Jewish themes is legendary.

  2. Carolyn Power Perlstein on February 5, 2021 at 1:40 pm

    Send this to Jon Favreau. He would find this analysis of interest.

    • David Perlstein on February 5, 2021 at 2:32 pm

      I’m sure, Carolyn, that he would.

  3. Avi Schneier on March 24, 2023 at 9:13 am

    No offense, but some of this total junk. You’d have to be a real fan to know. Example: Bo Katan wasn’t invented (neither her nor her name) by Favreau. She was introduced in the Clone Wars cartoon by Dave Filoni. (PS. That doesn’t make her Italian, either.) We can be proud of being Jewish and other members of our Tribe being successful without trying to see Magen Davids everywhere.

    • David Perlstein on March 24, 2023 at 10:19 am

      You are right, Avi, that we needn’t see Magen Davids everywhere. I hope that the parts that aren’t total junk gave you something to think about.

  4. Anton Adelson on April 13, 2023 at 6:36 pm

    Bo Katan moment blew my mind! I’m Israeli so I speak Hebrew but it never dawned on me – her name in Hebrew!

    Also, in the latest episode (s3e7) they expanded a great deal more on the Jewish parallels!

    Specifically about being exhiled from Mandalore like Jews from Israel/Zion! And there were three groups: Children of the Watch (Orthodox Jews), the regular warriors (Secular Jews), and those who never left (Old Yeshuv). Which _exactly_ mirrors the modern day realities of Israel! And.. yeah… Obviously, this is from the Jewish perspective, not from the Arab perspective…

    But we’re talking about Star Wars and Judaism here.

    By the way, she also directly quoted something you’ve probably heard many times before: how Jews can never be beaten by anyone as long as we stand united. You know, the whole thing with the reason of why Second Temple was destroyed and still is… How would you translate “Sin’at Chinam”? “Free Hate”?

    • David Perlstein on April 14, 2023 at 7:47 am

      The parallels really are fascinating, Anton. As an aside, Jewish writers and producers often drop little “Jewish gems” into show. Not many. Sometimes only one or two at most to say, “I know you don’t see yourself on TV that often, but you and I are here.”

      Hope you had a good Pesach.

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