Amy Schumer's Childhood Rabbi Likens Her to Abraham

Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin remembers U.S. comedian as 'a sweet, funny kid, who often asked probing and humorous questions' - just like Judaism's patriarch.

The Forward
Rachel X. Landes
A Comedy Central image showing Amy Schumer appearing in a scene from her comedy series, 'Inside Amy Schumer.'
A Comedy Central image showing Amy Schumer appearing in a scene from her comedy series, 'Inside Amy Schumer.'Credit: AP
The Forward
Rachel X. Landes

Before she was America’s favorite comedian, Amy Schumer was just a nice(ish) Jewish girl from Long Island.

Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin remembers that Amy, whom he knew when she was just a preteen in religious school.

Salkin was Schumer’s rabbi at Central Synagogue of Nassau County in Rockville Centre, New York where he worked from 1988 to 1995.

According to a CBS special on Amy Schumer, she grew up in Manhattan, but when she was 12, her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her family went bankrupt, and her parents divorced. Schumer’s mother moved to Long Island, where they started attending Central Synagogue. (Incidentally, the shul has produced three other comedians, including Dave Attel, Rory Albanese and Schumer’s sister Kim Caramele.)

In a personal blog post for the Religious News Service, Salkin wrote , that the Schumers were very involved in Jewish life — Amy’s mother served on the temple board and chaired the education committee. Salkin officiated Amy’s older brother’s bar mitzvah.

He described Amy as, “a sweet, funny kid, who often asked probing and humorous questions in religious school.”

“Amy Schumer has catapulted to the very top of American popular consciousness,” he added. “It is rather remarkable. She has done so through her natural, quirky, blisteringly honest way of simply being herself. I enjoyed Trainwreck.”

In middle school, Amy realized her appreciation for humor, she told fellow Jewish comedian Michael Ian Black during his podcast of “How To Be Amazing.”

“I loved the jerky boys, and just wanted to make prank phone calls, and wanted to watch SNL,” she said. “I was drawn to all things funny, and none of my other girlfriends were into that at all. I found boys that liked that stuff and we were close.”

“The general consensus was it really was like, ‘just be quiet and try to be pretty, and everyone’s supposed to like you,’” Amy concluded.

Of course, Amy parodies that “shallow white girl” image as much as she can in her sketch show, “Inside Amy Schumer.”

“Amy Schumer was a religious school cutup,” Salkin wrote. “In this, she follows in a noble tradition. According to ancient legend, Abraham was a rebellious kid who asked impertinent questions. We can certainly imagine Baruch Spinoza, the heretic of Amsterdam, sitting in the back of his religious school classroom, cracking jokes.”

For more stories, go to Sign up for the Forward’s daily newsletter at

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

$1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

Rep. Henry Cuellar attends a campaign event on Wednesday, in San Antonio, Texas.

AIPAC-backed Dem Declares Victory Against Progressive Challenger in Texas Runoff

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief Mohammad Eslami at an event for Nuclear Technology Day in Tehran, last month.

Prospects for Reviving Iran Nuclear Deal 'Tenuous' at Best, U.S. Envoy Says

A family grieves outside the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Wednesday.

Israeli PM Offers Condolences After Texas Gunman Kills 21 at Elementary School

U.S. President Joe Biden, this week.

Biden Decides to Keep Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Terror List, Says Report

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

Progressive Jews Urge ADL Chief to Apologize for Calling Out Democratic Activist

Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders with Jessica Cisneros in San Antonio last week.

It’s AIPAC vs. Bernie Sanders in Too-close-to-call Texas Democratic Runoff