Updated: Apr 12
Joel is an argumentative young man who always wants people to know his opinion. He doesn't like people with no or few opinions and prefers the company of other similarly-argumentative people.
Joel attended the same high school as Sam and Frankie. Although he first met Sam when they were both children, he didn't start talking to Sam extensively until he met Sam again in Literature Class as well as in Debate Club and after debating about religion (Sam and Joel are both atheists), Joel - impressed by Sam's sentence structure and persuasiveness - decided to befriend him.
Find out more about him in "The Book of Joel."
Read the Farbers' profiles with you guys' awesome comments here on Tapas.
Relationship with Parents:
Joel's mother, Rokhl (Rachel), is quite strict - stricter than either of Sam's parents. Growing up, Joel had a stutter, and his mother was quite harsh on him for it.
Being relentlessly bullied at school for being small, shy, and a stutterer also didn't help his self-confidence.
An ambitious woman who wanted a better future for her son (she definitely did not want him to be like her husband, who was an unsuccessful peddler), Rachel was quite the "tiger mom" to Joel. Critical, cold, and emotionally distant, she causes him to develop a number of complexes about love.
Joel's father Pinchas, on the other hand, was very loving and indulgent. However, he rarely stood up to Rachel's harsh criticism of Joel and himself. Accordingly, he and Joel increasingly drift apart as Joel grows up.
As a teen and young adult, Joel continues to love his father, but also finds his laziness and passivity frustrating.
Joel was and is a top student and reads many different publications in his spare time. Although he is currently an atheist, he was raised in Judaism - his parents sent him to both Yiddish and Hebrew school (with an emphasis on the latter) and he had a Bar Mitzvah, which was one of his proudest childhood moments.
This is in contrast to Sam, who was raised atheist. Not only did Sam never go to Hebrew school, he also did not have a Bar Mitzvah (much to Joel's surprise).
Due to how he was raised, Joel grew up with a deflated self-esteem. It wasn't until high school that he started using debate as a way to become more confident and charismatic. However, his confident façade slips from time to time.
Views on Yiddish
Despite his parents' desire for him to learn more about his roots and the fact that he was sent to Hebrew school every weekend growing up, Joel shows little genuine interest in being anything but a red-white-and-blue-flag-waving American.
In this way, he's a foil to Sam, who is much more immersed in his Yiddish identity. Unlike Sam, he does not like Yiddish theatre and wonders what attracts Sam to what he deems "entertainment for old people."
Joel only speaks Yiddish to his parents (who have limited English), preferring to speak English to everyone else, even other Yiddish speakers like Harvey, Sam, and others (partially because he is not confident when speaking Yiddish and partially because he wants to assert his American identity).
This preference of English over Yiddish may also reflect his desire to assert his independence from his parents.
However, as he gets older, his views on Yiddish change. He realizes that the main reason he didn't like Yiddish was because he didn't like a lot of things about his home life. Once he started interacting with Yiddish speakers outside his home, he started gaining a fuller understanding of his linguistic and cultural heritage.
Views on Love
Due to bullying from peers and his mother's constant criticism, Joel has developed a number of complexes about love and romance. To protect himself against bullies and from being hurt further in general, he has developed a tough, cynical, and argumentative exterior.
This exterior is a cover for how he actually feels about a lot of things - including (and perhaps especially) love. He's so tight-lipped about how he actually feels about love and romance that most of his classmates assumed he was "like a eunuch" - that is, totally uninterested. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth...!
Out of Joel, Sam, and Frankie, Joel arguably feels the worst about his singleness (Sam probably cares the least, while Frankie is similar to Joel in some respects).
At the same time, Joel feels that there is no point in seeking a relationship, since he distrusts most people and his personal experiences with people have rendered him untrusting and unwilling to open up. He feels that most people are cruel and superficial and worries that if he opens up too much, people will mock him for being weak and overly idealistic.
The main reason why Joel wants to be in a relationship (though he'll never admit it) is because he wants to give love and be loved. He is sick of always having to appear tough and cynical and would like to manifest a different aspect of himself.
It remains to be seen whether he will be able to get over this psychological barrier he's constructed for himself. However, the preview/teaser of "Book of Joel" seems to imply he may get over this psychological barrier some time in the future...with the help of Malka.
Learn more about Joel in these stories (some of which are Patreon-exclusive):
Find out more about Joel in these podcast episodes:
Here are more videos about him - the episodes before EP 60 are outdated and are about previous conceptions of him, but are worth a listening to. The previous concept of him was much more negative.