Updated: 3 days ago
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.
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's parents are quite strict - stricter than Sam's. Growing up, Joel had a stutter, and his mother was quite harsh on him for it (to the point of being verbally and emotionally abusive). Being bullied at school also didn't help his self-confidence.
As such, 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 (almost arrogant) façade slips from time to time.
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.
Joel rarely replies to his parents in Yiddish, preferring American English (partially because he is not confident when speaking Yiddish and partially because he wants to assert his American identity). This may also reflect his desire to assert his independence from his parents. He does not like Yiddish theatre and wonders what attracts Sam to what he deems "entertainment for old people."
Learn more about Joel in these stories (some of which are Patreon-exclusive):
Find out more about Joel in this podcast episodes: