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Tag : Susan Silverman

January 16, 2020 by

The Bat Mitzvah Heard Round the World

Tiffany Haddish, whose father is an Eritrean-born Ethiopian Jew, became a Bat Mitzvah on December 3, her 40th birthday, and simultaneously premiered her new Netflix special “Black Mitzvah.” The actress and comedian, who sprung to stardom with the 2017 movie “Girls Trip,” chose Rabbi Susan Silverman—sister of comedian Sarah Silverman—to officiate the ceremony. Small and emotional, the service was followed by a party unlike anything you attended in grade school; Barbra Streisand gave Haddish a necklace bearing a Star of David to commemorate the occasion.

Susan Silverman: I brought her a gift from Jerusalem, a yad, and what’s amaz- ing about her is that she used that yad to read Torah, but she’s [also] using it for all of her Jewish studies. Who integrates ritual objects like that into their daily lives? That’s so lovely. She wants to be connected to Judaism, to tradition in everything she does. You can see the relief, and joy, and power in that for her.

Talya Zax: Haddish’s bat mitzvah was in some ways a public event—“Black Mitzvah” doesn’t include footage of the ceremony, but obviously is referential to the process of becoming a Bat Mitzvah—what do you think its significance could be both within and outside of the Jewish community?

Susan Silverman: It was a spark, a Jewish spark happening. The bat mitzvah ceremony itself was fairly small; it was intimate, down to earth and real. Most of the people there were not Jewish. It was incredible to see people really listening and participating, getting teary and talking about it. She gave a drash about Jacob’s ladder that was so brilliant and so insightful. She placed herself in the story in such a meaningful way. You couldn’t help but be moved by the living tradition.

You could see it going around the room. I feel like in a time where there’s in general so much anti-Semitism, to see a group of people who are mostly not Jewish really seeing the beauty and power of Judaism in a moment—wow, I’m so grateful to be along for this ride.

Talya Zax: Haddish is a Jew of color. Do you think her engaging in her Judaism in such a high-profile way might shift the public’s understanding of what Judaism looks like? Susan Silverman: There’s so much good work happening in general in Jewish com- munity toward a more inclusive understand- ing of what a Jew is, and also in terms of lov- ing the diversity of who the Jewish people are. It’s something we celebrate and grapple with. I think this is just another powerful energy that’s moving us in that direction.

TALYA ZAX, ”Q & A: She’s Sarah Silverman’s Sister—And Just Officiated Tiffany Haddish’s Bat Mitzvah,” The Forward, December, 2019.

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The Lilith Blog

January 14, 2020 by

Rabbi Susan Silverman on Adoption, Jewish Leadership and That Famous Bat Mitzvah

Last month I had the pleasure of sitting down with Rabbi Susan Silverman to speak about adoption, foster care, Jewish leadership—and of course, officiating Tiffany Haddish’s Bat Mitzvah. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

MKW: Let’s start at the beginning. What drew you to work as a Rabbi? 

SS: I was raised completely secular. The only Jewish thing my family did was on Rosh HaShanah, we would climb a local mountain and when we’d get to the top our dad would say “if there’s a God we’re closer to him up here than those schmucks are down in Temple.” Once in a while my mom would pull out these candlesticks that were her mother’s that her grandmother brought from Poland and we would light them—my mom knew the prayer. So I really had no Jewish education, but I was raised in a very progressive family. 

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