Q & A: She’s Sarah Silverman’s Sister — And Just Officiated Tiffany Haddish’s Bat Mitzvah

Rabbi Susan Silverman and Tiffany Haddish at Haddish’s bat mitzvah on December 3, 2019.

Sure, there are a lot of Jews in Hollywood. But not one of them has ever had quite as memorable a showbiz bat mitzvah as Tiffany Haddish.

Haddish, whose father is an Eritrean-born Ethiopian Jew, became 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 showed up, and gave Haddish a necklace bearing a Star of David to commemorate the occasion.

Silverman, who is based in Israel, spoke about the experience with the Forward’s Talya Zax the morning after. “It wasn’t even 12 hours ago,” she said, somewhat sleepily. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Talya Zax: How did you first meet Tiffany Haddish?

Susan Silverman: I was familiar with her work; I was most taken with her story and with the work she’s doing on behalf of foster youth. She’s really open-hearted and compassionate, from her soul — I could see that in the work she was doing, and I really wanted to connect with her about the work. I run an organization that partners with synagogues to help them prioritize foster care and adoption in their communities. Then my sister became friendly with her, we connected around that, and she joined the board of my organization. And she asked me to be the rabbi at her bat mitzvah. From what I understand, she came to understand that she was Jewish later in life. She wanted to mark that commitment, that her lot is with the Jewish people.

What was the process of preparing for her bat mitzvah like?

Tiffany, I can’t imagine that she’s not a genius. We only had spots of time: an hour and a half here or a half-hour there, because she was making a movie while we were working on this. My daughter, who lives in New York, was able to meet with her a number of times to learn Hebrew. She will just weep talking about being Jewish. God just floats through her.

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