Tiffany Haddish’s new Netflix stand-up special is titled “Black Mitzvah,” but her dedication to Judaism is no joke: The comedian read from the Torah in front of family and friends this week, completing a bonafide Bat Mitzvah ceremony — which, of course, was followed by a killer party.
The service was led by Rabbi Susan Silverman, whose sister is comic Sarah Silverman, and joining the two on the bema (elevated podium) was none other than Billy Crystal. Also in attendance were famous faces including Jimmy Kimmel, Wanda Sykes, Chelsea Handler and Kevin Nealon.
Haddish, who was in the foster care system for most of her childhood, discovered her Jewish heritage as an adult after reconnecting with her father. By the time she met him, she was already loosely familiar with Judaism thanks to more than a decade working alongside DJs at Bar Mitzvah parties: “I started learning more and more about the Torah. I could really relate to it,” she told Hey Alma. “And when I met my father, it really resonated with me. I was like: ‘This is what I am.'”
Photos from the ceremony show Haddish reciting prayers as she wears a tallis, the traditional fringed shawl many Jews wear during religious services. After the Bat Mitzvah, Haddish and her guests got the party started, and she even got to hop on a chair for the classic Hava Nagila dance.
The comedian says a 23&Me test confirmed her Eritrean Jewish background, and upon learning the information, she thought, “Well, I can’t deny this. I wanna claim it.” She notes that “for a long time, I didn’t even know black Jews existed.”
As if the Netflix release and her Bat Mitzvah ceremony weren’t enough, the big night also marked Haddish’s 40th birthday,
“To maybe the most lovable person I know … on your 40th,” Chelsea Handler captioned a snap from inside the party. “I want you to know how many people root for you. Everyone. We love you. Happy birthday, and here’s to another year of it.”
Haddish hopes her immersion into faith will inspire more people to explore their heritages. “Something that I feel like a lot of African-Americans have been stripped of is their history,” she said. “We don’t know what our origin story is, because that was taken from us. And it talks about that in the Torah. I think it’s so powerful.”
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