Actress Lea Michele discovers her Greek-Jewish roots

“Glee” star Lea Michele took a deeper look at her Greek-Jewish roots on the TLC television series “Who Do You Think You Are?”

The episode is scheduled to air on Sunday, and is the season finale of the series, The Forward reported.

Michele, born Lea Michele Sarfati in the Bronx to an Italian mother and a Jewish Sephardic father, reportedly identifies with the Catholic faith of her mother in which she was raised.

On the TV show, she discovers that her paternal grandmother’s family were Sephardic Jews from the port city of Salonika, or Thessaloniki, in today’s northern Greece.

Michele is guided through the archives that tell her about her family history by the University of Washington’s Sephardic studies chair, Devin Naar, the university’s Jewish studies department said in a statement released last week.

“Most Americans probably have never heard of Sephardic Jews,” said Naar, who is also a professor in the history department. “So for such a prominent celebrity to speak so publicly and intimately about her connection to this often invisible history and culture will be a turning point. It’s really exciting: The episode will familiarize Americans with the very existence of Sephardic Jews and hopefully pique their curiosity and inspire them to learn more.”

Naar said he located specific documents regarding the actress’ ancestors in the remnants of Greek Jewish community archives housed in New York and Moscow, despite the near-complete destruction of Greek communities and their records during World War II.

Michele starred as Rachel Berry on “Glee” from 2009 to 2015, and currently stars in Fox’s horror-comedy series “Scream Queen.”

Weddings: Fabric of your (future) life

Weddings are unquestionably high-pressure situations, with budgets, guest lists and locations being hot-button issues. However, as real life and reality television attests (Exhibit A: “Say Yes to the Dress” on TLC network), there is nothing that can bring out a bridezilla quite like the quest for the perfect dress. 

And while every bride-to-be must consider her body type, personality and vision of the big day, some Jewish brides have several additional things to address, including acceptable standards established by their denomination. 

So, what’s a nice Jewish girl to do these days?

Alison Friedman, Thousand Oaks-based owner and editor-in-chief of The Wedding Yentas (
Wtoo’s Shiloh gown features an illusion bateau neckline and detachable tulle train.

“We will take care of helping the bride get her dress back to L.A., whether it is packing it in a suitcase for her, shipping it, or even traveling first class and taking the dress home that way, with some even buying a separate seat for the dress!” said Rochel Leah Katz, a fitting specialist there who works specifically with religious brides to reconcile tradition and fashion.

She said that most of her designers who offer adaptable dresses for Orthodox Jewish brides include Edgardo Bonilla, Judd Waddell and Augusta Jones, with prices ranging from $4,000 to $13,000.  

“There are only a certain number of designers willing to modify a dress from scratch so it looks like it was made that way,” Katz said. “Among them, only a small number of their dresses can be adapted.”

Like Litt, Katz said that lace is an adaptable fabric for shoring up necklines and sleeves. 

“Depending on their degree of religiosity, some brides line their lace and others don’t,” she explained. “Some brides line parts of the dress, and others line the whole thing down to the 3/4 sleeves. Some brides like the beaded lace, as opposed to plain lace.”

In terms of general advice and observations, Katz said the enduring “Jackie O” look (covered up, but curve-revealing) from the late 1960s is readily updatable through beautiful fabric, clean lines, smooth seams and an elegant shaped skirt. And while she’s seen younger brides opt for the Cinderella-style ballroom skirt over the A-line, mermaid or “fit-and-flare” styles, she recommends more streamlined fits for brides over 35, as the frilly and voluminous look of the Cinderella dress may not be considered “age appropriate.”

In the end, perhaps the most important thing for brides, as well as for the tailors and designers they work with, is that they be wholly committed — not just to the groom but to the dress.

7 Days in the Arts


The Olmert family name makes headlines again this week as a play, written by the with of the mayor of Jerusalem, makes its Los Angeles premiere. “Fantasy for Piano,” written by Aliza Olmert, debuts as part of the Celebrity Staged Reading series. Alexandra More directs a cast that includes Barbara Bain in the show about a woman’s return to her childhood home in Poland.

2 p.m. $18. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Sydney Irmas Campus, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. For reservations, call (213) 388-2401.


Thank the Jewish Federation of San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys for picking up Los Angeles’ slack this month. You may have to drive a little farther, but you can still partake in the National Jewish Book Month festivities. This week, authors Sylvia Rouss (“Sammy Spider”)and Rochelle Krich (“Blues in the Night”) each have a book signing. And later this month, you can hear discussions with Joseph Telushkin, Jonathan Safran Foer and Sheila Kaufman, among others.

For more information, call (626) 967-3656 or visit