August 20, 2019

Disney Channel’s ‘Andi Mack’ Episode Includes Shiva, Mourning Rituals  

The Disney Channel series “Andi Mack” celebrated a Jewish rite-of-passage last March with an episode devoted to the character Cyrus Goodman’s bar mitzvah. This week, it premieres an episode about another Jewish ritual: sitting shiva.

In “One in a Minyan,” Cyrus’ beloved Bubbe Rose has died and his family and friends gather at his home to mourn. But like most Jewish gatherings, it’s not without humor, including a furor over the raisin-less noodle kugel that one guest brings. After explaining the meaning and purpose of shiva to his non-Jewish friends, Cyrus jokes, “You know the story behind every major Jewish holiday. They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat!”

“Shiva is one of those times where everyone is together, and it happens to be a very social occasion,” series creator and producer Terri Minsky said. “It is a time of mourning but you’re mostly sitting around telling stories, eating and spending time with /the people you love. Cyrus’ grandmother’s shiva provided the perfect context to develop our characters’ coming-of-age stories. Plus, I liked being able to incorporate gefilte fish and kugel into the script.”

Inspired by shivas that she and the show’s writers have attended, Minsky included traditions like covering mirrors and reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish.

Even though the story is set at a shiva, it doesn’t have to be a super-sad story. One of my favorite episodes of ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ took place at the funeral for Chuckles the Clown, and it ended up being one of the funniest episodes in that series,” Minksy said.

Sofia Wylie as Buffy, Peyton Elizabeth Lee as Andi, Joshua Rush as Cyrus and Asher Angel as Jonah experience Shiva in the upcoming “Andi Mack” episode.

She wanted to depict mourning, and show that it’s cathartic and universal. “I hope viewers are able to see that even though someone may be different from you or from another culture than you, we all grieve the loss of our loved ones,” she said. “Even though many in our audience may have never been to a shiva, they can identify with the experience our characters are going through.”

Joshua Rush, who plays Cyrus, is happy to see elements of his Jewish culture included in the show. “There are kids out there who have never seen a bar mitzvah before, did not know what that meant, did not know what that was. It’s the same thing with a shiva, probably even more so,” he said. “It’s great that we’re able to share that.”

Executive producer Michelle Manning, who directed the episode, cites a particularly resonant moment in the show, “When Cyrus is giving a toast to his Bubbe Rose and it really affects him. It’s a toast that he’s always heard being given by the adults in his family, but he’s never had to toast anyone he loves before, and it’s a beautiful coming-of-age moment for him,” she said. “I hope what people ultimately take away from this episode is that you have to cherish what you have while you have it.”

Inspired by the phrase engraved on Minsky’s father’s headstone, “One in a Minyan” premieres Feb. 8 on Disney Channel, the DisneyNOW app, and Disney VOD.