January 18, 2020

A Warm Welcome to the Tribe for Tiffany Haddish

“I know I won’t be the first to say it, seeing as how Barbra Streisand already sent you a star of David necklace, but on behalf of the Jews who weren’t famous enough to be invited to your recent bat mitzvah, take it from me: Welcome to the tribe, Tiffany Haddish. Mazel tov on both the bat mitzvah and your new Netflix comedy special, Black Mitzvah! We are so very happy to be able to count you as one of our own.

Tiffany, if there’s one thing I can tell you about Jews that may not have come up while you were studying your Torah portion, it’s that our favorite thing is talking about who else is Jewish. You’ve heard “The Chanukah Song,” haven’t you? It’s basically just a long list of famous people who have some Jewish heritage. We really eat that stuff up. When talking to a fellow Jew, one surefire way to fit in is to direct the conversation toward related people who happen to be Jewish. If you’re discussing the election, for instance: “Marianne Williamson? You know, she’s one of us.” It also works with pop culture: “Did you know that Drake is Jewish?” (Yes, everybody knows at this point. But we still like to talk about it.) It’s exactly the opposite of how you’re never supposed bring up Scientology when talking to your friends Will and Jada.

On that note, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of middle-aged or older Jews start approaching you when you’re out in public to declare proudly that they, too, are Jewish. (I apologize in advance for the any of the ones I’m related to.) I know you might think, “So what?” and not know what to say in response to this. But to Jews, being Jewish is like a secret handshake, even though there are like 14 million of us. These people will only be expressing their delight that the tribe can now lay claim to you. Yes, it’s proprietary like that. Sorry, also, if any of these Jews fetishize you for being a Jew of Eritrean descent rather than the typical Ashkenazi-American Jew—it’s just that, for so long, our most prominent exemplars were nebbishy types, or what the Los Angeles Times once called “the whiny, often immature urban male neurotic, à la Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, the Ross Geller character in Friends.” There are, obviously, many reasons why 2019’s Jews would rather associate themselves with you than Woody Allen.”

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