Make Someone Happy

The Canadian TV show Being Erica just keeps on giving me more reasons to love it. Aside from the fact that I enjoy its time travel and therapy (you can take those as separate things or in combination – either way I am a fan), I am highly impressed by how forthrightly the series deals with Jewish themes and portrayals.

The latest episode to air on SoapNet, titled “The Unkindest Cut,” is an excellent case in point. Its story line centers on a family bris (the Jewish ritual circumcision ceremony for newborn boys) and the dialogue includes words like brit milah (the Hebrew and less commonly known term for bris), kippah (skull cap), tallit (prayer shawl), sandek (the person honored with the role of holding the baby during the circumcision), and mohel (the ritual circumciser, often but not necessarily a rabbi).

Beyond the accurate lingo, are the multitude of authentic Jewish themes packed into one hour-long show. There is, of course, the Jewish life cycle, but also topics like the ambivalence of some liberal Jews about brit milah (and in some cases their outright rejection of it), inter-dating and intermarriage, and the tension within a Jewish family that can arise from differing levels of religious observance among its members.

Erica's boyfriend Ethan (played by Tyron Leitso) is not Jewish.

As if that’s not enough Jewish stuff crammed into a single episode, there is also its psychological/therapy narrative arc, which also happens to be distinctively Jewish. In each episode of Being Erica, the eponymous character grapples with a different basic principle of self-awareness, and in this one it is the lesson that it is not your job to make other people happy. This is, of course, a hard lesson for Erica to learn, being that she is, after all, a Jewish woman. It’s a good thing she is working on this in therapy now – before she becomes a Jewish mother.

And just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be room for one more Jewish reference in the episode, JDate made a cameo appearance.

For this heavy dose of television yiddishkeit, watch “The Unkindest Cut” in the post below.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

P.S. A little TV trivia: Erica’s father, Rabbi Gary Strange, appears to have a penchant for t-shirts imprinted with Jewish puns. In this episode, he wears one that says “I’m on a Shabbat-ical” (then again, is it really a pun when “sabbatical” is actually derived from the word “Shabbat,” or sabbath?). In another, his shirt reads, “Kippah the faith.” Badum bum!

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One Response to “Make Someone Happy”

  1. A Jewish Male Opposing Circumcision Says:

    Some Jews feel the time has come for a symbolic bris.

    Jewish Groups for Genital Integrity
    * Jews Against Circumcision http://www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org/
    * Jews for the Rights of the Child http://www.jewsfortherightsofthechild.org/
    * Brit Shalom Celebrants by Mark D. Reiss, M.D. http://www.circumstitions.com/Jewish-shalom.html
    * Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective by Ron Goldman, Ph.D. http://www.jewishcircumcision.org
    * Beyond the Bris: Jewish Parenting Blog http://www.beyondthebris.com

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