Jewish Actress Lisa Kudrow Talks Anti-Semitism, Her Son’s Bar Mitzvah in Revealing Interview
by Zach Pontz
Jewish actress Lisa Kudrow opened up about her past experiences with anti-Semitism in a recent interview with the Saturday Evening Post, describing how in college she faced a dispiriting backlash because of her religion.
“In college there was more anti-Semitism than before college, because there were people who never met a Jew before. A friend of mine, when she found out I was Jewish, said, ‘Really? Oh, I don’t like Jews,'” she shared.
The actress, who shot to fame playing the capricious Phoebe on the TV show “Friends,” also recounted how she learned about her own family’s connection to the Holocaust during an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, a show that traces the genealogy of a selected participant.
“I took a lot of Jewish history classes and studied Hebrew for two years in college. But the striking thing to me is that while I studied it, I never applied it to my own family history. So I didn’t have to be burdened with the nightmare of what happened to people I knew. Then as I got older my grandmother told me it was Hitler who killed everybody in her family, and that’s the first time I came face-to-face with it. In my fully denial state of mind it was, ‘No, no, we’re not part of the Holocaust.’ But I learned we are,” Kudrow said.
Kudrow, who was bat mitzvah’d at her own choosing, told the story of how her own 15-year-old son, Julian, came to be bar mitzvah’d.
“My son sort of wanted a bar mitzvah, but it was a lot of work, and we didn’t belong to a temple. But then he was at the mall and two Hassidic Jews, I think they were Chabad-Lubavitch, they went up to him and asked, ‘Are you Jewish? Did you have a bar mitzvah?’ He said he was half-Jewish. They asked, ‘Your mother?’
“‘Great, come here, we’ll give you a bar mitzvah in 30 seconds.’ They did a ritual, took a picture. He was all by himself, and he had his own bar mitzvah.
“It was a drive-by bar mitzvah.”