Comedian Tiffany Haddish’s Jewish background

Haddish discovered her Jewish heritage at age 27 and has since developed a profound connection to her faith.
Host Tiffany Haddish attends the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards at Barker Hangar on June 16, 2018 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV)

On Feb. 20 in an Instagram live, Tiffany Haddish announced that she was on her way to Israel for the first time as part of an “educational trip” to learn more about the Israel-Hamas war.

The actress and comedian, now 44, revealed she will be visiting Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv and the Dead Sea to “learn about the politics” and “see [Israel] with her own eyes.” What is Tiffany Haddish’s connection to Israel? Is Tiffany Haddish Jewish?

Read more: 6 Jewish comedians to watch in 2024

The basics

Haddish has Jewish roots from her father’s side and identifies as Jewish. She was born on December 3, 1979, in Los Angeles to parents Tsihaye Reda Haddish, an Eritrean Jew, and Leola Haddish, a Jehovah’s Witness. Haddish’s father left when she was 3 years old and she only learned about her Jewish heritage at age 27.

Tiffany Haddish, tells jokes to audience members during a performance on October 21, 2013, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. (Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Summers Jr./ Wikipedia Commons)

At 13, Haddish and her half-siblings were placed into foster care because her mother’s schizophrenia left her unable to care for them. As a young adult, Haddish spent many years homeless and living in her car. 

When a social worker gave her an ultimatum to either attend psychiatric therapy or comedy camp, Haddish opted for comedy and used humor as an outlet. She forged her way into comedy in the early 2000s on comedy competition shows like “Who’s Got Jokes” and “Def Comedy Jam.

Haddish had many minor acting roles as a young adult on popular shows including “That So Raven,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and “New Girl.” The comedian finally got her big break in 2017 with the comedy film “Girls Trip.

Since her breakout role, Haddish has had many Netflix comedy specials, hosted “Saturday Night Live” and won two Emmy Awards for her comedy specials.

She discovered her Jewish roots later in life

Haddish was estranged from her Eritrean Jewish father until she was 27. When they reconnected, Haddish discovered her Jewish roots and learned about what it was like for her father to grow up in Eritrea where being Jewish was illegal. Haddish was shocked to learn about her Jewish heritage and admitted she “didn’t even know Black Jews existed.”

After discovering her father’s background, Haddish did a 23&Me DNA test which confirmed her Jewish ancestry. When he passed away in 2017, Haddish traveled to Eritrea for the first time and became an Eritrean citizen two years later.

Haddish developed a profound connection with her Judaism.  “I feel like more people should figure out who they really are. Find out your bloodline, what you are, study and learn from that. I’ve learned so much; I’ve been studying the Torah, I’ve been learning Hebrew,” she said.

She had a bat mitzvah at age 40

Susan Silverman, Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback, Tiffany Haddish, Aliza Rose Silverman and Billy Crystal attend Tiffany Haddish: Black Mitzvah at SLS Hotel on December 3, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix)

Haddish felt like she missed out on the bat mitzvah experience, telling Time Magazine in 2022, “I wish I had done it as a teenager. That was a tumultuous time in my life… I wish I had a rabbi to talk to then and a mama and daddy to make me go to Hebrew class.”

The actress decided to celebrate the milestone and become a bat mitzvah at age 40. Interestingly, she was first introduced to the Jewish community and bar and bat mitzvahs working as an energy producer as a young adult. 

Appearing on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in 2018, the actress estimated that she had attended roughly 500 bar and bat mitzvahs as a “hype man.”

For her own bat mitzvah, she celebrated the occasion by releasing her hit comedy special “Black Mitzvah” on the same day. The Netflix special was a unique comedy act filled with music, dancing and hilarious reflections on Haddish’s road to womanhood.

Fellow Jewish celebrities Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler and Barbra Streisand were all there to celebrate and Billy Crystal was honored with an aliya. She later revealed that learning how to read Hebrew was the hardest part of preparing for the day.

She and Billy Crystal are close friends and colleagues

Haddish and Crystal are so close that Crystal received an aliya at Haddish’s bat mitzvah. The two actors co-starred in “Here Today,” a film about an older comedian who mentors a young comic. In the film, co-written by Crystal and Jewish comedy writer Alan Zweibel, Haddish and Crystal dance the hora together. 

She celebrates Shabbat and has a strong sense of faith

In 2022, Haddish told Time Magazine that post-bat mitzvah, she is embracing her Jewish roots by having Shabbat dinner every Friday night and learning 30 minutes of Torah every day. The actress added that she frequently hangs out with her rabbi and that she’s “always asking questions.” 

In the same interview, she explained how her faith has helped her get through tough times: “I’m getting emotional, but I think the things I’ve been through in life, I wouldn’t have been able to get through without my loyalty to God.”

In 2020, she told Ynet News that she says the Shema every night before bed, adding that discovering Judaism “grounded me, and I have a better understanding and a spiritual connection with God.”

Haddish is visiting Israel to see the situation with her own eyes

In announcing her trip on Instagram — the first time she is visiting the Jewish state — the actress revealed that she is traveling to learn more. “I’m gonna go see for myself, I’m gonna go see all of it, I’m gonna ask questions — see with my own eyes. I’m gonna go talk to people, I’m gonna go find out why is this happening. Why is this going down?”

Haddish has received significant backlash from her followers due to her trip, with some saying she wouldn’t see the full picture unless she also visited Gaza. Haddish responded, saying, “Who said I wasn’t going to Gaza? I said I was gonna see with my own eyes, got to go to Israel first.”

Haddish also received positive feedback with 66,000 likes and many messages of support from followers including Israeli actress Noa Tishby who commented “Yes, yes, yes, yes” with a blue emoji heart.

Subscribe to This Week Unpacked

Each week we bring you a wrap-up of all the best stories from Unpacked. Stay in the know and feel smarter about all things Jewish.