JERUSALEM, Israel - Actress and comedy star Tiffany Haddish celebrated her bat mitzvah on Tuesday surrounded by family and celebrity friends like Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman, and Billy Crystal. It's also the same day her second Netflix comedy special Black Mitzvah was released on the streaming giant.
At 40, Haddish never thought she'd ever celebrate the Jewish coming of age ceremony (usually celebrated at 12 for girls) because for years, she didn't know she was Jewish.
"For a long time, I didn't even know black Jews existed. I didn't know anything about Judaism for a long time," she told the Jewish magazine Hey Alma.
Haddish spent years in the foster care system after a horrific car accident left her mother with a mental illness that forced her to be institutionalized. Eventually, Haddish went to live with her grandmother, who told her she was Jewish.
"First, when I was like 15,16, my grandma told me. And you know, it's like, I don't know. Do I believe her? Do I not?" Haddish explained on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Coincidentally, she started her career in the entertainment industry by being an energy producer (MC and dancer) at bar and bat mitzvahs.
"I started working at bar and bat mitzvahs as an energy producer, and I did that for like 11 years," said Haddish.
Haddish met her father when she was 27 and he told her he was indeed Jewish.
He grew up in Eritrea but fled as a refugee to the United States to escape ensuing violence between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
"In the country that he's from it was kind of illegal to be Jewish," said Haddish.
After her father died in 2017, the comedian went to Eritrea for the first time and became a citizen this year.
After confirming her Jewish heritage through a 23&Me genetics test and gaining stardom through acting and comedy, Haddish decided it was time to have a lavish bat mitzvah of her own. Fortunately, her mother was able to also attend.
"I've been studying Hebrew now for the last, like four or five months now. I'm reading the Torah," she told Fallon. "I've got to represent my ancestors. I think it's really important to represent your ancestors. I mean they did what they did to get you here, so why not honor them?"
Haddish's new Netflix special Black Mitzvah follows her journey as she learns what it means to be Jewish.
"When I came up with the concept for my special, I was trying to figure out a way to tell my truth, my experiences in life," she explained.
Haddish hopes her bat mitzvah and journey to Judaism encourages her friends "to maybe study the Torah…dig a little more into their background and their history, and build more community and create conversation."
You can watch a recap of her bat mitzvah here.