“My third favorite sister, you guys!” Sarah Silverman exclaimed, welcoming one of her three sisters, the Jerusalem-based Reform rabbi Susan Silverman, to the talk show “I Love You, America.” In a brief, but stunningly specific, discussion on Sarah Silverman’s new Hulu show that aired around Thanksgiving, the sisters spent eight minutes lying on a bed, chatting about tefillin, sex trafficking and being arrested.
Here are the juiciest and Jew-iest moments:
On Rabbi Susan Silverman’s View Of What It Means To Be Religious: “It’s the repairing the world, being God’s partner; not being like at God’s whim or subservient to God, but actually being God’s partner and saying the way the world is right now is completely uncool and I need to change it. Like, it’s not acceptable and its not like, ‘Oh this is how God made it.” It’s like no, maybe it is but it’s f****d up and we gotta do something about it.”
On Being Raised “Without Religion”: “Dad said he was atheist. His line was, ‘If there’s a God, he’s an asshole,’” Susan Silverman said. Then, she added, “Anyway, if anyone wants any tips on raising a rabbi.”
On Mr. Silverman’s Reaction To His Daughter Becoming A Rabbi: Susan Silverman said when she told her father she was applying to rabbinical school he said: “A rabbi? When we found out you were Jewish we sat shiva!” (After this comment, her sister turned to the camera and said, “Google it if you don’t understand that.”)
On Being Arrested For Protesting Gender Inequality With The Group Women Of The Wall: “When you make any kind of religious interpretation of the civil law, then it becomes fascism, essentially. It becomes a religious fascism,” Susan Silverman said, explaining that she was arrested in 2013 with a group of women that included her then-17-year-old daughter. Since being charged with illegally wearing tallit and “praying too loudly,” Silverman says things have improved through litigation with Israel’s highest courts. But, “the reality,” she added, “is that the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate still runs all the holy sites and it’s in charge of life-cycle events in Israel, and that’s hugely hugely problematic. That’s anti-democratic and I think it’s anti-Jewish.”
On Sarah Silverman’s First-Ever Note In The Western Wall: “My reaction wasn’t ‘This was amazing,’ my reaction was ‘F**k you,’” Silverman says about first seeing the unequal allocation of space for women praying at the Western Wall. “I put ‘no more religion’” Silverman says of the first note she ever put in the cracks of the Wall. “I love you, though!” she exclaimed as her sister laughed.
On The Importance Of Adoption: “There are 400,000 kids in the foster system; there are between eight and twelve million kids in institutions living outside of parental care world-wide; there are tens of millions of kids living out on the street,” said Susan Silverman. She is the mother of two adopted children and founding director of “Second Nurture,” a group that helps families adopt and creates communities to support adoptive parents. “Girls who age out of foster care [make up] 82% of sex traffic girls,” Susan Silverman explained. “Of course! Because they don’t have parents to go back to. There are literally pimps waiting outside of institutions on release days, waiting for the kids to come out.”
On The Jewish Practice Of Wrapping Tefillin:
Susan Silverman: The [Israeli] law was that women can’t dress in what is traditionally men’s garb, like a prayer shawl and tefillin (which is translated as phylacteries, but if you don’t know what tefillin is you probably don’t know what phylacteries are).
Sarah Silverman: I don’t know what that phylacteries are.
RSS: Like, that box on your head.
S.S.: “Oh, that’s so stupid.
RSS: (Loud Sigh)
S.S.: I mean…I respect all religions.
“You’re my whole heart,” Susan Silverman told her sister, as the interview came to a close.
“You’re most of my heart,” Sarah Silverman responded. “You’re like 7% of my heart. And I love you the sky and the moon,” she added.
Enjoy every delicious minute of the interview here:
Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny