Hollywood Now: Mistletoe & Menorahs, Black Mitzvah, & the Return of Mad About You

Mistletoe & Menorahs
Jake Epstein & Kelly Jakle. Credit: Lifetime

Lifetime celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas in the holiday interfaith movie Mistletoe & Menorahs. In the movie, premiering December 7, a woman needs a crash course in Hanukkah before her Jewish boss’s holiday party and a Jewish guy wants to go all-out to impress his new girlfriend with his Christmas decorations. Joining forces to learn about each other’s traditions, they fall in love. The story was inspired by Jewish, Israeli-born writer Guy Yosub’s relationship with his wife Julianna Hays, a producer on the movie.

“She’s from Kentucky and not Jewish, and didn’t know much about Hanukkah. I had to do a lot of explaining. She had no idea what  sufganiyot [jelly doughnuts] were,” he says, noting that he put some aspects of their interfaith “adjustment period” into the movie. “When two people connect, they combine their traditions, their cultures and their lives. That’s what we did and intend to do going forward. We celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, Easter and Passover. She’s been learning about the High Holy Days and we’ve been going to temple. I come from a traditional home and she has embraced that,” he says. “If we’re lucky enough to have children, we’ll celebrate both cultures and focus on the traditions of the holidays and the importance of family.”

For Jewish-Canadian actor Jake Epstein, who plays the male lead in the movie, art reflects life as well: He’s married to actress Vanessa Smythe, who is not Jewish. “We were friends in high school, then sweethearts, broke up, but kept in touch through the years. We got back together, then married a year ago,” he says. “So this is my story, this is what I’ve gone through learning about Christmas. At this time of year when we’re inundated with Christmas programming it’s a nice reminder that there are other cultures that celebrate in different ways,” he adds. “I’m really proud to be part of a story about an interfaith couple, which is a huge reality in 2019. To assume that everyone celebrates Christmas is absurd. It felt special to be part of this one.”

“I hope it becomes a tradition and we see a Hanukkah movie every year,” says Yosub, who has an idea for a sequel that involves two other holidays. The title: A Very Easter-Passover Wedding.”

Mad About You
Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt. Credit: Spectrum

Twenty years after it ended its seven-season run on NBC, Mad About You returns on Spectrum cable, continuing the story of interfaith couple Jamie and Paul Buchman (Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt). Now married 25 years with a college freshman daughter, they’re struggling with empty nest syndrome and the funny aspects of aging in the sitcom, which launches with six episodes on November 20 and another six on December 18.

Tiffany Haddish
Tiffany Haddish. Credit: Netflix

Tiffany Haddish, whose late father was an Ethiopian Jew, honors her paternal heritage with her new Netflix special Black Mitzvah. Opening with a rap to the tune of “Hava Nagila,” she talks about her Jewish roots, her difficult childhood and a lot of adult topics we can’t mention. The standup hour premieres December 3—her 40th birthday. 2020 is shaping up as a busy year for Haddish as well. In January, she’ll star opposite Salma Hayek and Rose Byrne in Like a Boss, she has the road trip comedy Bad Trip coming in April, and she’ll play America’s first black self-made millionaire Madam C.J. Walker in a Netflix miniseries later in the year.

Gerri Miller

Gerri Miller wrote and reported from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for The Jewish Journal, The Nosher, Hadassah and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv’at Brenner in Israel and attended High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.


Author: Gerri Miller