Pop Culture

The High Holidays in Pop Culture

Part of: Alma’s Guide to the High Holidays

While the High Holidays don’t get as much pop culture love as, say, Hanukkah, there are still lots of celebrities and TV shows that address the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement. Read on…

Or, tap here for our Hey Alma’s definitive guide for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur moments you can stream.

Yom Kippur in TV

We rounded up all the times Yom Kippur has been featured in a television episode. Watch:

Barbra Streisand covers ‘Avinu Malkeinu’

Avinu Malkeinu is a prayer said on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The name translates to “Our Father, Our King,” and it is recited after the Amidah (the main prayer) and before the Torah service. Streisand covered the prayer in 1997, when it was released on her album Higher Ground. She’s also performed it live in Israel. You can listen on Spotify:

Ben Platt’s catchy Yom Kippur song

If you’ve been complaining that there are no catchy Yom Kippur songs, that’s changed, all thanks to Ben Platt and Molly Gordon.

A Rosh Hashanah ‘Little Mermaid’ parody

kosher mermaid

“Facebook is pretty terrible these days, so I mostly stay away, choosing instead to spend my time in more meaningful spaces like Instagram. But I did a quick peruse of my newsfeed today and AM I GLAD because I stumbled on this, the best/worst Rosh Hashanah video I’ve ever seen, featuring a lovely woman named Yael Yekel, AKA The Kosher Mermaid. It is my new favorite thing, and I urge you to watch it.” — Alma Editor Molly Tolsky. Let’s break it down.

Mrs. Maisel goes to Yom Kippur services

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

This scene was just so fantastic. It was set during the viddui, the Yom Kippur confessional prayer. There were jokes about being starving during fasting, Rose being super proud of their seats, Astrid being too over-the-top Jewish (poor Astrid), Moishe and Shirley sitting because they’re “elders” (even though Abe complains they’re all the same age), and the synagogue running out at the end to break the fast. And, at the dinner, Midge wants to tell the family about her stand-up career and Joel asks if that’s really the best thing to do in a room full of hungry Jews. Read more about the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 2.

Moshe Maisel explains Yom Kippur

yom kippur marvelous mrs. maisel

Moishe: Your mother-in-law called and said the whole family is so ill that break fast is canceled. So ill, the holiest of holy days cannot happen.
Joel: If it’s so holy, why do you keep the factory open?
Moishe: You want a smack in the face?
Joel: I’m just saying—
Moishe: The people get paid by the piece. You want to take a day’s work away from them? God wants them to go hungry if I shut my doors?
Joel: Fine
Moishe [gestures to work floor]: Half those people out there are gentiles. You go explain Yom Kippur to gentiles. We’re happy, but we’re starving. It’s New Years, but we’re guilty.
Joel: Sounding like a nonbeliever, Pop

In this exchange, Joel visits his father Moishe’s garment factory to deliver the news that he and Midge split up. Moishe complains about break fast being cancelled, and then goes into a wonderful bit about Yom Kippur in the eyes of gentiles. His delivery is everything. The classic framing of Jewish things through the perspective of a gentile is a winner. And later in the scene is the line that encapsulates the Jewish grandmother: “Your mother’s very upset… Yom Kippur’s a very big deal for your mother. There’s kugel, she sees the kids. You think that happens every day? You think every day there’s kugel and kids?” Moishe’s layering of Jewish references with parental indignation is a comic success. Read more about the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 1 here.