I Have So Many Questions About Kayla’s Non-Jewish Bat Mitzvah on ‘Hacks’

Who let her do this?

For the last three years, I’ve been itching for an explicitly Jewish moment on “Hacks.”

The HBO show about Ava Daniels, a young comedy writer who helps reinvent storied stand-up comic Deborah Vance, has come close before. In season one, Ava makes a joke about Haim and season two Ava and Deborah develop a relationship not unlike the biblical Naomi and Ruth. But with Hannah Einbinder — one of the most visibly and vocally Jewish celebrities today — as Ava, the model for Deborah Vance being Jewish comedian Joan Rivers and the show centering around the not-lacking-for-Jews U.S. entertainment industry, it felt inevitable that Jewishness would come up on the show.

In the most unexpected way possible, season three of “Hacks” has finally given me that moment. And I’m not talking about when Deborah mishears the word “chew” for “Jew” in episode four. I’m talking about Kayla’s non-Jewish bat mitzvah.

But first, some context.

Throughout season three, Deborah’s reps Jimmy (Paul W. Downs) and Kayla (Megan Stalter) are desperately trying to get a comedian named Jack Danby to pull out of becoming the new host of “Late Night” so Deborah can get the job. In episode seven, this means that the odd couple must convince the eccentric grandson of an old Hollywood actor to sign off on a biopic. Apparently, it’s Jack Danby’s dream to star in the project and if the biopic is greenlit, he’d drop out of the “Late Night” hosting gig. Or, as Jimmy describes it, “I’ll be home in time for dinner, mom. I just have to convince someone to let a comedian make a biopic of his grandfather’s story so another comedian can get that first comedian’s job. It does make sense!”

So Kayla and Jimmy go hang out with Mr. Arbuckle on the only day he’s available: Christmas. “Must be Jewish,” Kayla muses outside of his front door. “But no mezuzah. That’s weird. You know, the Jewish thing on the door?”

It turns out Mr. Arbuckle isn’t Jewish, just very lonely. But that doesn’t stop Kayla from looking for clues of his Jewishness in his home. When Jimmy finally calls her out on it, Kayla’s retort reply leads to an incredible few lines of dialogue:

Kayla: Oh my god, what the hell? I’m not antisemitic. Is that what you’re implying? I had a bat mitzvah and I’m not even fucking Jewish.
Jimmy: Wait, what?
Kayla: Well, everybody else was having one. Am I not gonna have one?
Jimmy: Yeah! Also I was at that bat mitzvah. I have a t-shirt!
Kayla: Yeah, and you had a lot of fun on the dance
floor, so you’re welcome.
Jimmy: Yeah, because I thought I was at a bat mitzvah, a legit bat mitzvah, a real Jewish bat mitzvah. But no, I was at a gentile’s costume party of a bat mitzvah? That is bad.

Kayla’s non-Jewish bat mitzvah is honestly better than any other Jewish moment on “Hacks” that I could have hoped for. Obviously, if this were real, a non-Jew having a bat mitzvah ceremony or party labeled as a bat mitzvah would be appropriation. But in a fictional TV show, Kayla not letting her non-Jewishness stop her from having a bat mitzvah is an essential and hilarious part of this kooky, weird and at times, problematic, character’s lore. The joke isn’t that a non-Jewish bat mitzvah in reality is necessarily funny, but rather that Kayla would readily admit her non-Jewish bat mitzvah as a way to prove that she isn’t an antisemite.

With all that in mind, as a Jew who had a bat mitzvah, a legit bat mitzvah, a real Jewish bat mitzvah, I have so many questions about Kayla’s bat mitzvah. In no particular order:

1. What was her bat mitzvah theme?

2. Was it Dylan’s Candy Bar??

3. Did they do the hora?

4. Did Kayla actually chant from the Torah?

5. It was definitely Dylan’s Candy Bar, right?

6. Would this technically make Kayla a non-Jewish Jewish adult in the eyes of the Jewish community or Jewish law?

7. If this happened thousands of years ago would there be an entirely separate edition of the Talmud or the Mishnah where rabbis fought about whether or not Kayla is a non-Jewish Jewish adult?

8. Does she know what the Torah is?

9. Did they play Coke and Pepsi?

10. Did she have to do a bat mitzvah project?

11. Who let her do this?

12. Like actually, was there a rabbi present?

13. Did Jimmy think Kayla was Jewish this entire time?

14. Can Jimmy wear Kayla’s bat mitzvah t-shirt on the show?

15. Is it one of those spray-painted shirts or one that’s like, “I had a sweet time at Kayla’s bat mitzvah”?

16. Is there a tree planted in Israel with Kayla’s name on it?

17. And finally: does Kayla have any Jewish friends?

“Hacks” creators Paul W. Downs, Lucia Aniello and Jen Statsky, if you could work these answers into season four, that would be much appreciated.

Evelyn Frick

Evelyn Frick (she/they) is a writer and associate editor at Hey Alma. She graduated from Vassar College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. In her spare time, she's a comedian and contributor for Reductress and The Onion.

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