Where Are All the Hot Rabbis on TV?

If the world can handle Hot Priest, I think we're ready for some hot rabbis, too.

Somewhere, deep in my quarantine television binges, I had a realization: Television loves hot clergymen. There’s the series Grantchester about hot vicars who fight crime while doing hot vicar things, like comforting grievers, giving sermons, and brooding. There’s Fleabag’s Hot Priest, played by Andrew Scott. Then, of course, there’s Jude Law’s The Young Pope, Father Brah in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and movies upon movies of smoldering exorcists and priests with dark secrets.

And don’t get me started on the nuns. There are the hot nuns (The Nun’s Story), fun nuns (Sister Act), scary nuns (American Horror Story: Coven), silly nuns (The Little Hours), sweet nuns (Call The Midwife), and well, you get the idea.

Which made me wonder: Where are my hot television rabbis? I mean, don’t get me wrong, Patti LuPone is a scene stealer in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. But where is my show about a brooding rabbi solving murder mysteries in a small town? Where’s my sexy rabbi love interest? If the Anglicans and Catholics can do it, why not us? We’re a good-looking bunch of people! We solve crimes! Our clergy are just as capable of making for swoony, entertaining television as anyone else’s!

In all seriousness, it does often seem that rabbis on television are either minor roles, the butt of jokes, or some combination thereof. It doesn’t help that American culture usually defaults to rabbis as old, Ashkenazi, white-presenting men.

After some investigation, I did find one attempt at a rabbi procedural… in 1977, when NBC adapted first a standalone movie of the first novel in author Harry Kemelman’s small-town rabbi murder mystery series, Friday the Rabbi Slept Late, and then a briefly-lived series based on the same books, Lanigan’s Rabbi. Despite earnest efforts, I have been unable to find any surviving episodes of the show online, which to me says we’re due for another rabbi show. And I come with suggestions!

Want something British? Then it would have to star Sophie Okonedo. This Jewish-Nigerian Brit has a long, varied, and robust resume. From Hotel Rwanda to The Secret Life of Bees to her part as Elizabeth Proctor in the most recent Broadway production of The Crucible, she excels in roles that require grace, power, and presence. She’s taken roles that range from the Middle Ages to the distant future (as Queen Elizabeth the 10th in Doctor Who). Okonedo would be the perfect rabbi for a British murder mystery set literally in any time period ever.

What about something set in a small community Stateside? I suggest — in no small part due to the recent confirmation that the man knows how to work a beard — Oscar Isaac. Isaac has mentioned in interviews that he’s got some Jewish ancestry. He’s proven his ability to play scruffy folk singers in Jew-ish films (Inside Llewyn Davis) and cool Nazi-hunting Jews (Operation Finale). He made a Yiddish joke at the Oscars. He also, frankly, has great Tevas-and-guitar rabbi energy. Isaacs would be the perfect hot rabbi for a murder mystery set in upstate New York. He could be the crunchy new rabbi and song leader at a summer camp, solving murders in the Catskills while balancing his rabbi duties. Mostly, I just want to see Oscar Isaac lead a Havdalah.

Or maybe a West Coast rabbinic procedural? This would be the perfect fit for everyone’s favorite Bay Area-born Jewish Broadway stars, Ari’el Stachel and Daveed Diggs. Stachel has already played a detective on the most recent season of Law and Order: SVU and Diggs’s acclaimed film Blindspotting tackled race, gentrification, and criminal justice with humor and cutting insight. They would make for the perfect pair of hot young rabbis solving strange and unsettling murders in California. Plus, it could be a musical. It probably should be a musical. I would be all about a rabbi procedural with musical numbers.

And if we were looking for our answer to Hot Priest, I would have to suggest Israeli actor Michael Aloni. Known best for starring in the hit Israeli show Shtisel, Aloni has appeared in a variety of roles both in Israeli and American film. On Netflix, you can watch him in When Heroes Fly, and on the most recent season of Greenhouse Academy, and on Amazon Prime in Out in the Dark. But that’s not all. He writes books, hosts singing competitions, and is the Hebrew voice of Paddington. Michael Aloni is the perfect smoldering-and-sensitive rabbi love interest. He could be a rabbi working out of a far flung Chabad house, or the cool Jewish chaplain at an elite British university. Frankly, any congregation would benefit from his presence. That jawline! I’d be at Shabbat services every single weekend if he were my rabbi, and I’d certainly tune in to watch him do it on a television drama.

Whether or not Hollywood is ready for some hot rabbi content, I know I certainly am.

Header Image design by Grace Yagel. TV via Andy Ryan/Getty images; kippah via Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance and Oscar Isaac by Richard Harbaugh-Handout/A.M.P.A.S.

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