The Arty Semite

A Time-Traveling Jewish Woman on Canadian TV

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share

Erica Strange, like many of us, sees her therapist regularly — only hers helps her work through her problems by sending her to the past, the future and even to alternate existences. Our shrinks can’t pull off tricks like that, and we’re certainly not getting the same bang for our buck that Erica is. In fact, she never gets a bill for her sessions with the mysterious Dr. Tom.

Erica Strange is the protagonist of the hit Canadian TV series “Being Erica,” set to launch its third season on September 22. Although she inhabits a world of magical time-traveling psychotherapy, Erica — Jewish and in her early 30s — has gained a very real following because she seems so, well, real.

TV watchers have related to Erica (played by Erin Karpluk) from the show’s debut episode in 2008, when they met her going nowhere professionally and personally, wracked by regret, and dealing with a serious guilt trip laid on her by her family. “I’m suffocating under the weight of your collective disapproval,” Erica cries.

In a calculated move to make the show, which is set in Toronto, universally appealing, its creator and executive director, Jana Sinyor, made its characters as specific as possible. For Sinyor, a Jewish woman roughly the same age as Erica, it was important for the Stranges to be Jewish. “Everyone comes from somewhere. Everyone has a background, and I knew that because of who I am, I could make Erica’s Jewishness very realistic,” she explained. Sinyor deliberately made Erica’s father Gary a second-career rabbi to enable her, as one of the show’s writers, to explore Jewish religious and cultural issues more fully.

Sinyor reports that non-Jewish viewers are enjoying the Jewish aspect of the show, while the response among its Jewish audience has been mixed. Leah Strigler, a New York-based Jewish educator, loves how Judaism is treated “very normally. I find it refreshing to have a show about Jewish identity where it’s woven naturally into the storyline, and not presented stereotypically or as slapstick, as is often seen on American TV,” she said. She cites the example of Erica’s fainting while in the role of sandek at a brit milah ceremony. “It’s not played for humor, but rather illustrates her ambiguous and conflicted feelings about circumcision.”

It is unquestionably the inclusion of hot-button Jewish topics like interfaith dating and marriage and opposition to circumcision that has led some viewers to be less enthusiastic. While Rabbi Erin Polonsky of Toronto’s Temple Sinai likes how the Stranges — who freely use terms like shul and mohel, and talk about waiting to eat until sundown after Yom Kippur and chanting Torah at a bat mitzvah — sound like the Jews she serves at her Temple, she finds that some elements of the show ring too liberal in the context of the Canadian Jewish community.

The third season of “Being Erica” will air on SoapNet in the U.S. and in 85 other countries via BBC Worldwide distribution. Sinyor assures audiences that Jewish life will continue to play a role in the series. Careful not to reveal an important plot point, Sinyor nonetheless promises, “There will be some interesting developments related to Judaism in the show as a whole — and not necessarily just for Erica.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Toronto, Television, SoapNet, Jana Sinyor, Erin Karpluk, Canada, CBC, Being Erica

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.