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!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • 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.