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The female rabbi who helps weave Jewish and trans themes in 'Transparent'

by Darby Maloney | The Frame

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Kathryn Hahn plays a Rabbi on the Amazon TV show "Transparent". Rabbi Susan Goldberg is the show's Rabbinical consultant. Rabbi Susan Goldberg

“Transparent” is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed television shows of 2014. It's known for putting Amazon on the map as an outlet for quality original shows and for raising the profile of trans people in pop culture.

But did you know it also has a Rabbi consultant?

In the show, Jeffrey Tambor plays the patriarch of a Jewish family who comes out late in life as trans; changing his name from Mort to Maura he begins to live life as a woman. His three adult children have their own issues with identity, sexuality and spirituality.  

The show was created by Jill Soloway, who has a parent that, like the Tambor character, came out late in life as trans. Soloway told The Frame earlier this year that getting the trans experience right was of the utmost importance. To that end she has trans consultants who advise on the show.

But a little less known fact is how important it is to get the Judaism right and to integrate Jewish themes into the story of this contemporary, reformed Jewish family in L.A.. To that end, she hired Rabbi Susan Goldberg of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles.

Rabbi Goldberg talks with the writers about Jewish themes, she consults with the costume department on the most appropriate wardrobe for the female Rabbi character in the show (played by Kathryn Hahn), and naturally she serves as a model for the Hahn character.

In one episode the youngest daughter, Ali, flashes back to the day she was supposed to have her Bat Mitzvah. The Tambor character had allowed her to cancel it in part because he secretly wanted to go to a camp where he'd be free to dress and live as a woman for the weekend.

Rabbi Goldberg talks about how the Torah portion she chose for Ali -- which she ends up reciting standing on a coffee table in her living room-- reflected themes that would tie into both characters' stories.

This idea of that Torah portion being the one that she didn't get to do is meaningful because at that same time the character of Maura has canceled the Bat Mitzvah partly because he wanted to go on his own weekend to reclaim his own gender identity. And so it's the loss of [Ali's] opportunity to be coming into her own as a woman while her dad wants his opportunity to come into his own as a woman. And so all of the trans themes and the Jewish themes are really interwoven.

You can find all episodes of Season 1 of  "Transparent" on Amazon Prime.

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