Tiffany Haddish Is Reconnecting With Her Father's Jewish Roots

"I reconnected with my dad when I was 27. I offered to let him come stay with me and let me take care of him, and then he disappeared again."

Jamie Lerner - Author
By

Feb. 22 2024, Published 12:00 p.m. ET

Tiffany Haddish at Flipper's Roller Boogie After Party on Feb.11, 2024
Source: Getty Images

The violence in Israel, Gaza, Palestine, and the West Bank has been making headlines ever since Hamas terrorists invaded on Oct. 7, 2023. Many people all over social media are split about who to side with, knowing full well that thousands of innocent people are dying daily because of angry people in positions of power. As onlookers discern how to support the people of Palestine without being antisemitic, comedian Tiffany Haddish felt it was an important time to explore her roots.

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On Feb. 20, 2024, she took a trip to Israel to reconnect more deeply with her Jewish heritage while also wanting to see the violence “with her own eyes.” Her Instagram Live video en route to Tel Aviv led to backlash from anti-Israel activists. However, it’s important to remember that Tiffany has a right to connect with her Jewish heritage at a time when antisemitism is more prevalent than ever. But who are Tiffany’s parents and how Jewish is she?

Tiffany Haddish at the 2024 Fanatics Super Bowl party on Feb. 10, 2024
Source: Getty Images
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Tiffany Haddish wasn’t fully raised by her parents.

As many of us know by now, Tiffany didn’t have the easiest childhood. Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Calif., Tiffany’s dad, Tsihaye Reda Haddish, left when she was just 3 years old. He came to the U.S. as a refugee and was deported, according to The Jerusalem Post. After that, Tiffany’s mother, Leola, remarried and gave birth to Tiffany’s two half-brothers and two half-sisters.

But in 1988, Leola got in a car accident that would forever alter her and her children’s lives. It altered Leola’s brain chemistry, leading to a schizophrenia diagnosis that caused Leola to be “quick-tempered, abusive, and violent,” Tiffany wrote in her 2017 memoir, The Last Black Unicorn. At 13 years old, Tiffany and her siblings were sent into foster care and separated because of this. At 15 years old, Tiffany and her siblings went into her maternal grandmother’s care.

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Tiffany Haddish performs at the Laugh Factory on Nov. 23, 2023
Source: Getty Images

Tiffany Haddish only connected with her father later in life.

After Tiffany’s father left, she and her mother lost all contact with him. Tiffany recalled her mother saying things after her accident like, “You look like your ugly a-- daddy, I hate him. I hate you.” But as we all know, Tiffany is both resilient and curious. Despite her mother’s disdain, Tiffany wanted answers about her father.

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When Tiffany was a teen, her grandmother told her she was Eritrean Jewish on her father’s side and even explained what Bar Mitzvahs were. Tiffany became a Bar Mitzvah dancer in the hopes that maybe she’d bump into her father. In 2019, Tiffany confirmed her Eritrean Jewish heritage through DNA testing and had a Bat Mitzvah, which she incorporated into her comedy special, Black Mitzvah.

Tiffany Haddish posing at 'Black Mitzvah' premiere on on Dec. 3, 2019
Source: Getty Images
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Tiffany first re-met her father when she was 27 years old. She found him in Philadelphia and revisited the conversation with Hollywood medium Tyler Henry in 2017. “My whole point to meet my father was just to know genetically what do I have to expect? And where the hell your a-- been? Where the hell yo’ a-- was at when I was out here living in the streets?”

Tiffany explained to Tyler, “I reconnected with my dad when I was 27. I offered to let him come stay with me and let me take care of him, and then he disappeared again. And so now, he reappeared and he says he wants to come stay with me now and there’s a part of me that’s like, well you kind of missed that boat.”

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Tiffany Haddish has honored her father by visiting Eritrea and Israel.

In 2018, Tiffany’s father passed away and she honored him by talking about her Eritrean heritage at the Oscars. She went to Eritrea for the first time to reconnect with his family and received her Eritrean citizenship a year later. Even still, Eritrea has been in civil unrest because of its dictatorship government and history with the Ethiopian regime.

“I love my father so much and maybe he didn’t get to raise me but he instilled enough for me in my blood,” she said to the Eritrea Ministry of Information (via Africa News). He taught me a lot during the time I did get to spend with him. I want to honor him and I just want to be a good daughter.” Now, she’s honoring him by connecting with her Jewish heritage as well.

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The unrest in Eritrea led to a mass exodus of Jewish people, mostly to Israel at the time. In the late 1800s during the pogroms, many Yemeni Jews emigrated to Eritrea with the help of Italian colonialism. As antisemitism heightened in Europe before World War II, many more Jews followed. However, when Eritrea was annexed into Ethiopia, the civil wars and violence led many Jews to leave the region and seek safety in Israel.

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Tiffany likely has relatives who still live in Israel today. In the 1950s, over 500 Jewish people were living in Eritrea, but today, there's just one Jew left in the country. Because Ethiopia persecuted the Jews in which they were restricted from leaving, many Jewish people took the first opportunity they had to make their way to Israel. Others fled to Europe and the U.S., but not as many.

Tiffany Haddish's bat mitzvah
Source: Getty Images

Tiffany spoke about her experience in Israel on TMZ Live, saying she wants peace on both sides. Despite this, the backlash prompted by her visit led her to feel like she’s “all alone,” but we want her to know that we are here for her!

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