It seems like every now and then, another Hollywood movie star steps into the Jewish spotlight. The most recent was actor James Franco, who announced his bar mitzvah ceremony through Instagram.
Born to a Jewish mother, Franco is indeed Jewish, but had not opted to go through the Jewish rite of passage until now, at the age of 37. With the help of a rabbi by his side, Franco read from the Torah and declared himself a man on Oct. 3.
But no bar mitzvah is complete without a little celebration. Franco also took to Instagram to advertise his party on Oct. 17 at the Hollywood Palladium. He teamed up with YouTube channel Funny or Die, as well as Hilarity for Charity, an organization co-founded by Seth Rogen and his wife, Lauren Miller-Rogen, which fundraises to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.
One lucky attendee of the event was UCLA Class of 2014 alumna and current writer and associate editor for Hits Magazine, Naomi Robin. Robin spoke with me to recount several details from the night, which was a less-than-traditional celebration that had a main purpose of raising money for a good cause.
Franco made a short speech about his bar mitzvah portion, Parashat Noach, although the references he made were satirical and actually in response to the 2014 film “Noah.” This sort of humor set the tone for bulk of the event, which was comprised mostly of comical skits performed by high-profile celebrities.
Comedian Jeff Goldblum performed a mock circumcision on Franco, but before he could make the life-changing snip, Zac Efron appeared on-screen as Franco’s foreskin, urging Franco not to desert the part of him that had “kept [him] warm” for so long.
Musical performances included sister-duo HAIM, singing a rendition of “Hava Nagila,” and one of the only non-Jewish performers, Miley Cyrus, who appeared alongside a giant Star of David.
Throughout the evening, guests shared l’chaim’s, toasting on wine to life’s beauty, surprises and potential. Towards the end of the night, more guests came onstage with Franco to dance with him and the other celebrity performers. The event successfully raised $2.5 million for Alzheimer’s.
In retrospect, how much was the event an actual serious realization of Franco’s religious beliefs, and how much was it just an amusing way to raise money for an unrelated cause? After all, the event is called “Hilarity” for Charity.
Not everyone took the antics of the lighthearted event so lightly. In particular, some people objected to Miley Cyrus’s dirty moves on stage as she was surrounded by Jewish symbolism, according to an article by JEWS NEWS.
While some may have been offended by the gaudy representations of Judaism onstage that night, the event was ultimately an innocent celebration of good fun. It was more of a bar mitzvah-themed party than a Hollywood-themed bar mitzvah, yet one would miss the mark of its purpose because of its lack of halachic value.
In any case, I still wish Franco a great big “Mazel tov!”