Did you hear the one about the rabbi and the comedian?
On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, Sarah Silverman (best known for her character "Sarah Silverman") and her older sister Susan (a Reform rabbi and Boston University alum) walked into the hallowed halls of BU's School of Management.
The two sat down for an intimate conversation with moderator and BU College of Arts & Sciences Dean Virginia Sapiro, as well as the crowd -- which included the girls' Tweeting father in the front row. The event was dubbed "Sister Act: The Silvermans @ BU" and was sponsored by The Other Within Program.
Though it was strange to hear a comic known for Holocaust jokes being introduced with a special thanks to the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, Sarah stayed tame for the duration of discussion... relatively.
As the Dean shared her childhood experience of discovering that she was Jewish after a child called her "Christ killer," Sarah could not help but jump into her usual form.
"Yeah, but it's not like we killed Baby Jesus," she defended. "He had a good run."
Even her sister, who currently lives with her family in Israel, channeled the Silverman irreverence.
"If I killed your God," said the rabbi. "Just imagine what I could do to you."
The sisters did not stop there.
Susan's realization of her own Jewishness came in their Semite-scarce home of New Hampshire.
"I thought being Jewish meant you were a Democrat," she said of her childhood. "I thought when McGovern ran, if you're Jewish you voted for McGovern, if you're Christian you voted for Nixon."
Though the event was billed as a talk on the difficulties of "Growing Up Jewish in New Hampshire," politics (and just about anything from Matt Damon to video chat mishaps) continued to make its way into the dialogue.
For instance, Sarah said she thought the Herman Cain smoking ad "was an SNL sketch."
"You can't parody a joke," she explained in reference to the 2012 Republican candidates.
Sarah spoke openly about her most controversial moments, such as learning from her NBC debacle in July 2001 as well as defending both her "Live From Niggerhead" comedy show and her "Sell the Vatican, Save the World" video.
The defense? Moral outrage. Sarah could not believe the lack of news coverage Rick Perry got for the epithet at his ranch, and had the same fury with respect to the Vatican.
"I just see a world of starving children and a house that's a city," she said, emphasizing that the viral video was not some attack on the Pope "as a Jew" but rather "as an animal in the world."
Similar anger crept through when she visited Susan in Israel and grew "enraged" by the lack of space for women at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall. While Jews traditionally insert written prayers to Adonai in the wall, Sarah shared her desire to stick in a piece of paper that said "No more religion."
"Personally I have no religion," Sarah proclaimed. After declaring her secularism, she leaned over to her big sister and fake-whispered, "Secular means not religious, right?"
Sarah left New Hampshire as she grew up, where she described her "Jewiness" as making her feel "like a goat for in a sea of..." She stopped and leaned over to her sister again. "What's an animal that's not a goat?"
While Sarah said she found "other goats" in New York City, Susan went off to BU, where she participated in gay rights activist groups and could not believe there were "so many Jews."
"I knew nothing about Judaism," Susan said as she tried to comfort a student during the Q&A who was having trouble balancing his religious life with his course load. She now resides in a kibbutz with her fellow Terrier husband, who was a far more devout Jew than herself during their BU days, along with their five children (including two adopted Ethopians).
The sisterly love poured out through the evening, as did an unspoken theme of courage. Sarah spoke of her mother's emails which end with "Be Brave," and she advised the audience to never bite their tongues in the face of injustice. While Susan and her family, some of whom serve in the Israeli Defense Force, continue "fighting the good fight" in the Holy Land, she considers her little sister "a prophet. She just calls the truth out as she sees it."
"I am in awe of my sister," said Sarah. "She is my hero."
After aww's and applause, she sprung back into character.
"Wow, they bought it."
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