To hear lead actor Jake Goldsbie tell it, Bad Jews is just an hour and a half of family members shouting abuse at one another over the right to inherit a prized family heirloom – their deceased grandfather’s chai necklace, which he had with him through the Holocaust.
“It’s 90 minutes of yelling and insulting each other about what it means to be Jewish and who deserves the chai,” said Goldsbie (Toby Issacs of Degrassi: The Next Generation fame).
Some of that strain between the family members, played by Jamie Elman, Ellen Denny and Sarah Segal-Lazar, arises because of their varying levels of religious observance. “Jamie’s character, Liam, is a non-religious Jew. Sarah’s character, Diana, who has chosen to be called Daphna, is a practising Jew,” Goldsbie elaborated.
The family’s close quarters in “a very tiny New York apartment” on the evening of the funeral also adds to the pent-up tension between the characters, explains Goldsbie.
His character, Jonah, is Liam’s younger – and much more level-headed – brother. Jonah, who is the quietest of the bunch, feels caught in the middle. He just wants everyone to get along.
Meanwhile, Denny rounds out the group as Melody, Liam’s non-Jewish girlfriend. Goldsbie said Melody finds herself in a situation that she didn’t expect and that she doesn’t fully grasp at times.
Goldsbie hopes audiences take away a lot of things after seeing the play, even if some go away with more than others. “Obviously, Jewish audiences will get the more in-depth, subtle references,” he states, “but anyone can come see the show…. Anyone who has fought with a family member over an heirloom, an inheritance or even a bed will get the show.”
Goldsbie said he thinks Bad Jews is an important, relevant show in 2018 because it examines how his generation deals with the Holocaust. While the grandfather’s generation is on its way out, Goldsbie’s generation, which is more removed from the tragedy, may view it as a totally foreign concept. Bad Jews also incorporates a debate on intermarriage and the mixing of cultures.
Goldsbie, who is a non-practising Jew, feels performing in Bad Jews has been rewarding for him. He hasn’t had these kinds of discussions since his bar mitzvah, he joked.
Written by Joshua Harmon and directed by Lisa Rubin, Bad Jews received critical acclaim in 2016, when it premièred in Montreal, as well as following its sold-out return engagement in 2017, at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts. The play, albeit with a different cast, has also been performed in New York and London, U.K.
The show is running in Toronto until Nov. 11 at the Greenwin Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, and is being presented by the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company.
Tickets to Bad Jews can be purchased by calling 1-855-985-2787 or going online at