Disney series devotes episode to Jewish mourning

‘Andi Mack’ depicts a family sitting shiva in the upcoming episode ‘One in a Minyan’

BUFFY, ANDI, Cyrus and Jonah appear in the 'Andi Mack' episode titled 'One in a Minyan.' (photo credit: FRED HAYES/DISNEY CHANNEL)
BUFFY, ANDI, Cyrus and Jonah appear in the 'Andi Mack' episode titled 'One in a Minyan.'
One of the most popular children’s TV shows in America is set to air an episode this week addressing the Jewish mourning period known as shiva.
Andi Mack, the Disney series now in its third season, will air an episode titled “One in a Minyan” this Friday evening. The episode will focus around the death of main character Cyrus’s beloved Bubbe Rose.
The show, which first hit airwaves in 2017, focuses on the eponymous seventh-grader Andi and her friends Cyrus Goodman, Buffy Driscoll and Jonah Beck. Its episodes regularly draw more than a million viewers, and the show has been praised for its unflinching representation of middle school life in America.
Joshua Rush, the actor who plays Cyrus, is Jewish himself, and his grandfather lives in Ramat Gan, with other cousins scattered around Israel. Rush told Tablet last year that he begged the show’s creator to write a bar mitzva episode for Cyrus, which aired last year.
When “One in a Minyan” opens, we see viewers beginning to arrive at the Goodman shiva house – many wearing yarmulkes and kissing the mezuzah at the door. It is clear the show paid attention to the details of the shiva house, with a black cloth covering the mirror, a yahrzeit candle emblazoned with the emblem of the State of Israel lit next to the mourners and a full buffet spread laid out for guests.
When Cyrus’s friends arrive to pay a shiva visit, he explains to them some of the rituals involved. Jonah wonders where the casket holding Bubbe Rose is, and Cyrus explains: “This is a shiva, the only thing that gets laid out are the deli platters.” He tells his friends that there’s no open casket or paying respects; “shiva is about friends and family coming together to comfort one another and share stories.”
Later, when Cyrus gets called in to make a minyan for the mourner’s kaddish, Jonah tags along. Cyrus, handing him a yarmulke, says “you can pray, but you don’t count.” 
While the show works to portray many of the nuances of Jewish ritual practice, there were some slips, and some interesting mashups of Orthodox and non-Orthodox practice. While the men donned tallitot for prayer and sat completely separately from the women, the spread in the kitchen contained both bagels and lox and corned beef sandwiches – mixing meat and milk. While ritual hand-washing was depicted for those returning from the cemetery, neither of Cyrus’s parents – one of whom was presumably mourning the loss of a parent – appeared to be seated at all throughout the episode.
Cyrus – not technically a mourner in Jewish law – had a torn piece of cloth pinned to his shirt, the common non-Orthodox alternative to the traditional tearing of the shirt.
And, of course, the show turned up the Jewish kitsch, with heavy-handed “oy veys” and “gevalts,” and references to gefilte fish and even mah jongg. And the humor was brought with a dramatic and divisive argument over a kugel that was made without – gasp – raisins. 
“I think it’s really important, especially as a Jew myself, to share my culture,” Rush said in a behind-the-scenes interview released by Disney. “There’s kids out there who have never seen a shiva.”