Actress Lea Michele discovers her Greek-Jewish roots

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — “Glee” star Lea Michele took a deeper look at her Greek-Jewish roots on the TLC television series “Who Do You Think You Are?”

The episode is scheduled to air on Sunday, and is the season finale of the series, The Forward reported.

Michele, born Lea Michele Sarfati in the Bronx to an Italian mother and a Jewish Sephardic father, reportedly identifies with the Catholic faith of her mother, in which she was raised.

She discovers during the television show episode that her paternal grandmother’s family were Sephardic Jews from the port city of Salonica, or Thessaloniki, in today’s northern Greece. Michele’s guide through the archives that tell her about the history of her family is University of Washington’s Sephardic Studies Chair, Professor Devin E. Naar, the university’s Jewish Studies department said in a statement released last week.

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“Most Americans probably have never heard of Sephardic Jews,” said Naar, who is also a professor in the Department of History. “So for such a prominent celebrity to speak so publicly and intimately about her connection to this often invisible history and culture will be a turning point. It’s really exciting: the episode will familiarize Americans with the very existence of Sephardic Jews and hopefully pique their curiosity and inspire them to learn more.”

Naar said he located specific documents regarding the actress’ ancestors in the remnants of Greek Jewish community archives housed in New York and Moscow, despite the near-complete destruction of Greek communities and their records during World War II.

Michele starred as Rachel Berry on Glee from 2009 to 2015, and currently stars in Fox’s horror-comedy series, “Scream Queen.”

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