Holby storyline gives rabbi her ‘Hollywood moment’

Charley Baginsky has been advising Holby City on a Jewish story strand


Leading Liberal rabbi Charley Baginsky has enjoyed her “Hollywood moment”, advising writers of the BBC’s medical soap, Holby City, on a Jewish plotline.

In reality, it was considerably more than a moment as her advisory role extended to six months as the story unfolded of Holby doctor Sacha Levy rediscovering his Judaism and exploring the teachings of the Liberal movement.

Levy, played by Bob Barrett, even has a Kabbalat Torah — a Liberal confirmation ceremony — and Progressive liturgy is featured in scenes.

Rabbi Baginsky, 38, the movement’s director of strategy and partnerships, said it was important that the various strands of Judaism were portrayed accurately in the media.

“I absolutely loved helping on the show,” she said. “They were specifically looking for a Progressive take.

“It’s really important for us to be outward-facing. People don’t realise there are lots of different ways to be Jewish.

“I’ve had people say they’re surprised to see a rabbi who looks like me — or that they thought all rabbis had beards. It’s important to confront these stereotypes. And it’s also important for us to reach Jewish people who haven’t found a home in Judaism. So the storyline might help with that.”

In last week’s episode, Levy’s rabbi was taken ill, leading the doctor to have his Kabbalat Torah ceremony at the rabbi’s bedside.

The Holby writers had wanted the character to have a barmitzvah but Rabbi Baginsky advised against it, explaining that it would be less realistic than a Kabbalat Torah. Although it is primarily celebrated by a 15- or 16-year-old, adults can also be confirmed.

Barrett has previously told the JC that “not many actors will get to play a character whose ethnic character is different to their own. And it is unbelievably important to me that the character is Jewish.”

He had been helped in the role by his “great friends in the Jewish community of Catford. Being around them, I learn so much.”

Rabbi Baginsky’s roles within LIberal Judaism also include leading the South Bucks community, having formerly served Kingston Liberal Synagogue for 10 years.



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