When the Israeli Consulate approached Becky Griffin about co-hosting the first-ever broadcast of Sunday’s Celebrate Israel Parade, the decision was a no-brainer. Born in Givatayim, near Tel Aviv, Griffin, 34, has lived in both the U.S. and in Israel, and came here in March as part of a speaking-tour delegation selected by Israel’s newly created Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs. She has worked in print ads and commercials, TV and film in Israel and hosted two programs on MTV Europe, based in London. The parade gig — in which she enlightened WWOR 9 co-host John Huddy and Sesame Street’s Grover muppet about Israeli geography and Jewish culture — was a chance to support Israel while gaining exposure to American audiences.
Griffin is the daughter of former point guard and Long Island native Bob Griffin, who played in Israel’s professional basketball league from 1972 to 1979 (he’s now a literature professor), and Israeli Ariela Griffin, an accountant for the Steimatzky book store chain. The Jewish Week spoke to Becky about the parade, dueling cultures and her future prospects.
Q: How did you end up co-hosting the parade?
A: I came here to do talks on campuses and stuff, and the consulate knew I came to New York via that delegation and that I stayed around. So they asked me if I would like to host it.
Do you live in New York now?
Not yet. Since I came on the delegation I decided that since I have an American passport and since half my family is here I’ll just take a later plane ticket back to Israel in September, before Rosh HaShanah.
You have done modeling, acting and hasbara work. What do you consider your primary job?
I can’t say I work in hasbara. I do that as a volunteer. I would mainly call myself a TV host and presenter. That’s the main thing I have done over the past 10 years.
Did you grow up in Israel or America?
I was born in Israel and, when I was a year and a half old, my parents went to New Haven and my Dad was at Yale. My brother was born in Maine where we lived for four years because my father taught in Bowdoin College in Brunswick. So basically I lived in the States from 18 months until I was 9, finished fourth grade and moved back to Israel in 1987.
Your father is Irish American and your mother is Yemenite. How did they meet?
My father played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Petach Tikvah and Maccabi Ramat Gan. He went to visit some friends from the Columbia University team who were playing in Israel and he got signed to their team. He met my mother at a bus stop by the beach on the way to Ramat Gan where he was staying with friends. It was right before her senior year of high school. They were married the next year.
What was it like growing up with so many different cultures?
It makes your life interesting at a very young age. It gives you a wider view of the world and the way things work, and it makes you a much less narrow-minded human being.
Do you find that when you travel, people are more critical of Israel these days?
I don’t think today is any different than any other past years. There has always been criticism, people have always been against Israel and people have always been against Jewish people since way before I was born. I didn’t necessarily feel anything new from when I lived in London or whatever. The only thing that has changed is that now people do it more on social media and more on the Internet.
Why is your Twitter name “Dorothy of Israel”?
“The Wizard of Oz” is my favorite film of all time and has been since I was 4 or 5 years old. It’s possibly one of the things that made me want to get into this whole industry. Being someone that travels and has family here and family there, I can kind of relate to looking for the journey-to-home sort of thing or being a stranger in a different land.
Do you feel more at home in Israel or here?
That’s a very good question. Kind of both because since I have a completely American name and when people meet me they never guess that I’m Israeli because I don’t talk like thees with fonny ek-sent. So you know certain things are interconnected and interrelated with your childhood, there’s a certain sense of home. Here, I feel like an Israeli American and there I feel like an American Israeli.
What’s next for you?
I’m looking into some different options. Not acting; more hosting and presenting, that’s where my passion is, live TV and sports, basketball, entertainment, music. All these things I have done since I was 19.