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Hollywood Now: Rachel Bilson Celebrates Hanukkah, Elizabeth Banks in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

November 13, 2013

Rachel Bilson
Rachel Bilson. Credit: Robert Voets/The CW

Hanukkah with Hart

In a case of fiction imitating fact, Rachel Bilson’s TV character Zoe Hart on Hart of Dixie has one Jewish parent. In both character and real life, she has a Jewish father. In the November 25 episode of the CW series, she’ll celebrate her heritage in an episode that centers around Zoe hosting a Hanukkah celebration. Fans of The O.C. will remember Bilson as the girlfriend of the paternally Jewish Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), who celebrated Chrismukkah every year with his family. Of course, given the variances of the Jewish calendar, this year it would be Thanksgivukkah!

Banks on Fire

Back on screen November 22 in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second film in a planned quartet, Elizabeth Banks is reprising her role as Effie Trinket, the outlandish tribute escort from the Capitol. Banks, who changed her name from Mitchell, converted from Christianity to Judaism when she married her husband Max Handelman in 2003. Though she said earlier this year that she “did not have my mikveh, so technically I’m not converted,” she is a practicing Jew. “I feel like I’m as Jewish as I’m ever going to be,” added Banks, who is raising two young sons with Handelman.


Elizabeth Banks
Elizabeth Banks. Credit: Lionsgate

Banks has a full slate of movies due in theaters in 2014, including the toy-inspired Lego Movie, the drama Little Accidents, the mystery Every Secret Thing, the dramedy The Big Shoe and part one of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, which will be released next November.

Disney and Not-so-Disney Roles

Broadway star and recurring Glee actress Idina Menzel can be heard this month (November 22) voicing Elsa, the Snow Queen in the Disney animated musical Frozen, also featuring the voices of Kristen Bell and another former Glee star, Jonathan Groff. Jewish New York native Menzel is married to actor Taye Diggs, who is not Jewish. They met in 1995 when they appeared on Broadway in Rent (they later reprised their roles in the movie version), also appearing in Wicked together, the musical that won her a Tony Award. They have a son, Walker Nathaniel, 3.

Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder. Credit: Open Road Pictures
Winona Ryder returns to the screen November 27 as the biker chick girlfriend of a drug lord (James Franco) in Homefront, an action flick starring Jason Statham as an ex-DEA agent who tangles with the meth-making crew. Ryder, whose father is of Jewish ancestry (he describes himself as an atheist) and mother is Buddhist, identifies as Jewish, though she incorporates Buddhist elements in her spiritual beliefs. As noted last summer, Franco is interfaith too, of Portuguese and Swedish-Christian heritage on his paternal side and Russian-Jewish roots on his mother’s. 


Hanukkah (known by many spellings) is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd Century BCE. It is marked by the lighting of a menorah and the eating of fried foods. Hebrew for "collection," referring to the "collection of water," is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism. Today it is used as part of the traditional procedure for converting to Judaism, by Jews who follow the laws of ritual (body) purity, and sometimes for making kitchen utensils kosher.
Gerri Miller

Gerri Miller writes and reports from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for, The Jewish Journal, Brain World, Lupus Now, and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv'at Brenner in Israel and attends High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.

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