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Interfaith Celebrities: Break Ups, the Recent Running Tally

January 18, 2011

In the last few months, quite a few celebrity couples—couples that were previously featured in this column—have called it quits. Loyal readers of this column know that I was going to cover this subject two columns ago, but breaking news took precedence.

In the interim, yet more couples joined the splitsville parade and what was intended as a column item has mutated into an entire column.

In more or less chronological order (based on date their split became publicly known), here they are:

Jessalyn Gidsig
Jessalyn Gidsig, of Glee, and Bobby Salomon have divorced.

Actress Jessalyn Gilsig, 39 (Glee, Boston Public) and her husband of almost six years, producer Bobby Salomon, also 39, are getting a divorce. As previously noted, Salomon is Jewish and Gilsig is the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. They met at their Montreal high school, where they briefly dated. Gilsig once said that Salomon was the "cool guy" in their high school and quarterback of the football team.

The couple met again when Salomon moved to Hollywood in 2002 and they rekindled their romance. They wed in a Jewish ceremony in 2005 and had a daughter in 2006.

Salomon and Gilsig are both very good looking and they were a strikingly attractive couple. Add in the story of their high school romance and reunion in Hollywood, and you have most of the elements of many romantic movies.

However, their marriage foundered in mid-2009 for reasons the couple have tastefully chosen to keep private. They separated just about the same time that Gilsig began appearing in a co-starring role (Terri Schuester) on Glee. On Oct. 15, 2010, a gossip website, that trolls court filings, dug-out the fact that Gilsig had filed for divorce in early September.

Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera and Jordan Bratman have divorced.

Getting far more publicity was the divorce filing (made public on Oct. 14) of superstar singer Christina Aguilera, 29. In 2005, Aguilera, who was raised Catholic, wed her Jewish boyfriend of three years, music producer/manager Jordan Bratman, 33, in a lavish Jewish wedding. In 2008, they had a son, Max Liron Bratman. Max's bris (ritual circumcision) got a lot of publicity, as did the fact that People magazine paid $1.5 million for the first photos of the baby.

On the surface, they seemed a bit mismatched: Aguilera is famously "hot" and Bratman is quite homely. Still, for a long time they presented themselves as the picture of domestic bliss and there were even hints that the singer would convert to Judaism. Nonetheless, I always had a gut feeling, that the long-term survival of the marriage was a long-shot.

In early December, Aguilera talked to People about the split, without really saying what went wrong:

"Things were so unhealthy and unhappy for both Jordan and me, I knew I had to end it," Aguilera says. "I really didn't want to hurt Jordan, and I felt torn about splitting our family up." Aguilera, who witnessed domestic violence in her childhood home and the subsequent divorce of her parents, realized her troubles with Bratman would soon begin to take a toll on their two-year-old son, Max. "When you're unhappy in your marriage, your children are the ones who suffer," she says. "That's the last thing I wanted for my son." While there's been speculation of Aguilera being involved with a number of industry players since her filing, Burlesque set assistant Matthew Rutler seems to have captured her attention for the time being.

In the last six weeks or so, the Bratman/Aguilera split took on a sad and creepy character when the press reported that Bratman was refusing to leave the lavish home he once shared in Beverly Hills with Aguilera and their son. In October, when they split, Aguilera moved to a Los Angeles hotel with Max. Then TMZ reported in December that Aguilera had moved back into the Beverly Hills home with their son and with her new boyfriend, Rutler.

As TMZ put it, "The situation was getting really awkward." (That's a rare understatement by TMZ, a pretty down-and-dirty gossip source.) Finally, Bratman moved out of the house on Jan. 5, 2010.

It now appears that Aguilera almost certainly began a romantic relationship with Rutler while filming Burlesque in 2009.

Oddly enough, her Burlesque co-star, Cher, 64, and the film's director/co-writer Steve Antin, 52, go back decades—and were players, in a sense, in a somewhat famous interfaith celebrity "thing."

In the late ‘70s, Cher, who isn't Jewish (Armenian, English, Cherokee, and some other things) dated and was engaged for a time to Jewish superstar music agent and record executive David Geffen (who is now a multi-billionaire).

Religious differences didn't drive them apart: Cher broke off the engagement because Geffen could be too controlling (like Cher's ex-husband Sonny Bono) and Geffen had candidly told her that he generally preferred men as sexual partners.

Geffen, now 72, was devastated by Cher's decision to break off the engagement. After several years, he decided that his orientation was "just plain" gay and that he would no longer hide it. His first openly gay relationship was with then aspiring actor Antin, who is Jewish. (Antin's brother, Jonathan Antin, 43, who is straight, is a celebrity hairstylist with his own Bravo reality show. Their choreographer sister, Robin Antin, 49, was the creator of the Pussycat Dolls pop/dance/burlesque singing group.)

Geffen and Antin dated for about a year (1982-83) and through Geffen, Antin met Cher. The three became "club hopping buddies."

Jennifer Jason Leigh
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Noah Baumbach have divorced.

Well, back to current events. Next up on our "celebrity couple crash countdown" are an "artsy" couple, actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, 48, and director/screenwriter Noah Baumbach, 41. The couple wed in 2005 and, in Mar. 2010, Leigh had their only child, a son they named Rohmer Emanuel Baumbach. Neither Leigh nor Baumbach had been married before.

In Nov. 2010, Leigh filed for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences." This divorce filing got no more than a brief mention in the papers and I couldn't find any "back story" to the divorce.

Frankly, this divorce was a bit of a surprise to me. Leigh appeared in a supporting role in Baumbach's most recent film, Greenberg, which opened in Feb. 2010. (It starred Jewish actor Ben Stiller as Greenberg, a Jewish character.)

As I said, they had a child in 2010. So, it appeared that they were doing well in a professional collaborative sense and they had a new baby. But I guess things weren't what they seemed and they split.

I profiled Baumbach and Leigh in a previous column and there are lots of bio goodies there if you click over. As I said in this prior column, Leigh is Jewish and Baumbach, who identifies as Jewish, but is secular, is the son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother.

As a personal aside, I really don't relate much to the world of superstar singers and music execs. Not exactly my crowd. So, Aguilera and Bratman's split didn't mean much to me.

But Leigh and Baumbach are people I can relate to and admire: they are both obviously intelligent artists who have strived to do very good work and often succeeded (the films Baumbach has made; the many interesting and different films Leigh has starred in; the film Leigh co-wrote, The Anniversary Party).

It was nice to imagine Leigh and Baumbach having a storybook marriage of "the creative intelligentsia." So, I'm genuinely a bit sad that my imagination was not accurate.

Rachel Weisz
Rachel Weisz and Darren Arnofsky have separated.

I was also surprised, and a bit saddened by the split-up of actress Rachel Weisz, 40, and director Darren Arnofsky, 41, another artsy couple. What I said about Leigh and Baumbach applies to them equally. Weisz and Aronofksy became a couple in 2001; announced their engagement in 2005; and had a son, Henry, in 2006. They never married.

On Nov. 9, 2010, the couple's spokesperson said that Weisz and Arnofsky had been "separated for some months, but were still friends." In other words, their days as a couple were over.

As you probably know, Aronofsky, who is Jewish, is now enjoying a great moment in his career. His low-budget indie film, Black Swan, opened in Dec. 2010 to mostly good critical reviews and great box office for an artsy, "little movie." The film is certain to get several Oscar nominations.

As with the other couples, above, there are lots of biographical goodies in my previous column mentions of Arnofsky and Weisz. Here are a few "newish" things.

I've learned a bit more about Weisz's background. Her father, it has always been clear, is a Hungarian Jew who fled fascism in the 1930s and settled in Great Britain. He is a successful inventor.

Her mother, a psychologist, has a somewhat murkier background. But I think I have puzzled it out: In short, I think Weisz's maternal Austrian grandmother was not Jewish. This grandmother was at least half Italian. Rachel's maternal grandfather was, no doubt, an Austrian Jew.

Her Austrian Jewish grandfather was rescued from Nazi-occupied Austria (and moved to Great Britain) with the help of Rev. Dr. James Parkes (1896-1981), a British Christian minister who did truly great and heroic work in mobilizing public opinion against the Nazis and in assisting Jewish refugees.

I believe that Rachel's mother was not raised Jewish, because she has, on a few occasions, made it clear that "only" her father is Jewish. The actress self-identifies as Jewish, but is not religious.

After Weisz and Aronofsky's split was announced, there were rumors that Weisz was dating English actor Daniel Craig, 42 (the new James Bond). In the last few weeks, the two have been photographed in each other's company and it is pretty certain that they are now a romantic item.

Weisz and Craig met last year while filming the horror movie The Dream House, which will come out this September. Craig, who isn't Jewish, has played a number of Jewish film characters, including an Israeli secret service agent in Munich and a Jewish anti-Nazi partisan in Defiance.

It is unclear if Weisz's romance with Craig had anything to do with her split with Aronofsky.

Before being involved with Aronofsky, Weisz long dated British director Sam Mendes (whose mother is Jewish). Mendes went on to meet and marry British actress Kate Winslet, who isn't Jewish, in 2003. Winslet and Mendes fit right in with this column's theme: they split up last March. They had one child together.

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds have divorced.

The next split up involves a couple who could challenge, and perhaps beat, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for the title of "best looking couple in all of Hollywoodland." I speak of actress Scarlett Johansson, 26, and actor Ryan Reynolds, 34.

Johansson, who has been mentioned many times in this column, is the daughter of an American Jewish mother and a Danish-born, non-Jewish father. She identifies as Jewish, but is not religious. Reynolds, who was born and raised in Canada, is of Irish ethnic background. He was raised a Catholic.

The couple met in 2007. They were hardly on anyone's radar as a romantic couple when their engagement was announced in May 2008. Nowadays, Hollywood engagements seem to go on for years and years and, half the time, don't end in a wedding ceremony. Reynolds and Johansson defied this trend by getting married right away, in Sept. 2008. Very few details of the wedding were released, so I don't know if any clergyperson presided.

In the abstract, you can see what drew them together: they are both smashingly good looking and both have a gift for dramatic and comedy acting. But they didn't talk to the press much about the nuts-and-bolts of their pre- or post-wedding lives together, didn't appear on talk shows together and didn't make any movies together. It was hard to read them as a couple.

Likewise, the reasons for their split will probably remain a mystery forever. On Dec. 14, 2010, they simply announced that they had separated. They issued a joint statement, "After long and careful consideration on both our parts, we've decided to end our marriage... We entered our relationship with love and it's with love and kindness we leave it." On Dec. 23, 2010, they simultaneously filed for divorce, citing, as usual, "irreconcilable differences." Last, but not least, comes a real cute couple now on the splitsville express.

Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis and Macaulay Caulkin have separated.

On Jan. 3, a spokesperson announced that Jewish actress Mila Kunis, 27, and her boyfriend of eight years, actor Macaulay Culkin, 30, had broken-up. Kunis' representative told the press that "the split was amicable, and they remain close friends." Culkin was raised a Catholic, but is now lapsed.

Kunis is now on a career-high, having successfully made the transition from TV actress to respected film actress with such hits as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Black Swan.

Culkin's career is more laid-back. He picks and chooses his projects based mostly on personal taste; he has the career freedom that a huge bank account provides. He came into millions of dollars when he reached adulthood and could draw on the trust account where most of his child actor salary checks were deposited. (My sense is that he has not squandered this money at all).

I have a lot better sense of the dynamics of the Kunis/Culkin relationship than some others. They both are verbally quick and intelligent people who seem (or seemed) like they could play well against each other. Plus, they shared the experience of being young stars. Culkin, of course, started very young and was a superstar child actor after starring in Home Alone (1990). Kunis was the co-star of a hit TV show, That ‘70s Show, when she was only 16.

Back in 2007, Kunis told Parade magazine about their relationship. It sounds like they were a good match, so it's kind of sad that they have parted ways.

We're incredibly private, and I think we relish the privacy we do actually have and are able to sustain it. We enjoy each other's company. We like to read books or play video games or watch TV or go to the movies. And he's an amazing cook. He makes dinner every night…There are a lot of things people want him to be that he's not… He's an amazing, simple guy, who is probably the most brilliant person I've ever met. He's so, so smart and so aware and so kind and so sweet. Unfortunately, that's not what people want him to be, so they write stuff."

Well, that's it for now. As my mother would have said, "Not exactly stuff for a Valentine's Day column!"

Hebrew for "covenant," often referring to the ritual for Jewish boys when they are 8 days old ("brit milah" - "covenant of circumcision"). It is commonly known as "bris," which is the Ashkenazi or Yiddish pronunciation of "brit."

Nate Bloom writes a weekly column on Jewish celebrities, broadly defined, that appears in the Cleveland Jewish News, the American Israelite of Cincinnati, the Detroit Jewish News, and the New Jersey Jewish Standard. It also appears bi-weekly in j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California. Starting April 2012, a monthly version of his column (featuring relevant "oldies but goodies") will appear in the following Florida newspapers: the Jewish News (Sarasota and Manatee County), the Federation Star (Collier County) and L'Chayim (Lee and Charlotte counties).

The author welcomes questions and celebrity "tips," especially about people you personally know. Write him at middleoftheroad1@aol.com. And feel free to comment below.

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