Natalie Portman's Directorial Debut & Paper Towns' Nat WolffBy Gerri Miller
See how Portman is making her big splash in Israel and don't miss Paper Towns with Nat WolffGo To Pop Culture
InterfaithFamily.com: Keeping the Faith deals with a friendship between a rabbi and a priest, and with a relationship between the rabbi and a non-Jewish woman. What is your attitude toward interfaith dating?
Stuart Blumberg: My attitude has evolved. As I kid, I was against it. But as I grew up, I became more tolerant, especially as I interdated myself. But I feel a tension between wanting to maintain Jewish traditions and not wanting to eliminate a chance for love--although I am dating a Jewish woman now. I have two requirements for anyone I date: that she be spiritual and that she respect my Judaism. I define a spiritual person as one who asks the big questions and tries to live according to the answers--who is involved in the things that religion is getting at.
IFF: Did your parents approve of your interdating?
SB: Their attitude was that it was okay, as long as it wasn't serious.
IFF: Isn't that the attitude of the rabbi in the film, that he could date the non-Jewish woman as long as he wasn't serious? Does that explain why he was so out of touch with his feelings?
SB: Yes, that is the dynamic that was going on.
IFF: What do you think of the Jewish community's attitude toward interfaith relationships?
SB: Well, the Jewish community is not monolithic, there is a wide range of reactions. I applaud those people who try not to act as if interfaith dating is something that can be prevented and who take a proactive approach to the issue. The best way for the Jewish community to respond, in my opinion, is to make Jewish tradition and Judaism as relevant as possible and to also help those who are in interfaith marriages to be part of the Jewish community.
IFF: What was your religious background?
SB: I grew up in a Jewish household in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. We belonged to a Conservative synagogue. I was bar mitzvahed. It was a home that was very respectful of Jewish traditions. In fact, I went to a day school until I was 10.
IFF: Do you belong to a synagogue today?
SB: Well, I recently moved to New York from Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, I was a member of a Conservative synagogue, and I am leaning toward B'nai Jeshrun in New York.
IFF: How did you come up with the idea for Keeping the Faith?
SB: Well, I decided to treat the old rabbi/priest jokes seriously. I had read an account of a street priest whose best friend was a rabbi, and I decided to make it a triangle.
IFF: What about the characters? Did you know anyone like the Jenna Elfman character?
SB: Yes, she is a composite of women I know, as are the rabbi and priest.
IFF: I understand that you and Ed Norton (the star, director and co-producer of Keeping the Faith) are old friends?
SB: Yes, we met at Yale and then were roommates for a few years on the Upper West Side of Manhattan after college.
IFF: Were you writing scripts then?
SB: No, I was an investment banker at the time, and he was acting.
IFF: What was it like to work with Ed on this project?
SB: It was a great thing to go through with someone I have known for so long. There was a trust factor there. It was more personal. Of course, there were some tense moments, but it was overall a great experience.
IFF: Are you surprised that you turned out to be a writer?
SB: No, ever since I was 10 I have wanted to be a writer. I used to write stories when I was 10, and that has always been my goal.
IFF: How does it feel to have succeeded at your childhood dream?
SB: It feels good.
IFF: What are you working on now?
SB: I am working on a project about a boy who grows up with whales and becomes a whale himself. It is a flight of fancy. Ed and I also have a couple of projects in the offing.