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Uma, Non-Jewish Goddess in Prime

Reprinted with permission of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Visit www.jewishjournal.com.

Sandra Bullock was all set to take the role of Rafi in the movie Prime, playing the 37-year-old woman who falls in love with a 23-year-old Jewish artist. But two weeks before shooting, Bullock pulled out. The actress told the trades the script hadn't been revised to her satisfaction, although writer/director Ben Younger insisted that he had gone over all script changes with Bullock. He also said he was perplexed by Bullock's sudden, lurching departure.

Now, a year later, as the film is being released to glowing reviews, there's just one word for the Bullock fiasco: Whatever.

That's because, shortly after Bullock's resignation, Uma Thurman signed on for the role.

In a role that seemed to be calling for the ultimate non-Jew--the unattainably perfect tall, blonde very not Jewish woman, who could imagine anyone more perfect than Ms. "Kill Bill/ Pulp Fiction/ Truth About Cats and Dogs" Thurman?

"She's a [non-Jewish] goddess," Younger told The Journal.

"She's someone who would be irresistible to a nice Jewish momma's boy," said the director, who grew up Modern Orthodox and went to yeshiva for elementary and high school.

Uma's character, Rafi, is for the most part, oblivious to the religious conflict raging between her boyfriend David Bloomberg (played by Bryan Greenberg) and his mother Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep).

"There's a huge theme between the fact that she's sort of agnostic, probably a WASP, non-religious, and he comes from a strong Jewish background and heritage--and that means a lot to him and his family," Thurman said. "And she's kind of outside . . . In some way she's not welcome."

Thurman says her character is "just a typical open person who's not brought up with religion."

But that doesn't mean she won't fall for a Jewish boy. At one point, Rafi says to her therapist/Streep (before confessing that she is dating the therapist's son): "You were so right about Jewish men. He's so attentive. I mean, of course, you know, you're married to one."

(Lisa, more to herself than her client, says: "Yes, but he has A.D.D.")

Younger says Rafi is just expressing what's out on the street: "Non-Jewish women talk about it, how [Jewish men] are not afraid of closeness and intimacy."

So what is it about the non-Jewish goddess type that appeals so much to Jewish men?

"I don't think it's the taboo thing," Younger said. "I think it's about getting as far away as possible to what you grew up with. It's probably genetically healthy. I think everyone wants something different.

"Uma's the poster child for different as far as Jewish boys go," Younger said. "You don't see Uma at the Young Israel."

Hebrew, literally, for "sitting," refers to a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts (including Torah and Talmud study). A yeshiva can be a day school for elementary or high school students, or a place of study for adults. Traditionally, a yeshiva was attended by boys/men only; more recently, yeshivas have opened for girls/women and even co-ed yeshivas now exist.
Amy Klein

Amy Klein is a writer and editor. She can be found online at KleinsLines.com.

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