Downton Abbey Portrays Reality of Interfaith RelationshipsBy Gerri Miller
Go inside Season 5 Episode 9 where the story line of Atticus and Rose's interfaith relationship comes to a head.Go To Pop Culture
May 28, 2008
The much anticipated Sex and the City movie opens on Friday, May 30. Most of the plot has been kept secret, but the movie’s trailers reveal that there have been developments in the lives of the four female characters at the center of the HBO TV series.
Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) are finally getting married, but their wedding doesn't go off without hitches. Supporting Carrie throughout is her gay WASP friend Stanford Blatch, played by straight Jewish actor Willie Garson. Meanwhile, Charlotte (Kristen Davis), a convert to Judaism, and her Jewish hubbie Harry (Evan Handler) are happy and have a cute adopted Chinse daughter. Also, Charlotte may be pregnant or the trailer may be depicting a dream sequence in which Charlotte dreams she is pregnant. On the down side, Miranda’s (Cynthia Nixon) husband, Steve, has been unfaithful and Samantha (Kim Catrall) is struggling to remain faithful to her actor beau, Smith.
|Kristen Davis and Sarah Jessica Parker at the Berlin premiere of Sex and the City. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch|
Parker, 43, has been married to actor Matthew Broderick, 46, since 1997 and they have one child. Parker's late father was Jewish as was Broderick's late mother. Neither was raised in any faith and they more-or-less consider themselves non-practicing, "cultural Jews."
They certainly do have a religiously interesting extended family. One of Parker's sisters became an Orthodox Jew. One of Broderick's two sisters became an Episcopal priest. (Their father, the late actor James Broderick, was of Irish Catholic background.)
Matthew Broderick's Episcopal priest sister presided over Sarah and Matthew's wedding. It was a secular ceremony held in a historic New York synagogue that is no longer used as a house of worship.
In 2005, journalist Abigail Pogrebin published a book, Stars of David, of interviews she did with prominent Jews talking about being Jewish. Parker, who is a personal friend of Pogrebin’s, consented to be interviewed. It was the first time Parker talked in-depth about her Jewish background and that of her husband.
I could repeat the gist of what Parker said to Pogrebin. However, I recently discovered that the entire text of the interview--and it is a very good one--has been republished on the ABC News website and I think most people would enjoy reading it.
In a May 11 profile in Parade Magazine, Parker more-or-less summarized in a few sentences what she told Pogrebin. If you read the Pogrebin interview, you will see that Parker has long been on the fence about embracing the formal practice of any religion, including Judaism.
Parker told Parade that she (and her husband) view themselves as Jewish in a cultural or ethnic sense. However, she still hasn't committed to the practice of any religion. Rather, Parker embraces the various religious influences in her and her husband's lives as a smorgasbord to be sampled and she is sharing that sample plate with her young son, James Wilkie Broderick. From Parade:
Parker's father is Jewish, and Broderick's mother was also. They each consider themselves cultural Jews and are raising their son in the same tradition. Which means?
"Well, your worldview is one of a Jew. You feel persecuted," she half-jokes, her laughter filled with the rueful irony that is so identified with Carrie Bradshaw. "And you certainly recognize persecution when it's happening to others. You have a lot of empathy. It's bagels. It's whitefish salad. But we also have a babysitter who is a devout, devout Catholic from Brazil, and she's had some influence on him as well. She says prayers with him. I say prayers with him too every night."
When her son gets old enough to start thinking for himself and tells her he wants to go to a house of worship, will she take him to a synagogue? "Oh, heavens. He'll probably end up a Unitarian," she says. "I go to an Episcopal church on Easter to hear the music. I think that's rather glorious. Matthew's sister is an Episcopal priest. And his other sister is a shrink. So James Wilkie's got it covered on that side of the family."
A word of caution--if you read the Pogrebin interview, you'll see Parker gives more than equal shrift to Judaism as an influence on her and her husband—but still they cannot quite embrace the practice of Judaism. As in this quote from that interview:
"My sister is Modern Orthodox. She didn't shave her head--you don't have to. She's one of my best friends. And I've learned more from her about the actual practice and ritual of being a Jew than I've ever known before."
Parker says her other teacher has been her husband. "Matthew not only identifies as a Jew. I mean, he really is. He knows more about the Bible and the Jewish story. He really sees things through the eyes of a Jew and it's fascinating to me. His perspective in life has very much to do with Hitler and the persecution of Jews. He identifies as a Jew, but it's much more political for him. He's not curious about any other religions. It's not like he's thinking, 'Let's explore Unitarianism, let's explore Buddhism, and let's also explore Judaism as a choice for our child.' He would only think about being a practicing Jew. We're always looking for a seder. This year we drove four and a half hours to go to a Rosh Hashanah dinner. Matthew likes a lot of the rituals -- when he sees them, it's very moving to him. But I don't know that he wants to be an active, religious Jew because I think he finds fault, as we all do, with a lot of religion. For instance, the separation of men and women in services, and some archaic ways of living your life.
I noted in a previous column that I was unsure if Cynthia Nixon, who was not born Jewish, was a convert to Judaism or just a “close fellow traveler.” As I said, Nixon’s “life partner” from 1988-2003 was Danny Mozes, a college English professor who is Jewish. Nixon and Mozes had two children together and were often spotted at synagogue services in New York City and in the Hamptons resort area on Long Island.
In 2004, Nixon began a romantic relationship with another woman, Christine Marinoni, an educator, and they are still together. In a quite recent People magazine profile, Nixon said that she is raising her children Jewish:
In real life though, the actress is serious about giving back to the community – and she's got her kids helping out as well. Samantha, 11, and Charles, 4, are "not too young to learn about giving back," Nixon told PEOPLE this week at the launch of the Curél Lends a Helping Hand Campaign, which auctioned off celebrity hand prints to raise money for the American Red Cross. "My children are being raised Jewish, so last year we all had a meeting with a rabbi, who said it's good to let your children know what their parents' values are," said Nixon, 41.
Jewish actor Evan Handler, 47, has written a new memoir, It's Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive. He writes about his life since his recovery from leukemia, which he contracted at 24.
About his Sex character, Harry Goldenblatt, he says that “75 percent” of the guys who have come up to him on the street and thanked him for playing the nice (if homely) Harry (who is “great in bed”)--turn out to be Jewish guys. Handler relates that these Jewish guys then go on to congratulate him for “getting” the incredibly gorgeous Charlotte.
Spring has sprung, the sap is rising, and Maxim magazine (Playboy without nudity) is out with their annual Hot 100 list: "the most beautiful girls in the world." Sure, it's kind of cheesy to view cheesecake photos---but almost everybody does it and I suspect that almost as many women as men check out the Maxim website to see who's on the list.
Over half of the Hebrew hotties on this year's list have an interfaith background. Followed by their Maxim ranking number, they are: Mila Kunis (81); Amanda Bynes (46); Lake Bell (32); Rachel Bilson (28); Ashley Tisdale (10); Sarah Michelle Gellar (5); and Scarlett Johansson (2).
Bell and Bilson have Jewish fathers while Bynes, Johansson, and Tisdale have Jewish mothers. Kunis and Gellar have two Jewish parents. In case anyone doesn’t know, all these women are actresses.
Bilson and Johansson also appeared in People’s 2007 list of the 100 most beautiful people in the world, as I noted in an earlier column. In other columns, I have profiled Bell and Tisdale and interviewed Amanda Bynes.
Nowadays, a lot of celebs like to talk about and herald any Jewish ancestry they might have. Not so Sarah Michelle Gellar, who virtually never talks about her Jewish background and gets vocally annoyed at any such questions (even though her mother came from a religious Jewish family). I suspect that this reluctance may stem from Sarah’s total estrangement from her late father, but I’m not sure.
|Sarah Michelle Gellar still has looks that slay. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello|
Gellar has been married to non-Jewish actor Freddie Prinze, Jr., since 2002, and they wed in a secular ceremony. Freddie Prinze, Jr. is the son of the late comedian Freddie Prinze, Sr. The elder Prinze would tell anyone who would listen that he was half Hungarian Jewish (his father) and half Puerto Rican Catholic (his mother).
Freddie, Sr., called himself “Hungarican,” which always got a laugh. I have good info that Freddie, Sr., may not have been Jewish at all, but ethnic German on his father’s side.
An old friend of Freddie, Sr., told me that Freddie, Sr., thought that saying that he was half Jewish would be a career advantage in the heavily Jewish entertainment world. I am not sure that Freddie, Sr., was right in that assumption. In any event, it’s ironic that his son’s wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar, is reluctant to say a word about being Jewish.
Kunis, 24, was born in the Ukraine, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. Her family moved to Los Angeles in 1991, where they received invaluable re-settlement help from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (which also helps many non-Jews, including Iranian Bahais and Zoroastrians). Kunis got her big career break as a star of That ‘70s Show. This year she co-starred in the hit film, Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Unlike Gellar, Kunis freely talks about her Jewish background although she really isn’t religious. She has been romantically involved with actor Macaulay Culkin since 2002. Culkin is a lapsed Catholic. In 2006, Kunis and Culkin traveled to Israel for a vacation. Unfortunately, the Lebanon War broke out right after their arrival and they had to cut their trip short.