Celebrity news from Hollywood including an interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal, and an update on Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo.Go To Pop Culture
The list of Jewish playersÂ who have ever played inÂ the NBA is short (and the list of notable ones is even shorter). The best ever is Hall-of-Famer Dolph Schayes, who was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996.
The newest Jewish talent in the NBA–and first since Dolph’s son DannyÂ last played in 1999–is Jordan Farmar, the backup point guard for the L.A.Â Lakers.Â Even more relevant for our audience, he’s from an interfaith family. His father was a non-Jewish African-American and his mother is Jewish (he was subsequently raised by his mother and his stepdad, an Israeli). Despite being a second-year player and making more than $1 million a year, he continues to live with his parents. (I’m sure his fellow players never give him guff about that.)
My 5-year-old son is really interested in holidays, especially ones that have special costumes. How do you explain St. Patrick’s Day to a Jewish boy–who lives in Boston? We passed people wearing green clothing and sparkly hats on the street yesterday, probably on their way to the famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which is the oldest celebration of Irish heritage in the United States. Being Irish is cool in Boston. But is it a Jewish holiday? Maybe!
You can be Jewish and Irish at the same time; it’s not only the stuff of jokes. (I bow to Philologos of the Jewish Forward for having published the aged but still effective Sean Ferguson joke in his column this week–great timing!) Jews have a long history as a tiny minority in Ireland. There was probably a community as early as the 1200s, and unlike the Jews of England, Ireland’s Jews never underwent expulsion. They have had a small, visible and audible presence in the modern period as political and cultural figures.
The Jewish Advocate ran an article this past week in their print edition about Carl Nelkin, recently featured in the documentary Shalom Ireland. Nelkin, a Jewish community leader and a lawyer, is also a musician who has released an album of Yiddish music played on traditional Irish instruments. Jewish-Irish cultural blending goes beyond Leopold Bloom. I now have a small list of Jewish-Irish music CDs I’m going to be forced to acquire. Research for my job here, essential, very important! Continue reading
Most people hold dear books that they read as a child. Me, I can barelyÂ recall anything I read prior to turning 15 (and those books that I do remember, like the Encyclopedia Brown and Choose Your Own Adventure series, hold no special place in my heart). So “Judy Blume” has long been just another author name to me: one of several popular children’s authors, banished to the reserve stacks of my mind’s library.
Only recently have I realized that Judy Blume has been one of the most daring authors of the last 40 years. According to a new Q&A with Moment magazine, she “holds the dubious honor of being the second-most-censored author of the past 15 years, according to the American Library Association.” HerÂ ”mostÂ frequently challenged”Â novel (according to the ALA), Forever, tells the story of a high school senior named Katherine who had premarital sex and enjoyed it. (Maybe if it weren’t banned when I were a kid, I would have a sharper memory of Blume.)
I find a lot of great stuff on The Jew and the Carrot, a blog about Jews and food, like this blurb about Natalie Portman’s new project. She’s going to star with Irrfan Khan in Mira Nair’s next movie, Kosher Vegetarian. The title alone sends me, and it’s a movie about a relationship between a Gujurati man and a Jewish woman, so we’re sure to review it here. Maybe we’ll get hits from people trying to find recipes. (If you came here looking for vegan knish recipes, just comment and I’ll hook you up.) Plus, I think Natalie Portman is awesome. Continue reading
In Friday’s post, I said Bob Dylan “grew up as a non-participating Jew.”
Leave it to my friend, the sage of Jewish celebrity trivia, Nate Bloom, to correct my error. Turns out Dylan was quite a bit more Jewishly involved than I thought, according to this email message from Bloom:
Last night, both of HBO’s buzziest shows, The Sopranos and Entourage, included interfaith relationships as part of their storylines. And both were chock full of stereotypes.
One of the plotlines on last night’s ep of The Sopranos concerns Hesch (Jerry Adler), a retired Jewish record producer who has loaned money to Tony Soprano and his late father for decades. In the new episode, Tony forgets that he owes Hesch $200,000 for gambling losses; when Hesch demurely asks for the money, Tony starts resenting one of his oldest friends, calling him “Shylock” and making cracks about his Jewish obsession with money–as opposed to Tony himself, who instead of politely asking for repayment of loans, beats you up and steals your stuff to remind you that you’re in arrears.
For the first time in the show’s storied run, we get a glimpse into Hesch’s personal life. His son, Eli, is apparently a religious Jew, and Hesch’s girlfriend is a much younger black woman. To its credit, the show treats Hesch and his girlfriend’s relationship matter-of-factly. No one even notes the racial or age difference between the two. And as much as Tony unfairly stereotypes Hesch, Hesch does the same with Tony–he says that most of the time, Italians are alright, but when you get on their bad side, they’re like animals.
Some random articles I’ve collected over the last week or two:
To pay tribute to his late father’s Jewish heritage, an astronaut from an interfaith home brought a teddy bear into space. The bear was a replica of Refugee, a teddy bear donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by Holocaust survivor Sophie Turner-Zaretsky.
Astronaut Mark Polansky, whose mother is a native Hawaiian, asked the museum for some mementoes that would simultaneously pay tribute to his father Irving, who died in 2001, and bring awareness to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The museum also gave him a photo of a child refugee from Darfur. The bear made its 5.3-million-mile journey on the Discovery mission in December, and Turner-Zaretsky, now 80 and living in New York, followed the shuttle’s progress every step of the way.
In case you didn’t realize it, an interfaith love story between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian won an Oscar for best short film on Sunday.
Called West Bank Story, the 21-minute spoof of West Side Story is focused on two competing falafel stands in the West Bank, one run by a Jewish family, one run by a Palestinian family. But the children of each families–David, a handsome Israeli soldier, and Fatima, an Arab beauty–fall in love. After each stand is burned down, the two lovers persuade each side to join hands and sing together.
Certainly not the most realistic story, but it does demonstrate the way interfaith relationships can be fraught with political complications–and the way interfaith relationships can help open people’s minds to unfamiliar cultures. For more on the making of the film, see this JTA story.
In other news, our own Ed Case will be presenting a seminar at the Interfaith Family Weekend and Conference in Philadelphia. The conference runs from Friday, March 23 to Sunday, March 25, and Case will be presenting a workshop on “Family Dynamics: Parenting in an Interfaith Home.” The weekend and conference is being presented by Faithways, the interfaith family support network of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia. Most impressively, 42 (!) synagogues in the Philadelphia area are participating in the event. For more on the conference, see http://www.jfcsphil.org/events.asp.
We put out a new issue today on Differences in Interfaith Issues Through the Life Cycle. There’s a great piece by Rosalyn Shafter about why she and her husband decided not to tell his 95-year-old mother that he converted to Judaism; a nice little article from Paula Yablonsky, a Jew-by-choice, on how a driving lesson with her daughter seemed like the perfect opportunity to say a Hebrew blessing; an interesting analysis of the stages of marital development by family and marriage therapist Wendy Weltman Palmer; a superb–albeit slightly long–profile of Jorma Kaukonen, the founding guitarist for Jefferson Airplane, who was born Jewish but didn’t have anything to do with the religion until he married a non-Jewish woman; and, just because we know what you like, an Interfaith Celebrities column with goodies about Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Ben Stiller and Scarlett Johansson.