Did you know that these Nine Celebrities are actually Jewish?

by | Jul 18, 2017 | Fun, Hillel Ontario | 0 comments

There are many Jewish celebrities who embrace their Judaism and publicly talk about it. Beyond the obvious examples of Adam Sandler and his Hannukah song or Natalie Portman, who’s Israeli, there are many celebrities you may not know are actually Jewish. Who are you most surprised by?

 

Lena Dunham

Most people who think about Lena Dunham think Social Justice Warrior. There are many incidences we could list, where the “Girls” star was fighting for equal rights. However, that’s not what this blog post focuses on. A rather less known fact about the producer and actress is that Dunham is in fact Jewish. With a Jewish mother and a Protestant father, Lena Dunham stated in an interview that she “feel[s] very culturally Jewish”. (http://jewishjournal.com/mobile_20111212/103436/)

 

Gwyneth Paltrow

Blond, tall, blue eyes … and Jewish? We couldn’t believe it ourselves! But after conducting some research we found that the beautiful actress grew up celebrating Jewish and Christian holidays. With a Jewish father from an Ashkenazi background, her brother had a traditional Bar Mitzvah when he turned 13. You’re not convinced yet? There is more! Paltrow’s great-great-grandfather was a rabbi in Poland, and like she said herself, “17 generations of rabbis — you see, I really am a Jewish princess!” (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2006/jan/27/1)

 

Daniel Radcliffe

Every Jewish Harry Potter fan knows that it is hard to find a Jew at Hogwarts. Celebrating Christmas in all the Harry Potter movies, Daniel Radcliffe is actually Jewish! Who would have thought? With a South African Jewish mom, there is no doubt that this wizard is really a Jew, or like he says it,  “I’m an atheist, but I’m very proud of being Jewish.” (https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/jul/04/daniel-radcliffe-harry-potter-jk-rowling)

 

Marilyn Monroe

A 1950’s Hollywood icon, Marilyn reminds us of many things, but not of Judaism. How ignorant of us! The actress converted to Judaism when she got married to Arthur Miller in 1956. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last, but her religion did. Even though Monroe and Miller got a divorce in 1961 she decided to stay Jewish.

 

Elizabeth Taylor

Let’s discuss legendary ladies for a little longer. Similar to Marilyn Monroe, Taylor decided to convert to Judaism in 1959. The reason for her conversion, however, was a different one. Elizabeth Taylor married Michael Todd in 1957. Sadly, Todd died in a plane crash only one year later. Shortly afterwards, Taylor started the process of converting. Some believe that she decided to convert with the hope that it would help her get over her husband’s death. After converting, Elizabeth Taylor became an active supporter of Zionist and Jewish causes.

 

Paula Abdul

Born in California, the multi-talented entertainer was first discovered by the Jacksons as a choreographer. From there, she broadened her scope to singing, songwriting, dancing, acting, and many other talents. You probably know Paula Abdul as a judge on the X-Factor. What you might not know about her is that she is Jewish! You don’t believe us? We couldn’t believe it either. Abdul’s father was born into the Syrian-Jewish community, while her mother grew up to Ashkenazi parents in Manitoba, Canada.

 

Michael Douglas

The winner of two Academy Awards is most known for his performance in Wall Street. What you might not know about him is that he is also a member of the tribe. Growing up to a Jewish father and a Christian mother, Douglas was not raised religiously at all. However, in 2015, Douglas officially affiliated with Reform Judaism. This was reinforced by the trip Douglas and his family made to Jerusalem in order to celebrate his son’s Bar Mitzvah.

 

Beck

Are you surprised to see Beck on this list? We totally understand! Beck is mostly known for his activities in the Scientology community. However, a less known fact is that Beck’s childhood was very much influenced by Judaism. As he stated in an interview in 2008, “[He] was raised celebrating Jewish holidays, and […] considers [himself] Jewish.” (www.spin.com/2014/07/reverberation-beck-sessions-cover-story-september-2008/)

 

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney is known for her great fashion designs, and for her legendary father. But Paul McCartney isn’t Jewish you say? And you’re right to say so! But her less famous mother is. Linda McCartney was born to a Russian Jewish father and a German Jewish mother. Paul and Linda McCartney did not raise their daughter as a Jew but that doesn’t change the fact that the designer is a born Jew.

Something New

Something New

The fall post-holiday period is always a good time for launching new things. To the extent we’re not completely exhausted, our five-day work weeks are back (instead of five days of work crammed into three-day weeks), and we’re able to get into something of a rhythm and build momentum in moving toward specific goals.

Adding to the sense of newness and adventure, the third post-holidays Torah portion of Lekh Lekha, which was read this past Shabbat, begins with Abraham receiving divine instructions to leave his home and begin a journey to a new land.  Commentators highlight the uncertainty inherent in the command’s wording: instead of being directed to a specific place, Abraham, at least initially, is told to go “to the land that I will show you,” a vague and undisclosed destination. While he is promised blessings galore for his obedience, setting out requires an element of faith and quite a bit of trust as he leaves his home land and father’s house for somewhere new.

While it’s certainly several orders of magnitude smaller than the journey Abraham undertook, Hillel Ontario is trying something new this week: we’re introducing a new section to our regular newsletters and will be including a d’var Torah to showcase our students’ and staff’s skills and present our readers with a bit of Jewish learning. We hope you’ll find these commentaries inspiring and meaningful and that they’ll provide a glimpse of the Hillel Ontario community that spans our nine campuses.

A Message from Hillel Ontario’s Student Presidents

A Message from Hillel Ontario’s Student Presidents

Dear students, parents, supporters, and other members of the Ontario Jewish community,

We are writing to you as the Hillel presidents representing nine universities across Ontario. 

We are often asked what it’s like to be a Jewish student on campus. And, in previous years, we would have taken a more upbeat approach to answering that question. The truth is that things have changed over the past 5 months.

Prior to this spring’s war in Israel, we had never experienced the level of vitriol and backlash that we did recently. We were caught off guard. Many Jewish students lost friendships and severed connections that had been created over many years. Our mental health was stretched to the limit; we have felt burnt out, isolated and anxious.  Even now, with autumn upon us, we are still feeling the exhausting effects of a summer spent advocating for the well-being of our fellow Jewish students. 

Walking back onto campus this week, it was difficult to see some students obviously (and understandably) anxious – both because of the pandemic, and because of the antisemitism Jewish students have experienced over the past several months. At the same time, we also feel more empowered than ever to proclaim pride in our Jewish identity, bolstered by the tremendous support we have felt from across the community.  

Whether you are a first year student, a parent, a sibling, an alum, or simply a member of the community concerned about what seems like an endless barrage of attacks aimed at Jewish students on campus, we want to assure you that as Hillel presidents, we are deeply committed to our roles and responsibilities. We hear your concerns. And, we are proud to serve the current and future Jewish students we support.  

We are working to build relationships with student governments, clubs, interfaith groups, faculty, and administrators on each of our campuses. We continue to empower our peers to learn, to educate, and to advocate for the issues close to our hearts. And, we continue to provide a safe and welcoming community for Jewish students, both on and off campus. 

We also seek to increase resources and staff available to our students so that no one feels unsupported or ill-prepared. We want Jewish students to feel like they can be their entire selves without having to hide a Magen David or avoid conversations about Judaism, Zionism or Israel. 

As we move into a new Jewish year and a new school year, we wish we could say with more certainty exactly what is to come in the next few months. However, it would be naive to do so. Instead, we would like to take this opportunity to commit to you that we will continue to have challenging, but necessary, dialogue with allies across campus. We will continue to support our peers when they feel uncomfortable. And, we will continue to ask for help when we need it. 

Time and time again, our collective history has proven that in a proud, empowered, and united community there is strength, and that from one another we can draw resilience. 

L’shana Haba on quieter, more inclusive campuses. 

Ariel Oren, Guelph Hillel
Evan Kanter, Hillel Student Leader Representative, Hillel UofT
Nathaniel Katz, Queen’s Hillel
Shira Miller, Hillel Laurier
Danielle Lebowitz, Hillel Waterloo
Hannah Silverman, McMaster Hillel
Jordan Goldenberg, Hillel Ryerson
Isabel Borisov, Western Hillel
Nicole Bodenstein, York Hillel

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