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.

Stronger Together!

Stronger Together!

Over this past Family Day Weekend, I spent a lot of time reflecting both about the challenges we face, but also about the incredible strength and resiliency of this community. Jewish students are often at the forefront of hate and discrimination on campus and online, but we are at our most powerful – and most effective – when we work together as one.

With that in mind, I want to provide several important advocacy updates.

First, I am excited to share that Hillel Ontario has begun convening meetings to coordinate advocacy initiatives amongst Jewish campus organizations across the country. The time has come for Hillel Ontario to lead the way in encouraging cooperation to accomplish the goals we collectively share. Joining us in these monthly discussions are Hillel Montreal, Hillel BC, Hillel Ottawa, CJPAC, Hasbara Fellowships and StandWithUs. We appreciate their willingness to engage with us in these important conversations.

Second, I want to update you on the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) matter that galvanized much community discussion last week. In addition to endorsing a motion to divest from companies doing business in Israel, the union misrepresented the recently released report of the Antisemitism Working Group and its approach to what does or does not constitute antisemitism. Hillel views these type of divestment motions as part of a wider issue of antisemitism on campus, and we have made that point clearly and consistently to university leadership and members of the Working Group for the better part of the past year.

Late Friday, Working Group members released an important statement, which both criticized the rhetoric of union leaders, and vindicated our belief that hate speech directed at Israel, Israelis or Jews based on actions (real or imagined) of the Israeli government is antisemitism. This is an important moment; one that underscores why our approach to these issues, and the allies we foster across campus are so critical. While we may not be able to stop every divestment motion from passing, we can – and we will continue to – have our voices heard by university leadership to ensure antisemitism remains on the margins. This is precisely what happened last week at the UofT.

Jewish students deserve to study, live and socialize in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. Hillel will continue to condemn antisemitism, defend Israel and our right to self-determination, and build essential relationships on campus to secure the well-being of the students we so proudly serve.

And, we will do so in concert with our allies; because we believe we are stronger together.

Sincerely,

Jay Solomon
Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer

Nature vs. Nurture, and Nate Deserves Our Anger

Nature vs. Nurture, and Nate Deserves Our Anger

Weekly D’var: Toldot 5782 by Scott Goldstein

[Warning: Ted Lasso show spoiler] I just finished watching the second season of Ted Lasso, and I cannot get the image of the finale out of my head. Haven’t seen it yet? That’s ok, I’ll recap part of this week’s Torah portion as you go catch up and then tie it in at the end for when you get back.

When not detailing the intricate politics of well-digging and water rights, this week’s Torah portion takes some time to highlight our favourite biblical twins – Jacob and Esav (a.k.a. Esau). Some may even refer to this as the first twin study on “Nature vs. Nurture” (shoutout to my psychology peeps) ever recorded. We are presented with brothers that were raised in the same environment but turned out to be polar opposites. I’ll let you read the riveting stories of birthright transactions and elaborate deceptions on your own, but the narrative we are presented with is clear: Jacob is good, and Esav is bad. Here’s the problem I had with this narrative: If Esav was raised in a good environment, but still did bad things, then is the Torah telling us that our destiny is sealed by nature?

I just finished watching Ted Lasso, and I cannot help but think about how loveable Nate (played by Nick Mohammed) is a perfect example of what I think our Torah portion is trying to tell us. Ted Lasso (played masterfully by Jason Sudeikis) created a nurturing environment where Nate could grow from invisible kit manager to assistant coach that everyone loves. Despite all that, it comes down to the decisions Nate made to allow jealousy to influence his actions, leading him to leave Richmond FC and betray his teammates by joining West Ham United.

I think the story we read in the Torah is reminding us that both nature and nurture are really important (just as science does), but our decisions, ultimately, are our own. Whether it’s Esav going down in history as the ultimate example of bad decision-making or Nate likely being the reason we see Ted cry next season, the lesson is clear… be like Jacob because we can make good decisions no matter the circumstances.

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