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.

Annamie Paul Joins Hillel Ontario

Annamie Paul Joins Hillel Ontario

Last month Hillel Ontario heard from Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada. After winning the leadership race back in October of 2020, Annamie became the first Black person and first Jewish woman to lead a federal Canadian political party. Since then, she has been speaking to Canadians all across the country, spreading messages of hope and inspiration, during a time where these moments are a rarity. No matter the political orientation of the Zoom attendees of this fireside chat, everyone walked away with a few life lessons up their sleeve.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways. First, Annamie spoke about following your passion, a message that I know many students needed to hear. When I graduated from grade 12, I was constantly asked where I saw myself in five years, ten years, and sometimes even twenty years. Although I was asked with the best intentions, I’ve always felt overwhelming pressure to envision a clear career path. Annamie dispelled this myth by referencing the enjoyment associated with the process of discovering your passion rather than having a final goal in mind, and Annamie’s enthusiasm for human rights through a policy lens has shaped the course of her life. Second, Annamie spoke about the importance of speaking up in the face of injustice. Whether you consider yourself an advocate or not, Annamie highlighted the need to follow your moral compass, never remaining complicit. Following Annamie’s time as the leader of the Green Party, it is clear that she isn’t afraid to use her voice and position to shine light on racism, antisemitism, and sexism. These are two lessons I think everyone can learn from.

Annamie spoke about growing up in Toronto Centre (the riding where she will be running in the next federal election), her career as an international lawyer, and her decision to enter politics. As someone who doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional politician, Annamie referenced about the challenges that she’s faced as a Black, Jewish woman. Racism, antisemitism, and sexism were all constant throughout her leadership campaign, and her six months leading the Green Party. 

Throughout Annamie’s talk, I learned about the importance of elevating voices that have previously gone unheard. In a predominantly white space, Hillel students and staff need to work hard to ensure that Jews of Colour feel welcomed. 

After 45 minutes, the latter half of which consisted of an insightful Q&A, Annamie mentioned that she would love to be invited back to another Hillel Ontario fireside chat. For now, I’ll take Annamie’s lessons with me while looking forward to hearing about all of her accomplishments in a year from now.

  • Skylar Banks, Guelph Hillel
Collaboration Breeds Diversity and Inclusion

Collaboration Breeds Diversity and Inclusion

Collaborating with other student organizations allows us to diversify the students at our events, build coalitions, establish good rapport with other student groups and broaden the topics of the content that we deliver. 

This past month, we had the privilege of working with the Waterloo and Laurier chapters of Menstruation Redefined, which is committed to helping with the “institutional and social barriers surrounding menstruation that risk the health, well-being, and daily lives of many.” This mission resonated with us at Hillel because we understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion for all. These are values that we hold as Jews, and want to embody at Hillel. 

We joined forces to produce a fun evening of trivia and learning. The event allowed us to reach new students, educate others on Jewish practice for those who menstruate, and learn more about Menstruation Redefined’s mission. Collaborative events like this allow us to understand key issues and causes that other student-run campus groups advocate for and to build strong allyships and ensure that we propel Hillel’s values forward, such as inclusion and equity.

Jessica Bloom, HIllel Waterloo Student President
Veronica Grad, Hillel Laurier Student President

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