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.

A Hillel Staff’s Perspective

A Hillel Staff’s Perspective

Students have had a very different academic year. One that they have never experienced before. There has been isolation, lack of extracurricular activities and little to no in-person contact. In a recent McMaster Hillel student executive meeting on zoom, I said “we are in the business of community so we need to think creatively about what it feels like to be part of this community. ” How does one do this in a pandemic, when campus is closed and when we don’t see each other at all? How do we know how each of us are doing? Are we alone? Are we lonely? Are we coping? Do we bring our best selves to a Zoom and then grapple alone with our worries? These are the questions that I struggle with when trying to support a community despite the challenges that exist for us. 

From the beginning, Hillel pulled out all the pandemic stops to connect with students. Shabbat in a box and delivered to you? Yes! Zoom games night? Yes! Mental health and wellness box? Sign up here! We have you covered. These programs and services were created to keep our community together while at our own homes. We are able to connect through a screen and eat dinner, not together, but knowing that there were over 70 students enjoying the same meal in the comfort of their own homes as well. And we connected face to face over Zoom before and after, while enjoying our rugelach, of course!

All of these programs are great, but the individual connections are even more paramount. A text to a student to check in, a happy birthday wish on their special day or an unfortunate condolence call for those who have lost loved ones. For me, it’s putting in the extra effort to make a student feel special and finding ways to do this. Does the student have dietary needs that we can fulfill and can we make this student feel seen in making a special box for them? Did a student forget to sign up for Shabbat but do we have an extra meal for them anyway? Can we put an extra dessert in a bag, just because we know that student had a tough week? Even though we are in Hamilton, can we make an extra effort so our Toronto or out-of-province students also feel a part of our community and send them mailings and deliveries so that they feel part of our programming? Having inclusive programming is a cornerstone of Hillel’s mandate. In a pandemic, even more so. 

I miss seeing the students. I miss hanging out in the Hillel office and chatting over a bagel and cracking jokes over the lineup at the toaster. I miss bumping into students on campus, catching up on their lives, and being part of a place where they come for comfort and support (and food!).    With all the programming and outreach we have done in the past 10 months, I hope that we can continue to maintain our virtual community. That even though we are not in person, our students know we are still here for them. While the medium may have changed, the sentiment certainly has not.

 

 

 

 


Judith Dworkin,
Director, McMaster Hillel

Hillel Ontario Welcomes University of Toronto’s Anti-Semitism Working Group

Hillel Ontario Welcomes University of Toronto’s Anti-Semitism Working Group

Hillel Ontario welcomes University of Toronto’s recent launch of a new Anti-Semitism Working Group. The Working Group will review programming, activities, processes, and practices in place at the University of Toronto’s three campuses and develop recommendations to support the University’s response to antisemitism.

“The establishment of a working group focused on antisemitism is a much-needed measure for the University of Toronto,” said Rob Nagus, Senior Director, Hillel UofT. “Too often, Jewish students who have faced antisemitism on campus have felt that their serious concerns around anti-Jewish hate were dismissed. Given the positive impact of recent anti-racism initiatives on the campus community, it is incumbent on our institutions to also address the unique challenges inherent to combating antisemitism.”

“Across the nine campuses we serve, Hillel Ontario is committed to working with all university administrations to champion the voices of Jewish students,” said Marc Newburgh, CEO, Hillel Ontario. “We look forward to supporting the work of the University of Toronto by ensuring these voices are heard and acknowledged. Doing so will help the Working Group better understand how contemporary antisemitism manifests on campus.”

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