Dror Mishani, Jeff Wilbusch and Steven Spielberg

Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.

Jewish Detective Series, Spielberg’s Family Movie, The Last Vets

“The Calling”, an 8-episode series, begins streaming on Peacock on Nov. 10. It is loosely based on “The Missing File”, a novel (2013) by Israeli DROR MISHANI, 47.  The central character of “The Calling” is NYPD detective Avraham Avraham. He is a special investigator in Crown Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood where many Hasidic Jews live.

JEFF WILBUSCH, 34, plays Avraham. He told TV Guide: “His [Avraham] calling is solving missing persons and homicide cases thorough uncanny observational abilities.” 

Wilbusch, born Iftach Wilbuschewitz, was born and raised in Israel in a Hasidic family (he has 13 siblings!). He’s best known for playing Moishe Lefkovitch, a lead character in the hit Netflix series “Unorthodox”. (The “paid part” of Peacock only costs $5 a month, with ads, or $10, w/o ads).

“The Fabelmans”, a STEVEN SPIELBERG Film that’s “sort of” about his life, will open in Los Angeles and New York theaters on Nov. 12. It will open “wide” on the 23rd.The film was directed by Spielberg and was co-written by Spielberg, 75, and TONY KUSHNER, 66.

Here's the official description: “Growing up in post-WWII era Arizona, from age seven to eighteen, a [Jewish] young man named Sammy Fabelman ['think' Spielberg] discovers a shattering family secret and explores how the power of films can help him see the truth”.

Non-Jewish actors play Sammy’s mother, father, and Sammy (respectively, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, and Gabriel LaBelle). Jewish actors with big parts include SETH ROGEN, 40, as a close family friend of the Fabelmans who Sammy calls “Uncle Benny”; JUDD HIRSCH, 87, as Sammy’s great uncle; and JEANNIE BERLIN, 71, as Sammy’s paternal grandmother.By the way, Berlin’s mother, the great ELAINE MAY, 90, is still “very much alive” in every sense.

Don’t read the following if you don’t want to know the “shattering family secret” before seeing the film You should also avoid the detailed reviews about the film. I knew this “secret” weeks ago. However, I was truly surprised when Spielberg appeared on CBS Sunday Morning on Nov. 6 and spilled the beans.  The secret in the film: while reviewing family home movies and photographs,  teenage Sammy figures out that his mother is having an affair with “Uncle” Benny.

In the CBS interview, Spielberg said that he was 16 when he (really) discovered, via home movies, etc., that his mother, LEAH, was having an affair with BERNIE ADLER, a close friend of Steven’s father, ARNOLD. The Spielbergs divorced when Steven was 19. Arnold told his children that it was his decision to end the marriage. Actually, it was Leah who wanted a divorce. In his old age, Arnold did a couple of interviews in which he explained himself. He said he took on the “bad guy” role because “Leah was fragile and I still loved her.”

Steven was angry with his father for “walking out” and they were estranged for 15 years. They completely reconciled when Arnold finally told Steven why he left and Steven (finally) told Arnold he knew as a teen that Leah was having an affair.

Arnold Spielberg (1917-2020), was a WWII combat veteran, who, Steve says, inspired him to make  the great WWII film “Saving Private Ryan.” I noticed that Veteran’s Day (Nov.11) was coming—so I was ‘inspired’ to make a list of the “still living” WWII Jewish and non-Jewish vets who became famous after the war. Surprisingly half are Jewish. Look on-line for bio details.

Jewish vets: MEL BROOKS, 96 (Army, saw combat). Comedic jack-of-all-trades; ALAN BERGMAN, 98 (Army). He wrote the lyrics for many hit songs ( “The Way We Were” is just one). His co-writer was his wife, MARILYN BERGMAN (1928-2022); SHECKY GREENE, 96 (Navy, saw combat). Very popular comedian. Greene was very spry in the most recent interview (2019) I could find. A Jewish Youtube channel (“JBS”) spoke to him. About his service, Shecky said this: “Guys on my ship asked me about the [Jewish] star around my neck. I told them: ‘It means I am the sheriff of the ship.’”; BERNARD KALB, 100 (Army). CBS international news reporter for three decades; HENRY KISSINGER, 99 (Army, saw combat). Former Sec. of State; NORMAN LEAR, 100 (Army Air Force, saw combat). Creator of many great TV sit-coms.; and NEWTON MINOW, 96 (Army, saw combat), former head of the FCC. Famously called TV a “vast wasteland”.

Non-Jews: Bob Barker, 98 (Army). Game show host; Harry Belafonte, 95 (Navy). Singer/actor. Tony Bennett, 96 (Army, saw combat). Singer. Roger Corman, 96 (Navy). Film director/producer; Norman Jewison, 96 (Canadian Navy). Director (“Fiddler on the Roof”); Dick Van Dyke, 96 (Army). Actor; and Pope Benedict XVI, 96. Born Joseph Ratzinger. His family was anti-Nazi, but he was forced into the German armed forces near the war’s end. Didn’t do anything “evil”. 


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