Jews in the News: Jonathan Tucker, Elliott Gould and Joan Rivers

More New TV Season News

“Kingdom” starts on Direct TV, the satellite TV service, on Wednesday, Oct. 8 (9PM). Frank Grillo plays a gym owner and former top mixed martial arts fighter. His two sons are also fighters. Playing one son is JONATHAN TUCKER, 32 (whose real-life mother is Jewish). Starting on Sunday, the 5th, is “Mulaney,” (Fox; 9PM). Stand-up comic John Mulaney, plays a comedian (John) who lives in New York.  ZACK PERLMAN, 26, plays John’s friend, Andre, and his often annoying neighbor, Oscar, is played by ELLIOTT GOULD, 76.


The fourth season of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” began on CNN last Sunday, September 28. I think it may be the best show on CNN and, in the last year, it won the prestigious Peabody Award for its genre-bending combination of insightful looks into the culture, politics, and cuisine of the countries Bourdain visits. The episode first airing on Sunday, Oct. 5, is the only one set in America this season—the subject is the Bronx section of New York City. BOURDAIN, 58, a former top chef and restaurant owner, surprised many, including myself, when he disclosed in September, 2013 (while doing a series episode based in Jerusalem) that his mother, a former New York Times staff editor, is Jewish. He added that his father’s family was historically Catholic and that he, himself, was raised in no religion and isn’t religious.

Joan’s Hardest Yom Kippur---A Reminder to be Kind

Recently, a Jewish Journal of Los Angeles columnist wrote about an interview she did with the late JOAN RIVERS. Always candid, Rivers told the columnist that when she first announced that she wanted to become an actress, her father, a doctor, actually threatened to have her committed to a mental institution. She left home and the next Yom Kippur found her completely estranged from her family, broke, and forced to attend a little Bronx synagogue which would let her in without a ticket (adding that she would always be grateful to this shul’s congregants).


Intrigued about this story, I checked and discovered that Rivers gave a much fuller account of this Yom Kippur in a 1998 essay she authored entitled “Please Forgive Me”.  Yom Kippur, she wrote, came only a couple of weeks after she left home. She described the Bronx Orthodox shul, and the service, and then turned inward, recalling her emotions as she sat in her seat, “I had been taught since childhood that your family is your secure foundation and to be away from my family on Yom Kippur was the sin of sins…I was flayed with guilt..[I] was a brat…What if my parents died this year?...Yom Kippur was the one precious night of the year when we all came hurrying home, got dressed up, and looked wonderful and all four of us walked to the temple together.It was our one night of solidarity…To me, personally, in my head, God that night was deciding what I deserved that [next] year. I prayed and prayed ‘Please forgive me.’”


This essay surprised me in several ways. First, I was struck by Rivers’ sincere religious faith. Then, I thought about the fact that Rivers berated herself, and not her parents, for causing the break that found her alone on Yom Kippur. Whoever was at most fault, Rivers wisely recognized that the fight had, at least temporarily, broken Jewish family bonds that were important to her throughout her life. I also wondered if her father, attending later Yom Kippur services, asked for forgiveness for belittling the ambition of a daughter whose talent ultimately could not be denied.


I also thought about the Bronx shul that took in a penniless young woman on Yom Kippur and how Rivers returned that kindness. Right after her death, ABC News ran a special about Rivers’ life and touched on her extraordinary generosity. First, they ran a clip from a documentary about her in which she is seen signing a raft of checks---to charities and to pay the private school fees of staff members. Then they showed her winning (2009) a round of “Celebrity Apprentice.” She gave her $500,000 winnings to “God’s Love We Deliver,” a non-sectarian organization which delivers thousands of meals to the seriously ill in New York City and Northern New Jersey. The “GLWD” website notes that she was a supporter for 25 years, an active hands-on volunteer, and a board member. Her “Celebrity” winnings helped “GLWD” stay afloat during the Great Recession.

You can read the full text of the essay here: Joan's Yom Kippur Essay


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