Jews in the News: Andy Jassy, Michael Cudlitz and Azazel Jacobs

Gal Gadot isn’t the Only Jewish “Top Amazon” and Much More

On Feb. 2, it was announced that Jeff Bezos would step down as CEO of Amazon sometime in the third quarter of 2021. He would “transition” into the role of executive chairman. His replacement as CEO will be ANDY JASSY, 53. (Bezos will retain a lot of oversight power in his new role.)

Jassy is currently the head of Amazon’s highly successful cloud computing division (“AWS”). A Harvard business school grad, he joined Amazon in 1997 and worked in several positions before he and Bezos decided to launch AWS in 2005. Jassy has been the head of the division since then.  He has a reputation as being even-tempered and low-key, like Bezos. His even-temper will be tested in the public arena. Big tech, including Amazon, is facing a storm of varied criticisms.

Jassy grew-up in a wealthy New York City suburb. His father, EVERETT, now 83, is a Harvard Law School grad and was a partner in a major law firm. Everett’s father, also an attorney, was born in Russia. Andy Jassy’s mother, MARGERY, 82, is also Jewish and she grew up near Detroit. Andy Jassy married (1997) his wife, ELANA CAPLAN JASSY, 53, in a ceremony presided over a rabbi who is a cousin of Elana. The couple has two children. At the time of their marriage, Elana was a Los Angeles fashion designer and her father was a partner in the same firm as Andy’s father. He was also then head of the Jewish Television Network, a production company.

“Clarice”, a new CBS series, starts on Feb. 11 at 9PM. It follows FBI agent Clarice Sterling a year after (1993) the events depicted in the film "The Silence of the Lambs". MICHAEL CUDLITZ, 56, a big burly guy whose father is Jewish, plays a main cast character. He was a series regular in “Band of Brothers” and “Southland”.

“Clarice” was created by ALEX KURTZMAN, 47, and JENNY LUMET, 53. Kurtzman credits include co-writing “Star Trek” (2009) and “Star Trek: Into the Darkness” (2013).  Lumet is the daughter of the late, great director SIDNEY LUMET (“Dog Day Afternoon” and “12 Angry Men”). Lena Horne was her maternal grandmother. Jenny is best known for writing "Rachel Getting Married" (2008), a critically acclaimed film.  Her husband, ALEX WEINSTEIN, is an artist whom Lumet once referred to as “a nice Jewish boy”.

If you’ve ever seen “The Silence of the Lambs”, you certainly remember Dr. Chilton, the prison psychiatrist whom serial killer Hannibal Lector detests. Chilton was played by ANTHONY HEALD, now 76. Chilton was by far Heald’s biggest film role. He is mostly a busy stage actor, appearing on Broadway and at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Around 2007, Heald converted to Judaism. He and his pretty secular Jewish wife were looking for “more”, and guided by an Oregon rabbi, they became and remain serious practicing Jews. (In a 2017 interview, he compared his intense studying of the text of a play to his Torah study).

Heald co-stars in “Alone”, a small budget thriller/horror movie that was released to a few theaters last September. Most films like this just appeal to genre fans and get terrible reviews. But “Alone” is an exception. Reviews have been outstanding (95% on Rotten Tomatoes) and Hulu recently began streaming it. The film was directed by JOHN HYAMS, 51. His father, PETER HYAMS, 77, directed several hits, including “Capricorn One” and “Timecop”.

“Alone” is a three-character movie. Basic plot: Jessica, a young widow, is travelling on the highway when she notices someone is following her. The stalker eventually kidnaps her and hides her in a cabin in the woods. Heald plays Robert, a hunter who tries to help Jessica.

“French Exit”, a new film, opens in whatever theaters are open on Feb. 12 and will begin streaming on demand the same day or shortly thereafter. Michelle Pfeiffer plays an aging American socialite living on the little that is left of her inheritance. She moves to a small Paris apartment with her son and cat. The film played the New York Film Festival and major reviews are already in. Pfeiffer’s performance has been widely praised and she just received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. She will probably get an Oscar nomination, too. Major reviewers were about evenly split on the film. Likewise, critics were divided on how well AZAZEL JACOBS, 49, directed the film. I always root for him—because his father, avant-garde filmmaker KEN JACOBS, 87, was my college cinema studies professor.


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