Jews in the news: Deborah Feldman, Gal Gadot and Josh Gad

For Your Home Entertainment
“Unorthodox” is a four part mini-series that begins streaming on Netflix on March 26. It is based on DEBORAH FELDMAN’s bestselling 2012 autobiography, “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots.” Feldman, a wife and mother, was a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In the series, Esther “Esty” Shapiro (played by Israeli actress SHIRA HAAS, 24) flees Brooklyn for Berlin. She leaves behind her children and her husband (Israeli actor AMIT RAHAV). Most advance reviews praise the series. It tells a multi-dimensional story that does not vilify the Hasidic community (and shows some of Esther’s joyous moments in that community). Esther, in a word, wants more independence.
“Baghdad Central” is a six-part series that begins streaming in its entirety on Hulu on Mar. 27. The central character is an Iraqi Muslim police detective who is forced into a risky collaboration with American occupying forces when his older daughter goes missing and his younger daughter requires kidney dialysis. COREY STOLL, 44, co-stars as US military police officer who may be corrupt. Advance reviews are very good.
Maybe a Different Song?
Last Wednesday, March 18th, saw the release of a three-minute Instagram video of the John Lennon classic “Imagine” sung by a montage of 25 celebrities.  (simply ‘Google’ “Gadot and Imagine” and you’ll find the video). The celebs sang a line or two of “Imagine” in succession. The Jewish celebs in the video were GAL “Wonder Woman” GADOT, 34, SARAH SILVERMAN, 49, ZOE KRAVITZ, 31, and NATALIE PORTMAN, 38 (Also singing was Lynda Carter, who played “Wonder Woman” on TV in the ‘70s. She isn’t Jewish, but her children were raised in their father’s Jewish faith). The video was the creation of Gadot. Her intent, she said, was to cheer up those in quarantine. She introduces the video by saying “This virus has infected the entire world. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. We’re all in this together.”  She explained that the video was inspired by a clip she saw on-line of an Italian man playing the song from his balcony for the benefit of his neighbors.
The video was viewed over 7 million times by Friday, the 20th. However, there was a strong backlash all over the Internet. Boiled down, the criticism was mostly in this vein: a group of celebrities, “suffering” in their mansions, are telling us that everything will be okay. It would be much better, critics said, if the celebs were doing something that tangibly helped those who need help now.
This criticism is way too harsh. If this was a “normal” disaster, I have no doubt that celebs, like Gadot and Portman, would be coming together to do “all-star” fundraisers. But that’s impossible given the risk of spreading the virus. However, if I was putting together a montage like Gadot did, I would pick another song (and maybe include some “regular” people). “Imagine” has been played way too much in the last forty years. It no longer has the power to move us much. I am not sure what now-existing song would work—but it should be like the WWII era hit songs that offered the hope of normalcy in the future---like “We'll Meet Again” (“Don't know where/Don't know when/But I know we'll meet again some sunny day/Keep smiling through/Just like you always do/'Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away”).
I think that actor JOSH GAD, 39, who voices the character Olaf in the hit “Frozen” movies, has a better idea. He is reading bedtime stories for children. Videos of him reading the stories are posted, each evening, on his Twitter page (‘Google’ Josh Gad and Twitter).
A Few Words on Stuart Whitman
Actor STUART WHITMAN died on March 16, age 92. A good looking guy, he co-starred as an “action guy” in a lot of films, including several Westerns. Years ago, TCM, the old movies channel, ran (in the same month) two movies, both made in 1960, that co-starred Whitman:  “Murder, Inc.” and “The Story of Ruth”. I then thought to myself: why is Stuart Whitman, who I thought (then) was a WASP, playing a Jewish musician hounded by Murder, Inc., the (Jewish) gangster mob—and playing BOAZ, the (Jewish) biblical figure who marries RUTH? I think he got the roles because he was Jewish---but nothing in his persona would make you think he was Jewish. He’s also a footnote to “The Commacheros” (1961), the “most Jewish” John Wayne movie (it co-starred Whitman; the late INA BALIN as the love interest, and NEHEMIAH PERSOFF, now 100 [!], as the bad guy. MICHAEL CURTIZ directed).


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