Jews in the News: Elizabeth Banks, Sarah Silverman and Walter Matthau

SARAH SILVERMAN's new comedy special on HBO, "Sarah Silverman: We are Miracles," premieres Saturday evening, Nov. 23 (many encore showings). The special finds Silverman, 42, on stage at a very small club, making funny observations and singing comic songs. She accompanies herself on guitar. The next evening, a new six-part comedy series, “Getting On,” starts on HBO. It follows the lives of an overworked medical staff trying to tend to patients at a rundown geriatric hospital.  ALEX BORSTEIN, 40 (“MadTV”), co-stars as Nurse Dawn, a woman who wants to excel in her job, but is sidetracked by things like her obsession to find a boyfriend.


Kennedy and Lincoln


It seems as though these two “martyr” Presidents will always be linked in many ways, even if some linkages are just coincidental.  Nov. 19, 2013 marked the 150th anniversary of Lincoln giving his Gettysburg Address. Nov. 22 is the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death.


Famous documentary maker Ken Burns (“The Civil War”) asked a number of celebrities to recite the Gettysburg Address on video and posted those videos on Learntheaddress. org<>, a new website.  53 famous person recitations are on the site, including all the living American Presidents, and a “minyan of sorts” of tribe members: CNN anchor WOLF BLITZER, 65; Civil War-era historian ERIC FONER, 70; former Congresswoman GABBIE GIFFORDS, 43; “Meet the Press” host DAVID GREGORY, 43; Lincoln scholar HAROLD HOLZER, 64; PETER J. RUBINSTEIN, 79, the Senior Rabbi at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue; JERRY SEINFELD, 59; STEVEN SPIELBERG, 66; Florida Congresswoman DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, 47; and NPR legal correspondent NINA TOTENBERG, 69.


Holzer, a major credited source for Spielberg’s film “Lincoln,” has often given a great lecture at synagogues and universities about Lincoln’s relationship to Jews. A short essay version of that lecture (“Lincoln and the Jews”) can be found on a comprehensive website called “Jewish Life in Mr. Lincoln’s City: 1861-65” (i.e. Washington, D.C.). Here is one touching excerpt about the Jewish reaction to Lincoln’s death: “At Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan the mourners’ Kaddish was recited for the first time in memory of a non-Jew, inspiring a protest from some outraged Orthodox Jews but praise from most congregants. If Lincoln could break precedent by opening up the army to Jewish chaplaincy, then synagogues could say Kaddish for their gentile champion. Even in the South, Jewish leaders acknowledged a special bond between Lincoln and the Jews and a special sorrow at his loss. It was attributable mainly to Lincoln’s acts of compassion and justice, but perhaps, also, to the fact that his religious beliefs seemed so universal.”



The whole essay can be found at this web address:




Decades ago, author Jodie Elliott Hansen started asking famous people and regular folk to send her a letter about their whereabouts when JFK was killed and their immediate reaction. A selection of those letters has just been published under the title, “November 22, 1963.”  A number of the responses came from Jewish celebs, including one from the late, great actor WALTER MATTHAU, which encapsulated, for me, the shock and despair JFK’s death provoked. Matthau wrote: “A friend of mine called with the news that President Kennedy had been shot. I turned on the TV set and just stared at it until the news came that he was dead. A friend showed up at the house and we drank 3 quarts of 100 proof vodka in the next six hours and I don’t drink.”


A photo of Matthau's original letter is on the Vanity Fair magazine website:


Matthau Letter Re JFK<


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