Jews in the News: Ginnifer Goodwin, Liev Schreiber and Zach Braff

Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Goodwin was active in BBYO and took her bat mitzvah seriously enough that she delayed it until her 15th birthday, when she felt she had really studied enough for the ceremony.


On May 17thth, she stood before the congregation of her hometown synagogue, with her family in the audience, and sadly noted that she had long fallen away from Judaism. She said, “For 10 years, there was nothing. No ritual. No tradition. No community. I was this new alone thing, a nomad in the world. I was homeless.” However, as the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports, “In recent months, Goodwin has been reclaiming old patches of ritual, tradition and community, and receiving new ones. She wants to live in a Jewish home with a mezuza in every doorway. She wants to raise her ‘completely hypothetical future children’ to be Jewish. She hosted a Hanukkah party. She’s made brisket and matzo ball soup. She realized that a lot of her friends are Jewish. ‘We’ve been shul shopping’ [in Los Angeles]..’I am a Jew,’ she said, beaming on the bimah. ‘It took me 10 years to come back around to that self-definition. I was a Jew by birth, and now I’m a Jew by choice.’”


Post-script: Just after I finished this item, I discovered that Goodwin’s whole speech was posted on Youtube by the rabbi who mentored her and still leads her Memphis congregation. In short, Goodwin’s speech is a far more profound and moving exploration of Judaism and Jewish identity than the newspaper account lead me to believe. The rabbi’s preface to her speech and his memories of the young Goodwin are part of the video. Book a little time: the whole video is 25 minutes and its worth watching it all. Go to and enter this much of the title and you’ll find it: Ginny Goodwin Speaks at Temple Israel.



Super Jews on the Web and Elsewhere


A couple of years ago, JESSIE KAHNWEILER, 28, a self-described “nice Jewish girl,” was a struggling Los Angeles filmmaker. Then, as she puts it, “I was blessed with a fellowship endowing me with funds to make a film about anything I wanted: Anything, of course, as long as it was Jewish.”  The fellowship resulted in her web series, “Dude Where’s My Chutzpah?” The premise is that her bubbe has died and left her quite bit of money, under one condition: that she must “live Jewish” for a year.  At first, she just flounders in cultural asides, like buying hummus. But then she gets a mentor in the form of a guy dressed in a “Super Jew” costume who teaches her real tenets of Judaism. There is a lot of humor in the series. Simply “google” the title and you’ll easily find the videos.


Forbes Magazine list of the world’s most powerful entertainers came out last week. Here are the tribe members on the list, with their ranking: (3) STEVEN SPIELBERG; (40) ADAM SANDLER; (50) producer JERRY BRUCKHEIMER; (60) JERRY SEINFELD; (61) producer/director MICHAEL BAY; (71) GWYNETH PALTROW; and (89) MILA KUNIS


Just Started and Upcoming


LIEV SCHREIBER, 45, has the title role in the new Showtime series “Ray Donovan” (started Sunday, June 30. Many encore showings). Donovan is the best professional “fixer” in Los Angeles: when a celebrity or business mogul gets in trouble, he makes the trouble “go away.” Donovan’s life is shaken when his father, played by “friend-of-the-tribe” Jon Voight, is unexpectedly released from prison.


 ZACH BRAFF, 38, has signed on to star in a Broadway musical adaptation of WOODY ALLEN’s 1994 film, “Bullets over Broadway.” The show is scheduled to open sometime in 2014 and Allen, 78, is helping with the stage adaptation. Braff will play a young playwright in 1920s New York who, to get his work produced, is forced to cast a mobster’s no-talent girlfriend.  While Braff has extensively worked in the theater, this show will mark his Broadway debut. Braff has never been in a stage musical, but fans of his former TV show, “Scrubs,” know that his “Scrubs” character and other characters often broke into comic songs.


On James Gandolfini


Like everyone else, I was shocked when the very talented James Gandolfini died on June 19, age 51. He was born and raised in a New Jersey Italian Catholic family but he had Jewish connections. Here’s one: He was introduced to acting when his college friend, Tony-winning actor ROGER BART, 50, finally convinced Gandolfini (who was running a bar) to accompany him to a NYC acting class.  Gandolfini later recalled that he was “scared to death” at the first class.




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