Jews in the News: Halston Sage, Amanda Peet and Charlotte Rae

At the Movies

“Room”, a smallish-budget indie film, won the audience choice award at the recent Toronto Film Festival and critics all agree that Oscar nominations will rain down upon it. It opened a couple of weeks ago in limited release and is now gradually rolling out to theaters everywhere. The film centers on Jack, a five-year-old boy who is locked in an 11X11 foot room with his mother, called “Ma” (Brie Larson). Ma was kidnapped by a crazy guy when she was a teen, sexually abused, and forced to live in this cramped space. Nonetheless, she somehow manages to give Jack a fulfilling life. They do eventually make a daring escape and the second half of the film shows how they cope with “the real world.”  “Room” is based on a lauded (2010) novel by Irish-Canadian Emily Donoghue and many asked for the film rights. Irish director LENNY ABRHAMSON, 48, courted her for several years and he got the rights when she realized what he wrote in his first letter to her was true---other filmmakers would try and change her text and usual visual tricks. The key was to keep it simple.

Abrahamson has directed four acclaimed indie films, the most recent of which (“Frank”, 2014) was noted in this column. Back in 2014, he spoke to “The Forward” about being an Irish Jew. His grandfather, a kosher butcher, came to Ireland in the ‘30s. Although not religious, Abrahamson’s family belonged to an Orthodox shul, he went to Hebrew school, and was bar mitzvah. He said he faced little anti-Semitism growing-up—he was a curiosity to schoolmates, most of whom never met a Jew.

The director told the “Forward” that while he feels "deeply Irish"; his films have been influenced by the outsider perspective of being a Jew and by the Jewish intellectual tradition.

Just in time for Halloween comes “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”, a horror film with comedy. HALSTON SAGE, 22, has a co-starring role as a “badass cocktail waitress” who teams up with three boy scouts to save their peaceful town from a Zombie invasion.  (“Zombie” opens everywhere on Oct. 30)

Peet’s Chanukah Book

AMANDA PEET, 44 (HBO’s “Togetherness”) has penned her first book,” Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein.”  The title character is a little Jewish girl who wishes to celebrate Christmas like most friends and neighbors. It was inspired by questions Peet’s own two older children asked about Santa, etc. (she and her husband, DAVID BENIOFF, 45, have two daughters, age 8 and 5, and a boy, 10 months). She told “People”: “They felt left out, as I think most Jewish children do, and I was exploring different ways to make sense of it.”  Some of the book’s proceeds will go to “Seeds of Peace”, a non-political organization that tries to bring teenagers from conflict zones around the world together and teach them the skills of co-existence and peace making.

Peet, the daughter of a Quaker father and a Jewish mother, who did celebrate Christmas and Chanukah as a child, and once referred to herself as a “little of both,” called herself a “Jewish mother” while speaking to “People.” She told “Time” that she and Benioff, the Emmy-winning creator of “Game of Thrones,” have never celebrated Christmas. Her sister, a medical doctor, and her only sibling, also has a Jewish husband. 

The Literary Corner

Here are a couple of new books by famous tribe members that are probably worth your time: Supreme Court Justice STEPHEN BREYER, 77, penned “The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities.”  No, it’s not beach side reading—but it does explain why American lawyers and judges have to be aware of law in other countries in an increasingly intertwined world—and- CHARLOTTE RAE, 89, best known as Mrs. Garrett in the 1980s sit-com, “Facts of Life,” is out with a new memoir: “The Facts of My Life.”  While “Facts” was her most visible role, she had a long career in, frankly, higher quality productions. A talented musical comedian, she was nominated for two Tony awards in the ‘60s and she was screamingly funny as the character Sylvia Schnauser on “Car 54, Where Are You?” Her “54” husband was the late AL LEWIS, “Grandpa” on “The Munsters”.

Here's a link to a "Car 54" episode that starred Rae:

 Born Charlotte Lubotsky in Milwaukee, her mother was childhood friends with GOLDA MEIR. Rae details her battle with alcohol and her devastation when composer JOHN STRAUSS, her husband and the father of her two sons, came out as gay in 1975 (they divorced).


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