Jews in the News: Harvey Keitel, Tiffany Haddish and Gordon Sondland

In Theaters and Streaming

 “The Irishman,” a Martin Scorsese film, opens in limited theater release on November 1. Netflix financed this expensive film and it will begin streaming on Netflix on Nov. 27. Its received across-the-board great advance reviews and if you have a chance to see a big-screen theater showing: go!  The film is based on a posthumous memoir by Frank “The Irishman” Sheehan (Robert DeNiro). He claimed to have killed Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). HARVEY KEITEL, 80, plays Mafia chieftain Angelo Bruno. Keitel has made four films with Scorsese, including the star role in the director’s film debut, “Who's That Knocking at My Door” (1967).

The original Amazon Prime series “Modern Love” premiered last week. The 8-episode series is “inspired by” true love stories originally published in the NY Times column “Modern Love”. Each episode stands-alone and I agree with critics that some episodes are quite good while others are not very interesting. JULIA GARNER, 25, stars in episode 5. Directed by actress EMMY ROSSUM, 33, the episode is about a “sort of” May-December romance. Garner won a 2019 Emmy for best supporting actress in a TV drama (“Ozark”).

“My Black Mitzvah”

Comedian and actress TIFFANY HADDISH, 39, was long a stand-up comedian before becoming famous via a great performance in the 2017 film comedy “Girl’s Trip.” In 2018, she got a co-starring role on “The Last O.G.”, a TBS series that was just renewed for a third season. The same year, she became the first African-American woman to host “Saturday Night Live”. Her “SNL” gig earned her an Emmy for best guest performance in a comedy series. On October 6, she began hosting “Kids Say the Darndest Things”, a comedic talk show on ABC.

Haddish’s late father was an Eritrean Jew, who was deported when she was 3. She was a teenager when she learned that he was Jewish and she got to know him know him as an adult. She told “USA Today” that she recently went to Eritrea to bury her father and now feels “more connected to her Jewish heritage.” She added that she is studying Hebrew and plans to have a bat mitzvah in which she reads from the Torah. Plans are to have the ceremony coincide with the premiere of “Black Mitzvah,” an upcoming Netflix special about her spiritual journey (no streaming date set yet).

Its worth noting, as I once did before, that Haddish’s rough childhood (deported father; mentally ill mother) changed dramatically for the better when, at age 17, she attended the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp. It’s a free summer program for young people. It teaches them how to do stand-up comedy.  The camp is a project of Laugh Factory Club founder and owner JAMIE MASADA, 65, an Iran-born Jew. He also puts on free High Holiday services at his nightclub.

Oy Vey Notes

I figure you are wondering about LEV PARNAS, 47, and IGOR FRUMAN, 47ish, the Ukraine-born associates of Rudy Giuliani who are charged with using foreign funds to influence American elections. Yes, as widely reported, they are Jewish and they were heavily involved in Jewish community organizations. I had a gut feeling when they were arrested that they were Jewish. However, I had no such “Jewdar” about GORDON SONDLAND, 62, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. He is, of course, a central figure in the Ukraine “quid pro quo” impeachment inquiry.

Sondland’s parents were German Jews who were just teens when they married in Nazi Germany. His mother, pregnant with Gordon’s older sister, was allowed to go to Russia just before war broke-out because her father was Russian. His father was smuggled out of Nazi Germany, went to North Africa, and joined the British army (where he translated German radio messages). His parents finally met up in Seattle after the war. Gordon was born in Washington State and, over time, became very wealthy as a real-estate developer and boutique hotel owner.  While he has expressed his support for Israel in twitter messages, it doesn’t appear that he’s a practicing Jew or that he has been active in supporting Jewish and Israel-connected organizations or charities.  The “Los Angeles Times” reports that he told a Jewish friend in 2012 that he wanted to be an ambassador, preferably to a German-speaking country, because that would “square the circle of being the son of Holocaust survivors.” Well, he gave the Trump inaugural committee a cool million and got his current post. Wonder if he thinks it was a good deal, now, or, to quote the title of a book by “never Trump” Republican Rick Wilson, “Everything that Trump Touches Dies.”


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