Jews in the News: Josh Gad, Carrie Brownstein and Paul Simon

The third season of the critically-acclaimed IFC cable comedy show, "Portlandia," begins on Friday, Jan. 4, at 10 PM. It co-stars Fred Arminsen ("SNL") and CARRIE BROWNSTEIN, 38. They appear in short comedic sketches that usually satirize the politically correct, "new age" culture of Portland, Oregon. Brownstein is best known as one of the three members of the "all-girl" rock band, Sleater-Kinney, which was very popular in the ‘90s. The band went on "hiatus" in 2006, but Brownstein still plays, now and again, with band drummer JANET WEISS, 47. Unlike Weiss, Brownstein never talks about being Jewish—but on-line obits show her mother’s parents were Jewish; and her father is almost certainly Jewish, too.

The Times They Were A’ Changin’

Opening in many cities, throughout January, is "Not Fade Away," the first feature film by Italian-American David Chase, the creator of the gangster series, "The Sopranos." "Not Fade" opened in a handful of theaters on Dec. 21, 2012 to mostly good reviews. If it doesn’t open near you, make a note to look for it "on-demand" or on DVD.

Like "The Sopranos," Chase’s film is set in New Jersey. However, it is set in 1964 and not in the present day. James Gandolfini, who starred as the main gangster in "The Sopranos," co-stars in this movie as Pat, the head of a normal (not gangster), Italian-American blue collar family. The central character is Doug, Pat’s teenage son. Inspired by the Rolling Stones singing "Not Fade Away" on TV, Doug forms a rock band with two buddies.

Playing Doug is JOHN MAGARO, 29, who has done many TV guest shots and has had a few lead film parts. Magaro is the son of two teachers. His father is Italian Catholic; his mother, Jewish. He was raised Jewish. Magaro looks much like a young BOB DYLAN in the film. This is appropriate, since the film explores how rock music (made by innovators like Dylan) was a big part of a cultural revolution that rocked mid-‘60s society and often separated fathers and sons, like Doug and Pat.

Two Tragedies, One Singer

On Dec. 19, PAUL SIMON, 71, sung his famous song, "Sounds of Silence," at the church funeral of Victoria Soto, 27, a first grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who died trying to protect her students from rifle fire during the Newtown, CT massacre. The NY Daily News reports that he was at the funeral because his sister-in-law was friends with Soto and that he played "Sounds of Silence" because he was informed that it was Soto’s favorite tune.

"Sounds of Silence" first appeared on Simon and Garfunkel’s debut album, "Wednesday Morning, 3 AM." The album, which was released in October, 1964, included a lot less famous song, "He Was My Brother." It was dedicated to, and is about ANREW GOODMAN, who became a friend of Simon when they went to Queens College in New York City. In early June 1964, Goodman, 20, traveled south to participate in "Freedom Summer," a coordinated effort by civil rights groups to register long disenfranchised black voters. In Mississippi, he met up with MICHAEL SCHWERNER, 24, another New York-raised civil rights activist, and James Chaney, 21, an African American from Mississippi. On June 21, while investigating the burning of a black church, the three were arrested on a traffic violation and briefly held in jail. The deputy sheriff who detained them called a Klan leader and, not long after, the three were waylaid on a back road and murdered by Klan members. Their murder helped galvanize public support for President Johnson’s effort to pass the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, which had long been stalled in Congress. No doubt, President Obama hopes that the Newtown events will, likewise, induce Congress to pass gun safety legislation.


Nate Bloom writes a weekly column on Jewish celebrities, broadly defined, that appears in the Atlanta Jewish Times, the Cleveland Jewish News, the American Israelite of Cincinnati, the Detroit Jewish News, and the New Jersey Jewish Standard. It also appears bi-weekly in j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California. Most of the items in Bloom’s weekly newspaper column differ from the items in his bi-weekly column on interfaith celebrities for If you wish to contact Nate Bloom, e-mail him at  .  The author welcomes questions and celebrity “tips,” especially about people you personally know.




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