Jews in the News: Josh Gad, Marielle Heller and Daniel Goldman

At the Movies: Opening Nov. 22

 “Dark Waters” and “Frankie” open in “select theaters” on Nov. 22. Check local listings for theaters near you.  "Dark Waters” is based on the true story of Robert Billot (played by Mark Ruffalo), a corporate defense lawyer who switched sides and took on Dupont for releasing toxic chemicals that resulted in several deaths. VICTOR GARBER, 70, and MARE WINNINGHAM, 60, have large supporting roles. The film was directed TODD HAYNES, 58 (“Carol”, “Far from Heaven”). Haynes’ mother was Jewish and he identifies as Jewish.

 Opening everywhere on the 22nd are “Frozen 2” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. “Frozen 2” is a sequel to “Frozen,” the animated musical mega-hit.  Really, who cares about the plot? All fans really need to know is that the whole original (voice) cast returns and they sing a lot. IDINA MENZEL, 48, returns as star character Elsa, and JOSH GAD, 38, returns as Olaf, a major character.

 “Neighborhood” is about Fred Rogers, the late beloved children’s program host. Tom Hanks, often referred to as the nicest man in showbiz, plays Rogers, a truly wonderful and caring man. Rogers’ story is told through the eyes of a journalist (Matthew Rhys) who is assigned to write a magazine profile of Rogers.

Fred Rogers lived in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and that is where his TV shows were made. Squirrel Hill is also the site of the Tree of Life synagogue, which was attacked in October, 2018. The neighborhood has always had a large Jewish population and Rogers, an ordained minister, was on great terms with his Jewish neighbors.

“Beautiful” was filmed in Pittsburgh, just before the temple shooting. The film was directed by MARIELLE HELLER, 40.  A few weeks after the shooting, Heller told a podcaster: “It was very weird…to get to know a city so well, be so in love with the city, and feel like it was our new home and then leave and have this horrible tragedy happen…what got me so much about it was knowing how much I love that City and then to see that disease kind of make its way there. My family is Jewish. I obviously feel connected…It’s upsetting for every single person in the world but it felt particularly personal.”

Heller’s previous films include “Diary of a Teenage Girl” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”  After Heller was signed as “Neighborhood” director, the producers told her they dreamed of signing Tom Hanks. Well, turns out she knew Hanks, he liked her work, and after one brief meeting, he signed on.

 Daniel Goldman’s Somewhat Surprising Background

 DANIEL GOLDMAN, 43, is the counsel to the Democratic majority on the House Intelligence Committee and, no doubt, you have already seen him question impeachment witnesses. I knew him slightly as a former MSNBC legal analyst and then, just before the hearings, I heard other lawyers praise him as a great cross-examiner with a strong track record as a former asst. U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

 I didn’t know until recently that he was a member of the Levi Strauss family. Levi had no children, and he left the company to the four sons of his sister, FANNY STERN. One son, SIGMUND, is the great-great grandfather of Daniel. Sigmund’s daughter, ELISE STERN, married (1920) WALTER HAAS, Sr.. When they wed, the Levis company was ailing. Haas, Sr., whose family owned a company now known as “Smart and Final”, turned Levis into a great national company.

Daniel’s grandparents, RICHARD N. and RHODA HAAS GOLDMAN, were famous philanthropists. The fund they established has given away over $620M, including the annual Goldman prize, often called the Nobel of environmental work.

The Goldmans contributed more than $31.5 million to the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation and more than $134 million to Jewish organizations in the United States. They also support environmental projects in Israel. In 2002, the Goldmans helped establish Jerusalem’s Goldman Promenade, a park built on the Government Hill Ridge overlooking the ancient city. It draws thousands of visitors each year. Daniel’s father, RICHARD W. GOLDMAN, a Harvard law school grad, and a one-time federal prosecutor, died of cancer in 1989, age 42.

Daniel’s wife, CORINNE LEVY GOLDMAN, 40ish, an attorney, is a Yeshiva University grad and Univ. of Pennsylvania law school grad. They have five children. Ms. Goldman serves on the board of their Manhattan synagogue and the synagogue website notes that three of the Goldman children are in the synagogue’s pre-school. She also helps administer a charitable foundation that the couple created.


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