Jews in the News: Leonard Nimoy, Scarlett Johansson and Michael Bloomberg

On Star Trek’s Tribe Members

No doubt, you heard that LEONARD NIMOY died last week, age 83.  His longer obits noted his many Jewish ties, including: raised in an Orthodox home, he re-embraced religious Judaism about 25 years ago; he celebrated the feminine aspect of G-d in a book (“Shekhina”) that was made-up of photos he took; and, of course, there’s the Vulcan split-finger salute. The salute was invented by Nimoy and was based on the kohanic/rabbinic priestly blessing hand-sign.

Divine intervention, however, was probably not the reason why so many Jewish actors were main cast members or guest stars on the original “Star Trek.”  My theory is this: big-money movies and TV shows hire classically good looking (in a WASP way) actors for lead parts—that requirement doesn’t include most Jewish actors, who are usually relegated to character parts. But Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry didn’t have much of a budget, so he hired good character actors for leads and it worked-out (Yes, WILLIAM SHATNER, 83, had leading man looks—but his career was not hot when Trek began). Besides Shatner and Nimoy, the six-person main cast included tribe member WALTER KOENIG, now 78, as Chekov. Notable Jewish guest stars included the late MARK LENARD as Mr. Spock’s father; the late ARLENE MARTEL as T’Pring, Spock’s fiancé; the late ROGER C. CARMEL as “Harry Mudd” in two episodes; and JOAN COLLINS, now 83. She starred in an episode (“City on the Edge of Forever”), which is ranked among the series’ best.

By the way, Collins, whose father was Jewish, was recently made a British “Dame” (equivalent of knighthood) and will co-star as the Queen of England’s mum in a new TV series starting this summer. Joan played a Jewish queen once: in the 1960 film, “Esther and the King.” Even though Purim just ended, don’t get all ‘Purim-y’ and rent it---it’s as bad as month-old hamantaschen.

At the Movies: Opening March 6

The comedy “Unfinished Business” stars Vince Vaughn as a small business owner who travels to Europe to close an important business deal, but the trip goes awry in every possible way. DAVE FRANCO, 29, co-stars as a Vaughn associate. Dave, the younger brother of actor JAMES FRANCO, recently said “I’m proud to be Jewish”. He and ALLISON BRIE, 32 (“Community”), have been dating for two years. Like Dave, she’s the child of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father and she, too, identifies as Jewish. I will note that there is a rat’s nest of web sites that delight in proclaiming a two-celeb couple together or broken-up and Franco-Brie is just the cheese they feast on. Three months ago, they were supposedly kaput because Brie wasn’t with Franco on an Australian trip. But, as of late January, an actual just-taken photo of Franco giving her flowers appeared on another site and my reasonable surmise is that they are still okay.   

Classy Scarlett

SCARLETT JOHANSSON, 30, is always a “class act”---whether it is articulately defending her decision to remain a celebrity endorser of the Israeli company, Soda Stream, in the face of boycott-Israel fanatics, or defending John Travolta from a claim that he was weirdly touching her on the Oscars’ red carpet. A still-frame of one moment of them greeting each other on the red carpet was extracted from the much longer encounter to make it seem like Travolta was weird and posted around the Internet. Johansson told the AP: "There is nothing strange, creepy or inappropriate about John Travolta…That still photo does not reflect what preceded and followed if you see the moment live. Yet another way we are misguided, misinformed and sensationalized by the 24-hour news cycle. I haven't seen John in some years and it is always a pleasure to be greeted by him."   (Travolta and Johansson co-starred in the quite good 2004 film, “A Love Song for Bobby Long.” You should rent that one. )

Giving Jews

Every year, the publication Chronicle of Philanthropy issues a top ten list of the U.S. biggest charitable donors. Three of the ten are Jewish: The number preceding their name is their ranking on the list---(9) SERGEY BRIN, 41, Google co-founder, $383 million; (7) MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, 73, former NYC mayor and Bloomberg News founder, $462 million; (4) JAN KOUM, 39, co-creator/co-owner of What’s App, a mobile messaging service that was acquired by Facebook in March, 2014 for 21.8 billion dollars. An immigrant from the Ukraine, he grew-up in quite poor in California. He gave away $556 million.

Here's a Cool Link

Not much to do with Jews (except so many hit songs were written by tribe members). But here's a site that a friend told me about and everyone I have sent the link to has loved. You enter your birthday (or the birthday of anyone) and you find out what was the #1 hit song the day you were born. The results page usually includes not just the title and performer--but an embedded video of the song being performed. #1 Hit Song The Day You Were Born


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