Jews in the News: Maxim Chmerkovskiy, Jeffrey Zaslow and Joe Jacobi

Dancing with the Stars

The new season of “Dancing with the Stars” begins on Monday, Sept. 12 (8PM) on ABC. The 12 celebrity contestants this season do not, so far as I know, include any tribe members. However, probably the biggest celeb of the 12, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, is already a minor Youtube dancing sensation. Back in 2010, following a Texas State House Chanukah candle lighting ceremony, he danced the hora with a group of Orthodox rabbis.  (google Rick Perry and Hora and you’ll find the clip.)

Returning this season are pro dancers MAXIM and VALENTIN CHMERKOVSKIY, who are brothers. Maxim, 36, who was born in Odessa is the son of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother. He identifies as Jewish. He’s danced in most of the seasons (two per year) since the show began in 2005.  In 2014, he finished first for the first time, dancing with Olympic silver medal winning ice dancer Meryl Davis. He then took off for two full years. He’ll be dancing with model Amber Rose.  Meanwhile, Valentin, 30, who also finished first once, is teamed with Olympic gold-winning gymnast Lauren Hernandez.  Also, look for pro SASHA FARBER, 33, who is teamed with actress Terra Jole. Farber was promoted from the show’s dance troupe to “main cast” pro in 2013. In 2010, he toured with Maxim in a dance-oriented stage show that played Arizona and he then told the Arizona Jewish Post: “We left [Belarus, for Australia, in 1991 when I was 7] because of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and also because we had to keep it quiet that we were Jewish.” Farber added that around the time he was studying for his bar mitzvah, he went to a wedding and saw a great dancer and decided that’s what he wanted to do. Plus, he said, “It’s a good way to meet girls.”

At the Movies: Hero Pilot “Sully” Sullenberger

Opening Friday, Sept. 9, is “Sully,” a dramatic re-creation of the amazing landing of a passenger jet in the Hudson River in 2009, following its disablement by a bird strike. The plane’s captain, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberg (played by Tom Hanks) was universally praised for his skill. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the screenplay is based on Sullenberger’s 2009 memoir, “Highest Duty,” which was co-written by JEFFERY ZASLOW, who died in an auto accident, age 53, in 2012. Zaslow, a top Wall St. Journal columnist, co-wrote several other memoirs, including the huge best-seller, “The Last Lecture.” His widow, SHERRY MARGOLIS, 60, a Detroit-area TV news anchor, praised him as a “mensch” at his funeral and joined others in noting how often he helped the local Jewish community. Capt. Sullenberger was present at the Zaslow funeral—and he’s a mensch, too.

In 2009, “60 Minutes” was there when “Sully” and his wife, Lorrie, met with some of the passengers about a month after “the miracle on the Hudson.”  Lorrie, with a tear in her eye, read her favorite letter from a member of the public, and Sully said it was his favorite, too. It reads:  “Big Apple hero. Yesterday I received a voicemail from my 84-year-old father who lives on the 30th floor of a building with river views here in Manhattan. Had you not been so skilled, my father or others like him in their sky-high buildings could have perished along with your passengers had not you landed in the river as you had. As a Holocaust survivor my father taught me that to save a life is to save a world as you never know what the person you've saved nor his or her prodigy will go on to contribute to the peace and healing of the world. Bless you dear Captain Sullenberger.” (MAX ADLER, 30, who played the closeted gay football player, Dave Karofsky, on “Glee”, has a supporting part as a passenger).

Two More Mensches

You only have to google the name JOE JACOBI to find many stories, last week, about how he visited an Atlanta school to publicly thank a 7-year-old African-American girl, Chloe Smith, who found Jacobi’s Olympic gold medal in a park rubbish bin while walking with her father. It was stolen from Jacobi’s car last June and he never thought he’d see it again. Jacobi, now 46, won the gold in 1992 in the two-man canoe/slalom event. Smith’s father, a sports collector, tracked Jacobi down. At Chloe’s school, Jacobi said: “It’s the idea of choosing to do the right thing, and so Chloe, I thank you for good character and doing the right thing. And to her parents and her family, I thank you guys.”


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