Jews in the News: Rachel Lefevre, Larry Charles and Sarah Silverman

Noteworthy TV and Streaming Programs

Starting on Feb. 15 on Fox (9PM) is the legal drama “Proven Innocent.” It stars RACHEL LEFEVRE, 39, as Madeline Scott, a fierce attorney who leads a team to exonerate the wrongly convicted. The back story is that Scott was the defendant in a high-profile case, was wrongly convicted, spent 10 years in jail, and eventually was proved innocent. In court, she frequently jousts with the prosecutor (Kelsey Grammer) who put her in jail.

Leferve, a Montreal native, is the daughter of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father.  While she’s secular, she identifies as Jewish. Her stepfather is a Canadian rabbi.

Starting on Feb.15, on Netflix, is “Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy”, a four-part series. LARRY CHARLES, 62, wrote or co-wrote many “Seinfeld” scripts.  He became somewhat famous when he directed the hit films “Borat” and “Bruno,” both starring SACHA BARON COHEN, now 47. In his Netflix series, he travels around the world and finds comedy in unlikely places: Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia. By the way, while researching this item, I found out that Charles grew up in “Trump Village”. It is a seven-building Brooklyn apartment complex, near Coney Island, named after Fred Trump, Donald’s father (Fred built it in 1963). It would be amusing if Charles went into the “wilds of Brooklyn” and interviewed current residents about how they feel about living in “Trump Village”. Certainly fodder for a lot of jokes.

“Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Got to Be Me,” is the title of a new “American Masters” series program about the late SAMMY DAVIS, Jr. It will premiere on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 9PM (PBS). His multi-faceted life and career will be covered, including his conversion to Judaism. “American Masters”, in my opinion, is the best biographical series on TV or on any other outlet.

Ancestry: Silverman and Meyers

The Feb. 19 (Tuesday, 8PM) episode of the PBS ancestry show, “Finding Your Roots,” entitled “No Laughing Matter,” traces some of the family lines of three comedians: Tig Notaro, SARAH SILVERMAN, 48, and Seth Meyers, 45. I just had an opportunity to view this program in advance.

As I have noted before, Meyers had just one Jewish grandparent (his paternal grandpa), so until I saw the program, I wasn’t sure whether his Jewish ancestry would be covered at all. I am happy to say that it was covered. Also covered was the English ancestry of another grandparent.

Silverman’s “basic” ancestry story is not that exciting because it is so similar to the family history of so many Jews whose grandparents came from Eastern Europe. But it is made much more personal when Silverman learns about the hard road her maternal grandmother trod as a youngster fleeing to America. She agrees with host Henry Louis Gates that those tough early years may explain why her grandmother had such a difficult personality.

Silverman is eloquent when she talks about what it was like to be the only Jewish kid (besides her sister) in the small New Hampshire town where she grew-up.

Meyers, by coincidence, also grew-up in New Hampshire. About eight years ago, comedian Josh Meyers, 46, Seth’s brother, did an interview in which he seemed to say he was Jewish. Anyone would take his remarks that way. I followed Josh’s lead and referred to Seth as Jewish in a column I wrote. His publicity people contacted me via e-mail and said, “Seth is not Jewish.” This is the only time that has happened to me.

Since then, Seth has got much more famous and is asked more often about his ethnic/religious background. He replies this way: he isn’t Jewish, but understands why people assume that—his “look”, his last name, and because he’s a comedian.

Well, in the last eight years, life has intervened and Seth is now as Jewish as a non-Jew can be. He married his wife, attorney ALEXI ASHE, in a Jewish ceremony and they are raising their two young sons in their mother’s faith. In 2017, he talked about how his older son, ASHE, celebrated Hanukah.

CNN anchor JAKE TAPPER, clearly assuming Meyers is Jewish, wished Meyers a “happy Hanukah” on-air last December and Seth just returned the greeting. I strongly believe that before his marriage he would have said something like, “Thanks, but I am not Jewish.”  

Now, via “Roots,” Seth knows that his Jewish great-grandfather came to America with nothing, settled in Pittsburgh, and did amazingly well.


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