Jews in the News: Ryan Braun, Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow

Major League Hebrews: 2018 Edition

The following Jewish players were on a major league roster as of opening day, 2018: RICHARD BLEIER, 30, Baltimore, relief pitcher. He appeared in 23 games with the Yankees in 2016 and pitched well, but was in the minors last year; RYAN BRAUN, 34, Milwaukee, outfielder/first base. This six-time All-Star and National League MVP (2011) had a decent 2017 season, during which he hit his 300th home run; ALEX BREGMAN, 24, Houston, shortstop. Bregman had a very good 2017 season, hitting especially well in the second half. He turned in a stellar performance in the World Series, which the Astros won; IAN KINSLER, 35, Los Angeles Angels, second base. Kinsler, a four-time All-Star, had a weak bat in 2017 and was traded from Detroit to the Angels in the off-season; JOC PEDERSON, 25, Los Angeles Dodgers, outfielder. Always a streak hitter, Pederson saved his major league career with a great performance in the playoffs and World Series; KEVIN PILLAR, 29, outfielder, Toronto. Pillar had a very good hitting season in 2017, with a career high 16 home runs; DANNY VALENCIA, 33, Baltimore, first base/outfield. The much-traveled Valencia had an okay 2017 season with Seattle. A free agent, he was signed by Baltimore and earned a spot with the club in spring training; ZACH WEISS, 25, Cincinnati, relief pitcher. This rookie came back from surgery on his elbow late in 2016.

All these players have at least one Jewish parent and identify as Jewish or secular. I know the following players had a bar mitzvah: Bregman, Pillar, Valencia, and Weiss. The others did not, with the exception of Bleier, whom I am unsure about. Pederson did play for Israel in the World Baseball Classic. One source says that Weiss has blown the Rosh Hashana shofar at his family’s synagogue since age 8(!).

Bleirer, a Florida native, grew-up in Plantation and lives in Ft. Lauderdale. He went to Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. Valencia was born in Miami and grew-up in Boca Raton. 

At the Movies

“Blockers,” which opens on April 6, is a light, but quite raunchy comedy. Basic plot: when three parents stumble upon their daughters’ pact to lose their virginity at prom, they launch a covert one-night operation to stop the teens from sealing the deal. IKE BARINOLTZ, 41, plays the father of Sam, one of the three “pact” daughters. The daughters are played by three relative unknowns, including GIDEON ADLON, 20, as Sam. This is Adlon’s first big part. She is the daughter of actress/writer PAMELA ADLON, 51.  Pamela had three daughters, including Gideon, with her ex-husband, director Percy Adlon, and raised them mostly alone. She turned her experience as a very busy single mother into the hit FX series “Better Things.” Gideon looks a lot like Pamela. Also, look for GINA GERSHON, 55, in a particularly raunchy sub-plot. 

SCARLETT JOHANSSON, 33, has reportedly signed to play a non-Jewish German woman who is hiding a Jewish girl in her home. Things turn dicey when her son, a Hitler Youth member, discovers her secret. The film is directed by New Zealander TAIKA WAITITI, 42. Waititi, the son of a Jewish mother and a Maori (native Polynesian) father, has the “juice” now to make any film he wants. First, he made several films in New Zealand (comedies and dramas) that had one thing in common: they made money and were critical hits. So, he was tapped to direct “Thor Raganorok” (2017), a big-budget Hollywood flick. It was a monster box-office and critical hit. His name is pronounced: TIE-CO WA-TEE-TEE. Say that name aloud a few times—sort of chant it, Hawaiian style. It’s among the coolest names a Jewish guy has ever had.

Little Holiday Humor

You should really check out the new, now streaming HBO documentary about the late playwright ARTHUR MILLER. However, since its Passover, I will relate one anecdote appropriately NOT in the film. The late TONY RANDALL loved to tell this story on talk shows, while admitting it was probably made-up. When MARILYN MONROE, who was famously married to Miller, was first served matzo ball soup, she replied: “What do they do with the other parts of the matzo?” In a related Pesach vein, I recently stumbled on a 2006 Jay Leno/Robin Williams interview. They discussed the dangers of giving your kid an unusual name. Williams provided this example, “GWYNETH PALTROW named her baby Moses, which means every few years he has to go to Israel and say, “’Okay everybody, out of the water.’”  (Paltrow really has a son named MOSES, now 12, and boy do I miss Robin Williams.)


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