Jews in the News: Scarlett Johansson, Omar Casspi and Lorne Michaels

More Avenging

Another huge “Avengers” movie, “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” opens on May 1. Reprising their respective roles as Iron Man and Black Widow are Robert Downey, Jr., 50, and SCARLETT JOHANSSON, 30.  Downey, by the way, is getting “more Jewish” as time passes: he calls himself Jewish more often; his wife of ten years, SUSAN, 41, who he credits with his sobriety, is Jewish; and their two kids are being raised Jewish. Also, I was recently advised that the companion book to the first season of the PBS series, “Finding Your Roots,” covers Downey’s ancestry in more detail than on TV. I long knew his paternal grandfather was Jewish. The book reveals that his paternal grandma had a Jewish mother. In common parlance, he is 3/8 Jewish by ancestry.

More mysterious is this statement by the hunky British actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, 24, who plays “Quicksilver” in “Ultron” (a role he first played in “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” 2014). The actor just told the Brit paper, “The Guardian”: “I got into beards right in the middle of the hipster boom.” [He liked it recently when someone said he resembled a fashionable Hasidic Jew.] ‘That was nice because I have really curly hair and also I’m Jewish.’”  My family history expert friend says that the actor has a Jewish great grandfather and there aren’t enough sources available yet to determine if he has any more Jewish ancestry. My gut is that Taylor-Johnson is speaking ‘romantically’ about being Jewish and he almost certainly isn’t Jewish in the common or Orthodox definitions of being Jewish.

B-Ball Notes

Congrats to Israeli OMAR CASSPI, 26, for finishing the 2014-15 season strong and cementing a place on the Sacramento Kings roster next year. The small forward is now the only Jewish player in the NBA. Meanwhile, the list of Jewish owners of NBA teams has increased with the purchase of the Atlanta Hawks by an investment group led by billionaire ANTONY RESSLER, 59. He’s been married to actress JAMIE GERTZ, 49 (“Still Standing”; “The Neighbors”) since 1987 and they have three sons. They’re big givers to Jewish and general charities and belong to a Los Angeles synagogue.

The Time 100: 15% Tribe

The April 27/May 4 issue of “Time” features their annual list of the 100 Most Influential People. You can read the article on-line and there are video interviews with a few of the 100. Here are the Jewish members of the 100. I’ve added bio notes only to the less-famous.In the “Titans” category: LORNE MICHAELS, 70, the creator and producer of “SNL”; SUSAN WOJCICKI, 46, a brilliant advertising executive with Google (her ex-brother-in-law is Google co-founder SERGEY BRIN, 41), she's been CEO of Youtube since 2014. Her mother is Jewish; JANET YELLEN, 69, the Chair of the Federal Reserve System: DANNY MEYER, 57, a trained chef who has created a number of acclaimed restaurants featuring new American cuisine, including his flagship, the Union Square in New York City; In the category “Pioneers”: Dr. MARTIN BLASER, 67, an infectious disease expert who pioneered in discovering that microbes have a role in causing some forms of cancer, he is also very active in the campaign to stop the overuse of antibiotics. Blaser wrote an interesting article about a massacre of Jews during the 1300s—the Jews were blamed for the “Black Death”, in part because they were dying in lesser numbers. The lesser number, Blaser wrote, might be due to Jews clearing their homes of “rat-tempting” food for Passover; SARAH KOENIG, 46, radio journalist and creator of the acclaimed “Serial” podcast. Her husband is a Jewish Studies professor; “Artist” category: JULIANNA MARGULIES, 48, star of “The Good Wife”; AMY SCHUMER, 33. The third season of her Comedy Central program, “Inside Amy Schumer,” began on April 21; JILL SOLOWAY, 49, TV/film writer and director and creator of the acclaimed series, “Transparent,” about a Jewish transsexual; “Leader” category: Dr. TOM FRIEDEN, 55, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). His oldest brother, JEFFREY FRIEDEN, is a famous Harvard political economist and his middle brother, KEN FRIEDEN, is Chair of Interdisciplinary Judaic Studies at Syracuse University and a prolific author on Hebrew and Yiddish literature – as well as clarinetist in The Wandering Klezmorim band; BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, 65, Israeli Prime Minister; ADAM SILVER, 52, NBA commissioner. A lawyer, he has worked in many NBA related jobs since 1992; “Icon” category: RUTH BADER GINSBURG, 82, Supreme Court Justice; DIANE VON FURSTENBERG, 68, famous clothing designer; and INA GARTEN, 67, a White House budget expert who re-invented herself as a famous chef (“The Barefoot Contessa”).



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