Jews in the News: Jason Stuart, Shia LaBeouf and Mayim Bialik

Good yunteff and all the jazz.

At the Movies

“Birth of a Nation” is very different from the 1915 film of the same name that celebrated the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. It’s the story of Nat Turner, a (real-life) Virginia slave who led a famous slave revolt in 1831. The film got good reviews at Sundance. JASON STUART, 57, an openly gay actor and stand-up comedian, plays a nasty slave master. Stuart told “Out” magazine that things are changing regarding casting gay actors: “Look at someone like me: a gay liberal Jew playing a white, heterosexual Christian plantation owner."

The handsome Armie Hammer, 30, co-stars as Samuel Turner, the son of Nat Turner’s slave master. Samuel was about the same age as Nat. He took a liking to Nat, let him be educated and protected him. While Hammer once referred to himself as “half Jewish”, he has but one Jewish great-grandparent: the famous industrialist ARMAND HAMMER. (Opens Friday, Oct. 7)

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that SHIA LABEOUF, 30, seems to be on the comeback trail. He’s acknowledged his drinking problem, gone to AA, and has been sober for a year—and I noted that his latest film, “American Honey,” got great film festival reviews. Well, it opens in many theaters on Oct. 7. LaBeouf plays the leader of a group of young people who barnstorm the Midwest selling magazine subscriptions.

The Angriest Man Returns

There isn’t a better time than now for LEWIS BLACK to do a political stand-up special on Comedy Central. He’s been doing his new show, “Black to the Future,” for the last month or so on Broadway. It’s scheduled to close soon and Black will then tour the country. Meanwhile, on Sept. 27, a live performance was filmed on Broadway and it will air on Comedy Central on Friday, Oct. 7 at 10PM (many encores).  Black, 68, mostly takes on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Mayim Bialik: New Stuff/High Holidays

MAYIM BIALIK, 40, the co-star of “Big Bang Theory”, is not only in a hit show—she’s a Jewish role model par excellence. She’s a well-educated woman (a doctorate in neuroscience) and showbiz star who is also a religious Jew. She shares her faith and other personal things via a popular blog.

I don’t write about her that often because what I just wrote, I sense, is pretty familiar to my readers from past items in this column and other coverage in the Jewish and general media. However, in a just published long interview with the (London) Jewish Chronicle, I learned some new things about Bialik. The “most timely” of her comments concern the High Holidays.

First, Bialik is a shofar blower!  She says: "I was a trumpet player in my youth [Bialik also plays bass guitar and the piano] and the rabbi at the synagogue I grew up in had seen me play the trumpet on a talk show after [the movie] ‘Beaches’ came out when I was 13 and he said 'Have you ever blown the shofar?' I've done it in just about every community that I've lived in since."

The Chronicle writes that this year, like other recent years, Bialik will be celebrating the High Holidays with her ex-husband, her children, and her mother. Bialik says: “"We have a home cooked meal [on Rosh Hashanah]. My ex and I do the cooking, my mum chips in and we just like to be together. We like leftovers after synagogue the next day! We try and do tashlich if we can but it's kind of hard; there were years when we weren't driving and there were years when we were driving just to go to synagogue, so we try and keep it as simple as we can."

Her ex-husband, a former Mormon, converted to Judaism and the Chronicle notes that he still considers himself Jewish.

A sadder, but interesting note came when Bialik discussed the death of her father last year. She told the Chronicle that her Judaism is “inescapable” and it gave her great strength when her father died on the last day of Pesach. It was a lingering, hard death and, understandably, Bialik questioned G-d’s will. Her Judaism, she said, “absolutely” helped her deal with the loss. She says: "I don't think that I could have processed my father's death without the structure - everything was so critical to me moving through a complicated grief. I took tremendous comfort in saying kaddish; I did it for a year."


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