Jews in the News: Stan Lee, Gwyneth Paltrow and Aly Raisman

At the Movies: Opening February 16

It’s appropriate that “Black Panther,” a film based on a Marvel Comics’ character, opens in February, which is Black History month. The title character was created in 1966 by STAN LEE, now 95, and the late JACK KIRBY. Lee, who is still active, is an executive producer of the “Black Panther” film.  When Black Panther (also known as T’Challa) was created, he was the first African character to have his own comic series. The comic name was original—the first issue came out about four months before the founding of the famous Black Panther organization. Short synopsis: T’Challa is the son of the king of an isolated, but technologically advanced African country. When his father dies, he has to use all his superhuman powers to defeat evil foes that threaten the lives of his people. The film’s director is African American Ryan Coogler. He directed and wrote “Creed,” the surprisingly good “Rocky” sequel.

I think its worth noting that this film is an example of the best in cultural exchange between the Jewish community and the African American community.  Yes, there were moments of cultural exploitation, but far more often there was a fruitful relationship. This was especially in music (jazz, rock and roll). There were also good guys like Stan Lee, who early-on gave the black community a superhero. Likewise, I was struck by the fact that three important African Americans saluted NORMAN LEAR, now 95, at the recent Kennedy Center Honors. Comedian Dave Chappelle, “Black-Ish” creator Kenya Barris, and “Black-Ish” TV star Anthony Anderson took the stage to recount how Lear changed the TV landscape in the ‘70s by creating shows the that had African American stars-- and depicted African Americans in a good light (“The Jeffersons,” “Good Times,” and “Sanford and Son”). They all said that these series inspired them to go into show business.

Sounds Good

Tony award winner BEN PLATT, 24, has signed on to star in “The Politician,” a new Netflix comedy series. It’s created by Ryan Murphy. Netflix has already ordered two seasons and Murphy is in talks with GWYNETH PALTROW, 45, and BARBRA STREISAND, 75, hoping to land them as co-stars. “The Politician” is described as a comedy, blended with social commentary and music (giving Platt a chance to show off his great voice). Paltrow’s new fiancé, BRAD FALCHUK, 46, is a frequent partner of Murphy. They co-created "Glee" and "American Horror Story." The Hollywood Reporter says Falchuk is co-producing “Politician.” One cool thing about Platt: like ALY RAISMAN (see below) he frequently and comfortably talks about being Jewish.

An Olympic Addition and ‘Grandma’ Aly

A Jewish Olympic athlete I neglected to include in my last column: ADAM ROSEN, 33, is a British-American luge athlete. He was born and raised in New Rochelle, NY, the son of an American father and a British mother and has dual citizenship. He lives in New York. He competed for the UK in 2006 and 2010 in the one-man luge event, finishing 16th both times. Injuries prevented him from competing in 2014. He’s named for his maternal (Jewish) British grandfather, a WWII Royal Navy combat veteran. His paternal grandfather was a rabbi and a US Air Force chaplain.

ALY RAISMAN, 23, of course, is the great gymnast who won 3 gold medals, 2 silver medals, and a bronze medal in the last two Olympic Games. Virtually everyone in the Jewish community fell in love with Raisman when, in the finals of the floor exercise event at the 2012 Olympics, she performed her routine to the music of “Hava Nagila” and dedicated her routine to the Israeli athletes murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Olympics. It was almost like a “too-good-to-be-true” movie script when she won the gold medal in this event and the United States won the team gold medal.

A Jan. 24 profile in “The New Yorker” beautifully details how Raisman is a role model in other ways. Much of the piece describes how she’s been a forceful and articulate leader in the campaign to call to account those who turned a blind eye as Dr. Larry Nassar molested hundreds of young gymnasts, including Raisman herself. Before leading this campaign, Raisman was a U.S. Olympic team leader and a super kind mentor to younger gymnasts. In return, these “youngsters” constantly praise her to the press and many fondly call her ‘Grandma Aly’. Also “The New Yorker” reports that while ‘Grandma’ “has not officially begun training for the 2020 [Toyko] Games, she has told the press that Toyko is on her mind.”


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