Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News
The Focus This Week is Three Talented Jewish Women
The week of May 19-25 is a rare week: it doesn’t have a movie or series premiere with a strong Jewish connection. This gives me the chance to focus on three women that, coincidentally, have similar Jewish family backgrounds. All three have recent projects that I haven’t mentioned before.
If you use Roku to stream channels, as I do, you know that Roku is offering an ever-increasing number of exclusive-to-Roku series. I think their best “original” to-date is “Slip”. This 7-episode series stars ZOE LISTER-JONES, 40. She also created the series, wrote it, and directed every episode. The series began streaming, in its entirety, on April 21.
As the series begins, Mae (Lister-Jones) is an exhibit curator for a major museum. She’s long been married to a struggling novelist. He’s a nice guy, but Mae is tired being the “bread-winner” and resents his decreasing interest in physical intimacy. Without intending to, she “hooks-up”, once, with a smart, very good-looking guy, and the next morning—she finds herself in a parallel universe in which she is married to this guy!
Subsequent episodes show Mae “slipping” out of one life into another----a lesbian mother, a rich man’s wife, etc. She wants to get back to her husband, but doesn’t know how.
Sounds odd, I know. But this is serious, insightful stuff, with some comedic moments here-and-there. While Mae isn’t identified as Jewish, Lister-Jones gets in a few lines that are Jewish-related.
Most people know Lister-Jones, if they know her at all, from her role on the CBS series “Life in Pieces”. But I know Lister-Jones as someone who often flies her Jewish flag—which makes sense---her mother, video artist ARDELE LISTER, was the head of her Conservative synagogue; her family kept kosher; and her father, BILL JONES, a prominent photographer, converted to Judaism.
In “Arranged” (2007), a charming indie film, Lister-Jones played an Orthodox public-school teacher who finds her perfect Orthodox husband with the help of her Muslim schoolteacher friend.
Lister-Jones made her directorial debut with “Band Aid” (2017), a quite good dramedy film that she also co-starred-in and wrote. It’s about a Jewish married couple who find a way to stop arguing and repair their marriage.
Sadly, Lister-Jones and her filmmaker husband, DARYL WEIN, 38, split-up in 2021 after 9 years of marriage.
“Working Moms”, a “dramedy” ran on the CBC (Canada) from 2017-2023. All 85 episodes are now streaming on Netflix. It stars CATHERINE REITMAN, 42, as Kate Foster, a talented ad executive who is also a working mom. The show focuses on Kate and three of her friends, who are also working moms. Reitman created the series, often wrote episodes, and sometimes directed her show.
PHILIP STERNBERG, 42, Reitman’s real-life husband, plays Kate’s husband, Nathan. Sternberg has a long track record as a top Canadian TV producer. He and Catherine have been married for 23 years and have two children. Nice to note: in a recent interview, Reitman called her husband “my best friend”.
The series isn’t a huge hit, but it found a quite big audience on Netflix. The main criticism is that the series focuses too much on upper-class women.
Reitman is the daughter of IVAN REITMAN (1946-2022), a Canadian Jew who directed a slew of huge hits, including “Ghostbusters” and “Kindergarten Cop”. Catherine’s brother, JASON REITMAN, 45, is a top film director whose hits include “Juno”. The siblings’ mother, GENEVIEVE ROBERT, is a French Canadian who converted to Judaism.
DIANNA AGRON, 37, became well known when she played Quinn Fabray, a star character on the hit series “Glee” (2007-2014). She chose to appear in smallish indie films after “Glee” and began a singing career. Since 2020, she has amped up her film career again.
As noted in a recent "Rolling Stone" interview (May 7), this “amp-up” finds Agron playing identifiable Jewish characters for the first time. In “Shiva Baby” (2020) she played what seemed to be the only major non-Jewish character—but then it comes out that “maybe” her character’s father is Jewish.
In the recently released Hulu horror film, “Clock”, Agron plays a young Jewish woman who reluctantly agrees to be a patient in a medical program that’s supposed to increase her fertility. The Holocaust features in the plot.
Agron’s Jewish father was a Hyatt hotel manager. Her mother, MARY, is a convert to Judaism. Agron went to Hebrew school and was a bat mitzvah. The take-away from the Rolling Stone piece is that being Jewish is central to Agron’s sense-of-self.