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Interfaith Celebrities: Beautiful People and Gleeful Broadway Stars

It’s Beautiful People Time

Dianna Agron
Dianna Agron at the premiere of the second season of Glee in April. Photo: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

The April 30 issue of People magazine was a double-blockbuster and a huge seller. Not only did it include the first interview with Sandra Bullock about her adopted baby, it contained this year’s list of “the world’s most beautiful people.” More than half of the Jewish people on the most beautiful list have interfaith backgrounds.

People gives the celebrities they consider really hot a full body photo in the magazine. In that category, you’ll find actresses Dianna Agron, 24, Emanuelle Chriqui, 32, Scarlett Johansson, 25 and Julianne Margulies, 42. Actor Jake Gyllenhaal, 29, got a big photo, as did singer Adam Lambert, 28.

Lambert, Gyllenhaal, and Johansson are the children of Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers. The others, above, have two Jewish parents.

People published head shot photos of actresses Zoe Kravitz, 21, Kate Hudson, 31, Lisa Edelstein, 43, Rashida Jones, 34, Jane Seymour, 59 and Barbra Streisand, 68.

Streisand and Edelstein are the children of two Jewish parents. Jones is the daughter of African-American musician Quincy Jones, who isn’t Jewish, and actress Peggy Lipton, who is Jewish. Seymour’s father was Jewish, her mother was not Jewish.

Hudson and Kravitz have more complicated backgrounds. Hudson, who has referred to herself as Jewish, and was raised celebrating some Jewish holidays, is the daughter of a non-Jewish father (singer Bill Hudson) and actress Goldie Hawn. Hawn, who was raised Jewish, is the daughter of a non-Jewish father and a Jewish mother.

Zoe Kravitz’s father, singer Lenny Kravitz, is the son of a white Jewish father and a Bahamas-born black mother, the late actress Roxie Roker. (Lenny, raised secular, has become a Christian believer in the last decade). Zoe’s mother, actress Lisa Bonet, is the daughter of a white Jewish mother and an African-American father. Bonet was raised Jewish.

On the website, all the cuties, above, were given “full body shots.” Also, Dianna Agron, a co-star of the hit Fox TV musical show, Glee, was featured in a website video which shows her doing a glamorous photo shoot while talking about “what real beauty is.”

Also worthy of note in the issue are all the beautiful people who aren’t Jewish, but have or had Jewish spouses or Jewish domestic partners including actress Naomi Watts, 41, the life partner of interfaith actor Liev Schreiber, 42, and the mother of his children andTV journalist Diane Sawyer, 61, the wife of Jewish film/TV director Mike Nichols. Other famous beauties were model Christie Brinkley, 56, the ex-wife of Jewish singer Billy Joel and the mother of their daughter, singer Alexa Joel and African-American singer/actress Diana Ross, 66, who was formerly married to Jewish businessman Robert Ellis Silberstein.

Their daughter, Tracee Ellis Ross, 37, is best known for her co-starring role in the long-running TV series Girlfriends. (Tracee Ellis Ross was born Tracee Joy Silberman. She combined her mother’s last name and her father’s middle name for her stage name).

A “View” of ScarJo

It was just announced that Scarlett Johansson and Liev Schreiber have been nominated for Tony awards for their roles in an acclaimed revival of “A View from the Bridge,” a play about a working class Brooklyn Italian Catholic family that was written by Jewish playwright Arthur Miller. Schreiber is up for a Tony for best lead actor in a play. Johansson, who plays Schreiber’s niece, is nominated for best featured actress in a play. Jewish actress Jessica Hecht, 44, who played Schreiber’s wife, is up for a Tony in the same category as Johansson.

The revival opened in January and played to packed houses. It closed on April 4th, but would still be running if the stars didn’t have other long-standing commitments.

In “View,” Johansson got her best reviews since her breakthrough film role in Lost in Translation (2003). The New York Times said: “Ms. Johansson melts into her character so thoroughly that her nimbus of celebrity disappears. Her Catherine is a girl on the cusp of womanhood, feeling her way down familiar paths that have suddenly been shrouded in unfamiliar shadows.”

I suspect that there are few things more gratifying for an actor than a rave review in the NY Times for their performance in a modern stage classic.

Gleeful Notes

Broadway musical star Idina Menzel (“Wicked”), guest stars on the Fox TV mega-hit Glee (Wednesday, May 19, at 9 PM). Menzel, 38, returns as Shelby Corcoran, a character that was introduced in a mid-April episode. Menzel’s May 19th appearance is the first of four consecutive episodes that she will appear in as a guest star.

The lead character of “Glee” is Rachel Berry, a Jewish high school student with a great singing voice, played by interfaith actress Lea Michele, 23. Shelby Corcoran is the coach of a glee club that is the main rival of Rachel’s glee club. In the April episode, it was strongly hinted that Shelby had directed a boy in her glee club to feign a romantic interest in Rachel so he can gather info that would help his glee club defeat Rachel’s club. It was also hinted that Shelby is Rachel’s biological mother. (The storyline is that Rachel was adopted by, and is being raised by an interracial, gay male couple.)

Menzel (Shelby) and Michele (Rachel) bear a striking physical resemblance to each other and fans have long been saying that Menzel would be the perfect choice to play Rachel’s mother. It is unclear what the religious background of the character Shelby Corcoran is–and whether that will become a plot issue if she turns out to be the mother of Rachel, who is Jewish.

Menzel, who is Jewish in real life, is the wife of African-American actor Taye Diggs, who isn’t Jewish.

Michele, who is the daughter of a Sephardi Jewish father and an Italian Catholic mother, recently told Seventeen magazine that when she was in high school she worked in a New Jersey bat mitzvah dress shop, cleaning and vacuuming. She did this in between her first Broadway singing engagements, including a part in 2004 revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Michele says that she was exposed to Jewish and Catholic religious traditions when she was a child. It seems like she is not an active member of either faith, now.

This Sporting Life

On April 19, first baseman Isaac “Ike” Davis, 23, made his major league debut with the New York Mets. Born and raised in Minnesota, Davis is the son of former major league pitcher Ron Davis, who isn’t Jewish. Ike’s mother, Millie, is Jewish. Ike told the New York Times that while he was raised secular, he is named after his maternal grandfather and that he did a school project about his the history of his mother’s family, including those who died in the Holocaust.

Taylor Mays, 21, a free safety with the University of Southern California and a three-time, first team All-American, has been drafted by the San Francisco ’49ers.

As previously reported in this column, Mays’ African-American father, Stafford Mays, a former NFL player, is now a Microsoft executive. Taylor’s Jewish mother, Laurie Black Mays, is a Nordstrom’s executive. Taylor Mays, who will graduate soon, was raised Jewish and he credits his preparation for his bar mitzvah with instilling him with discipline.

Mays recently said that his idol is retired ’49er safety/cornerback Ronnie Lott, who is African American and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Lott, in turn, had very nice things to say about Mays in a newspaper interview that took place just after Mays was drafted last month.

Lott has a long-standing business partnership with the his old ’49er teammates, legendary Italian American quarterback Joe Montana and (retired) offensive tackle Harris Barton, who is Jewish. Together they run HRJ Capital, a multi-billion dollar private equity firm.

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes a weekly column on Jewish celebrities, broadly defined, that appears in the Cleveland Jewish News the American Israelite of Cincinnati, the , Detroit Jewish News and the . New Jersey Jewish Standard. It also appears bi-weekly in j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California. Starting April 2012, a monthly version of his column (featuring relevant “oldies but goodies”) will appear in the following Florida newspapers: the Jewish News (Sarasota and Manatee County), the Federation Star (Collier County) and L’Chayim (Lee and Charlotte counties). The author welcomes questions and celebrity “tips,” especially about people you personally know. Write him at


Author: Nate Bloom