Heres an age-old, yet continuous phenomenon that continues to plague Jews in Israel and throughout the world. I just listened to the news about two Hollywood celebrities who are now doing a film project together. Scarlett Johanssen and Natalie Portman, two beautiful women and divas on the stage and screen. Portman, born in Jerusalem and raised in Long Island, New York grew up with a strong Jewish identification. A graduate of the Jewish “Day School” system (not sure which one, yet this is what I heard from more than one reliable source), Portman hit stardom at the age of 13 when she landed the leading role in the Broadway adaption of “Anne Frank, A Diary of a Young Girl”. From then on, she blossomed into a Queen of Stage and Screen.
Golden Globe nominee and Native New Yorker Scarlett Johannsen began her career in the Off-Broadway production of “Sophistry” with Ethan Hawke. A daughter of a Danish father and Jewish mother, Johanssen identifies as being a Jew and wears the title of “Jewess” proudly. During the many years of assimilation and intermarriage, many of her counterparts who were the product of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father, tend to lose the identification and consider their Jewish identity as irrelevant. Yet, it is evident that many still consider themselves Jews.
Now, back to the phenomenon. For many decades, Jews around the world have been intrigued and fascinated by other Jews who have achieved celebrity status. Though many other ethnic groups may share this nostalgic feeling, it seems to me that Jews have the monopoly here. Adam Sandler’s famous Hanukkah songs with a list of tens of Jewish celebrities are proof of the pudding (or should I say “borscht”). People roared with laughter the first time his song was played on the radio and since its during and before Hanukkah, it always coincides with Christmas (which happens to be the birthday of another Jewish man, yet I won’t go there).
So there you have it. Is it pride? Is it intrigue or is it a little bit of both? Fact is, the intrigue and nostalgia behind the statement, “She’s Jewish, y’know”… seems to be more unique in Jewish circles than in others.