FROM PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER Daniel Rubin October 03, 2005 So I’m the mail room, looking for press releases and crap CDs when the mail guy hands me this book: Stars of David, Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish.
What do I look like, a lox? I ask him.
I take it, and am struck by the list of 62 American Jews on the cover that writer Abigail Pogrebin has talked to about being Jewish, and I have just one reaction.
Leonard Nimoy I know already. Aaron Brown is not so much of a stretch. Or Al Franken. But Kyra?
I open the book, and find an actually interesting interview with Dustin Hoffman, who casually advises the author over breakfast that she is not so smart ordering an omelet, when she could be having a couple egg whites, scrambled loosely, with a yolk thrown in, some salsa, onion, garlic and a little olive oil.
This I can relate to. He starts talking, about how Mike Nichols cast him as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, making the actor’s career, when everyone else was picturing a Robert Redford. He goes on about nose jobs, his first wife - a tall Irish Catholic dancer called “the bone structure,” by a Jewish relative - and then tells a long story about making Marathon Man that will serve as our sermon as Blinq prepares to go into the well for a day and consider matters of faith.
The script had Hoffman’s character shooting Nazi tormentor Laurence Olivier point-blank at the end. Hoffman couldn’t do it. Go hire someone else, he told John Schlesinger, the director, and William Goldman, the screenwriter.
“I remember Goldman saying, ‘Why can’t you do this? Are you such a Jew?’ I said ‘No, but I won’t play a Jew who cold-bloodedly kills another human being. I won’t become a Nazi to kill a Nazi. I won’t demean myself. ...”
This dilemma winds up in the film’s dialog, Olivier’s character taunting him, “You can’t do it, can you? You don’t have the guts.”
Hoffman’s character doesn’t shoot. Instead, he winds up throwing these diamonds Olivier has been chasing. They roll into a grate beyond his grasp. Hoffman is calling Essen, essen to the Nazi. Eat, eat.
“I wanted to do what felt the Jew that’s in me.” Hoffman says. “I want him to swallow those f#$%ing diamonds for all those people he tortured and he killed - “Eat these f#$%ing diamonds because that’s what it was all about to you.”
Olivier dies, and Hoffman throws his gun away.
“And that’s important to me: that I didn’t shoot him in the end. Being a Jew is not losing your humanity and not losing your soul. That’s what they were unable to do when they tried to erase the race; they tried to take the soul away. That was the plan.”
Not sure why this book fell into my hands today. There are no coincidences. Something to think on as the sun sets.
- Reviews & Praise
"...a provocative and enjoyable book for Jews and gentiles alike."
Journalist Pogrebin interviewed 61 successful Americans to elicit their thoughts on being Jewish and how - if at all - this heritage influences their lives. The profiles are engaging, intimate, brief (ranging from two to 14 pages), and frequently surprising and insightful. Interviewees include actors, directors, business tycoons, writers, politicians, journalists, designers, Supreme Court justices Ginsburg and Breyer, athletes Shawn Green and Mark Spitz, and architect Richard Meier. While Pogrebin explicitly does not draw conclusions about the state of Judaism in America, even just among the rich and famous, it is striking how rarely God is mentioned across the dozens of interviews. The subjects differ on such packed issues as Israel, intermarriage, and anti-Semitism. The personal importance of their Jewishness also varies widely. But while many are passionate about the culture and history of the Jewish people, few are particularly observant and fewer still involved with theological Judaism. In a thoughtful epilog, Pogrebin notes that this widespread lack of religiousness actually inspired her to return to synagogue and study the Torah. Altogether, this is a provocative and enjoyable book for Jews and gentiles alike. - Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Worthington Libs., OH Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
- Reviews & Praise
Consistently engaging, these 60 interviews conducted by journalist Pogrebin explore the thoughts of well-known artists, politicians and others in the public eye on the complexities of Jewish identity and the emotions they engender. The issues touched on range from the legacy of the Holocaust to the Middle East, Jewish traditions, intermarriage and much more. The conflicts are typified by Sarah Jessica Parker, who says her supportive feelings about Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians make her feel more Jewish, but she is uncertain about the religious education she will give her child. Others, like Dustin Hoffman and William Kristol, have been firmly committed to passing on Jewish rituals and history to their children. Gloria Steinem, who joyfully attends feminist seders, still remains alienated by the sexist bias of most religions. In two arresting pieces, politician Barney Frank and playwright Tony Kushner address what it’s like to be both gay and Jewish. Pogrebin says this book grew out of her efforts to clarify her own Jewish identity. But you don’t need to be on such a quest to enjoy the wide range of experiences and feelings recorded here.
- Reviews & Praise
"...a wide and interesting variety of stories about faith and the lack thereof, family memory, ritual, continuity, and the choices they have made. "
-The Jewish Week
The Jewish Week, September 9, 2005
In STARS OF DAVID: PROMINENT JEWS TALK ABOUT BEING JEWISH (Broadway), Manhattan journalist Abigail Pogrebin gets her subjects, including Natalie Portman, Steven Spielberg, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mike Nichols, Leon Wieseltier and Kenneth Cole, to open up about what Judaism means to them; the results are a wide and interesting variety of stories about faith and the lack thereof, family memory, ritual, continuity, and the choices they have made.
- Reviews & Praise