Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Jews in the World of Art & Entertainment

Jew of the Week: Gal Gadot

Wonder Woman

Gal Greenstein (b. 1985) was born in Petah Tikva, Israel, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and immigrants from Poland, Austria, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. As is common in Israel, her parents Hebraized their last name, choosing Gadot, meaning “river banks”. After graduating from high school, she was spotted by a talent agent and convinced to participate in the Miss Israel beauty pageant. Gadot joined for fun, with no interest to actually win – but she did. When moving on to the Miss Universe pageant, she purposely sabotaged her chances of winning by not wearing the required dresses or putting on makeup. Upon her return, she completed her two year military service with the IDF, then enrolled in college to study law and political science. Meanwhile, her appearance at the Miss Universe pageant brought many modeling agencies to her door. A year later, Gadot was called to audition for the part of a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace. Though she didn’t get that part, she was soon given the part of Gisele in the Fast and the Furious series, going on to appear in three of the films. She starred in a number of other Hollywood and Israeli movies and TV shows. Her big break came in 2015, when she was cast as Wonder Woman in the Dawn of Justice film. She did a great deal of training for the part, and put on 17 pounds of muscle. While the movie itself received mixed reviews, Gadot’s performance was applauded, and she was signed on for two more films, including a stand-alone Wonder Woman movie. That film (described as being “75 years in the making”) was recently released, and broke records for the largest opening weekend for a film directed by, and starring, a woman. It has raked in an impressive $450 million so far. The film has received marvelous reviews – already ranked among the greatest comic book movies of all time – mainly for Gadot’s performance, described as being inspiring and “electric”. Gadot has been credited with saving the DC Universe of films. (Amazingly, she was pregnant with her second daughter while filming Wonder Woman, yet still trained around the clock and did her own stunts.) Gadot has been praised for her unrelenting pro-Israel stance, her unfazed response to ceaseless criticism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment (even her role as the UN’s Honourary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls was protested heavily), for being down-to-earth and keeping it simple (she appeared at the LA premiere in $50 flats from Aldo), and sticking to Jewish traditions over the years despite the fame and fortune. Gadot has entranced much of the world, particularly at home in Israel, where she has been called a “national treasure”, and surprisingly in China, where she has been awarded China’s “Most Popular Hollywood Actress.” Gadot will reprise her role as Wonder Woman later this year in the forthcoming Justice League film.

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Words of the Week

In youth, one learns to talk; in maturity, one learns to be silent. This is man’s problem: that he learns to talk before he learns to be silent
– Rabbi Nachman of Breslav

Gal Gadot lights Shabbat candles with her daughter and stands up for Israel

Jew of the Week: Max Azria

BCBG Max Azria 

Max Azria (Credit: David Shankbone)

Max Azria (b. 1949) was born in Tunisia to a traditional Jewish family, the youngest of six children. He grew up in France, where he was first drawn to the fashion industry. He spent eleven years working in French fashion before moving to Los Angeles and opening his first boutique, called Jess. After eight very successful years, Azria launched BCBG Max Azria in 1989. (The name comes from the French slang bon chic bon genre, “good style, good attitude”.) Known for its affordable designer fashion, the brand became extremely popular. It made headlines at New York Fashion Week in 1996, and put Azria on the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1998. That same year, he bought a French company, Hervé Léger, making history by being the first American designer to buy out a French one. Azira launched an exclusive celebrity line called Max Azria Atelier in 2004, and a youth store called BCBGeneration in 2008. Celebrities are particularly fond of his designs, and among his biggest fans are Angelina Jolie, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Halle Berry, and Beyoncé. Azria has also designed clothing for TV shows, including Friends and Seinfeld. In all, he owns twenty different brands and has nearly 600 stores around the world. Unfortunately, many of these locations will soon be closing, as BCBG filed for bankruptcy yesterday. Nonetheless, Azria has been hailed as “one of the most important and influential designers in the world”. Aside from fashion, he is the spokesperson for ‘Concept: Cure’, a charity that supports breast cancer research. His brother Serge, daughter Joyce, and wife Lubov are all successful fashion designers as well. The latter recently spoke of the large Shabbat meals that the couple hosts at their home: “Sometimes there’s only five people, sometimes a hundred.”

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Words of the Week

My relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond, ever since I became fully aware of our precarious situation among the nations of the world.
– Albert Einstein