Tag Archives: Israelis

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: Pnina Tamano-Shata

Pnina Tamano-Shata (b. 1981) was born in Wuzaba, Ethiopia, the granddaughter of a renowned Ethiopian rabbi. When she was three years old, her family fled Ethiopia due to civil war and famine. Israeli Hercules planes rescued her family in Sudan and brought them to Israel in a secret mission known as Operation Moses, which brought 8000 Ethiopian Jews back to their ancestral home. (Another 14,000 were brought in 1991 through Operation Solomon.) Tamano-Shata and her family spent several years in an immigrant facility before settling in Petah Tikva. From age 11, she worked to support her struggling family, and in high school was placed in the gifted program. After completing her military service, Tamano-Shata enrolled in law school. She was the president of the school’s Ethiopian Student Union, and was a noted social justice activist. After graduating, she became a reporter for Israel’s Channel 1. Five years later, she was covering a protest by Ethiopians in Israel and instead of reporting with the bias that her bosses asked for, joined the protesters herself. This inspired her to quit the media and enter politics. She joined the Yesh Atid party. When the party won a surprising 19 seats in the 2013 elections, Tamano-Shata became a Member of Knesset. This made her the first Ethiopian woman to hold a Knesset seat. She worked tirelessly for equality and affordable housing in Israel. Although she lost her seat in the 2015 elections, Tamano-Shata is still a vocal activist, role model, and an important leader for the 150,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel.

Words of the Week

The truly righteous do not complain about evil, but rather add justice; they do not complain about heresy, but rather add faith; they do not complain about ignorance, but rather add wisdom.
Rabbi Avraham Itzhak Kook