Tag Archives: American Jews

Jew of the Week: Bob Shad

The Producer Who Discovered Janis Joplin

Bob Shad (Courtesy: Herman Leonard Photography)

Abraham Shadrinsky (1920-1985) was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His parents were early Bolsheviks that were actively fighting the Czar, and his father was exiled before the Russian Revolution. Young Abee Shadrinsky soon became “Bobby Shad”. His passion was music and especially the popular jazz of the time. In the 1940s, when the music producers’ union went on strike, a totally inexperienced Shad took the opportunity to go to the Savoy Label and offered to produce some jazz. He spent much of the next forty years in the recording studio, producing over 800 albums. He founded the great Emercy jazz label for Mercury Records, as well as Sitting In, Time, Brent, and Mainstream Records. He recorded many of the jazz legends and was personally responsible for developing the careers of greats like Quincy Jones, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Clifford Brown. He recorded pop artists, too, including Patti Page, the Platters, and Vic Damone. Shad was an incredibly creative man who was able to foresee many of the trends in music, such as early stereo, high fidelity, avant-garde, and acid rock. In the sixties, it was Shad who first discovered Ted Nugent and Janis Joplin, recording and producing her first album with the Big Brother band. Joplin went on to become one of the top-selling musicians in American history, and was ranked among the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time by Rolling Stone. Despite the great success, Shad lived modestly and remained true to his love of music, devoting most of his career and financial resources to the world of jazz. Having grown up in an atheistic home, he was not religious. Nonetheless, he was a real Jew at heart and was deeply in dialogue with God, especially regarding the Holocaust. He would often recount how special the Jewish people were and, because he was a pilot and had a private twin engine plane, he even assisted in smuggling arms for Israel at one point! Altogether, Shad recorded thousands of songs, including some of the greatest hits of the 20th century (listen to some of his music here). He is the father of Hollywood screenwriter Samantha Shad, and grandfather of author and professor Robert Apatow, and comedy filmmaker Judd Apatow.*

Words of the Week

People think loving one’s fellow means to give him a pat on the back. Loving one’s fellow means that if a Jew on the other side of the world has a problem, you feel it.
Rabbi Yisroel Friedman, the Ruzhiner Rebbe (1796-1850)


*The above Jew of the Week was a guest submission by Robert (Avraham) Apatow, about his grandfather Bob Shad.

Jew of the Week: Nancy Lieberman

Greatest Woman in Basketball

Nancy Elizabeth Lieberman (b. 1958) was born in Brooklyn, New York. She was passionate about sports from a very young age, and by the time she was in high school, was recognized as one of the best female basketball players in the country. At 17, she was selected for the US National Team, and helped it win the gold medal at the Pan American Games, its first since 1963. The following year, she won silver with the team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the youngest basketball player in Olympics history. Lieberman then led her college team to two championships, and was the first player to twice win the Wade Trophy (for women’s basketball player of the year). To this day, she holds a number of unbeaten records. After college, Lieberman was drafted first overall by the Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s Pro Basketball League (WBL). She soon became known as “Lady Magic”, the female counterpart to “Magic” Johnson. In 1997, the WNBA was formed and Lieberman played for the Phoenix Mercury, being its oldest player at 39. She then coached and managed the Detroit Shock for three years, before moving on to ESPN to be a basketball analyst. She came back to the Shock in 2008, at the age of 50, to play on a one-week contract, setting a record as the oldest professional basketball player ever. The following year, she became the coach of the Texas Legends (the farm team of the Dallas Mavericks), making her the first female to coach a men’s pro basketball team. In 2015, she became an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings, only the second female coach of an NBA team in history. Her most recent achievement was coaching the Power team of the BIG3 league to the 2018 championship. She has also been a contestant on American Gladiators. Her son plays for Hapoel Holon in the Israeli basketball league. Lieberman was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996, and into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.

Words of the Week

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.
Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet 

Jews of the Week: Yaphet Kotto & Jim Steinman

In Memory of Two Great Artists

Yaphet Frederick Samuel Kotto (1939-2021) was born in New York City. His mother came from a family with Caribbean roots, and converted to Judaism in order to marry his father, an observant Jewish immigrant from Cameroon. Kotto was raised religious, and would later describe how walking to the synagogue with a kippah on his head led to some “heavy fistfights” with anti-Semites. He went to acting school at 16, and three years later appeared in his first play, Othello. Kotto acted in a number of Broadway productions before moving to Hollywood. After a decade of small film roles, Kotto was cast as the Bond villain Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. In 1977, he played Idi Amin in Raid on Entebbe about the daring Israeli mission to save hostages in Uganda, for which he was nominated Outstanding Supporting Actor at the Emmy Awards. Kotto also starred in Alien, The Running Man (alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger), and Midnight Run (with Robert De Niro). All in all, he appeared in over 60 movies and over a dozen TV shows. He once said in an interview that had he not become an actor, he would have become a rabbi. Sadly, Kotto passed away earlier this year.

A fellow artist from New York who sadly passed away this year is James Richard Steinman (1947-2021). While studying at Amherst College, Steinman began writing music and lyrics for a number of school plays. In 1972, he wrote the music for the musical Rhinegold. The following year his first song was released commercially on Yvonne Elliman’s album. For much of the rest of the decade, he worked with the band Meat Loaf and wrote some of their greatest hits, along with one of the bestselling music albums of all time, Bat Out of Hell. In 1983, Steinman produced Bonnie Tyler’s album Faster Than the Speed of Night, and wrote its hit song “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. That year, it was the top song on the Billboard charts, followed by Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All”—which was also written by Steinman! All in all, Steinman wrote popular theme songs for television shows, soundtracks for movies, as well as music and lyrics for a number of stage productions. He wrote hit songs for Barry Manilow, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion (“It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”), and even Hulk Hogan. He has been called “the greatest ever composer of symphonic rock” and the “father of the power ballad”.

Words of the Week

If a word is worth one coin, silence is worth two.

Talmud (Megillah 18a)