Tag Archives: Golden Globe Award

Jew of the Week: Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman plays Orthodox girl Rifka in ‘New York, I Love You’

Netalee Hershlag (b. 1981) was born in Jerusalem to a Jewish-American mother and Israeli father with a mix of Russian, Austrian, Romanian, and Polish heritage. The family moved to the US when she was three years old, and young Natalie went to a Jewish day school. She spent most of her teenage years in New York, where she studied dance and ballet. When she was 11, an agent spotted her at a pizza parlour. Shortly after, she was cast alongside Britney Spears in a small role on a Broadway play. The following year, she was cast as twelve-year old orphan Mathilda Lando in the popular film Leon: the Professional. It was then that Natalie decided to use her grandmother’s maiden name, “Portman”. Her incredible performance launched her into stardom. Nonetheless, she made sure to reject all the highly sexualized roles she was being offered, later saying that “there’s a surprising preponderance of that kind of role for young girls. Sort of being fantasy objects for men, and especially this idealized purity combined with the fertility of youth… so I definitely shied away from it.” Indeed, she initially rejected a role in 1999’s Anywhere but Here because of a sex scene, and only accepted it when the script was rewritten without it. For this role, she would win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Meanwhile, Portman wanted to get a proper education, even if it meant “ruining my career”. She skipped the premiere of Star Wars: Episode I (where she played beloved Queen Amidala, young mother of Luke and Leia Skywalker) to study for her high school exams, then enrolled in psychology studies at Harvard. Throughout her time there, she was a noted pro-Israel activist, and also served as Alan Dershowitz’s research assistant. Portman continued graduate studies at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, and has co-authored two scientific papers. (Even in high school she was a scientist, coming up with, and writing a paper titled, “A Simple Method to Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar”.) Portman was later a guest lecturer at Columbia University, and once said, “I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” Thankfully, she is both, with many of her films receiving rave reviews. 2006’s V for Vendetta inspired a whole movement, while 2010’s eye-opening Black Swan won her an Oscar for Best Actress. For the former film she had to shave her head, while the latter required 5 to 8 hours of dance training every day for 6 months. All in all, Portman has acted in, directed, or produced 42 films thus far. Meanwhile, the vegan Portman is an animal rights activist, and has produced an acclaimed film on cruel factory farming. She produced another to depict the plight of gorillas. She has also worked to combat poverty, and served as an Ambassador of Hope for a microlending fund, and an ambassador for Free the Children. She is a member of OneVoice, which strives to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians. For her tireless work, last month Portman was awarded the $1 million Genesis Prize (“the Jewish Nobel Prize”), which she said would be donated primarily to support women’s causes. Portman has two children, and though she now lives in LA, has said that “my heart’s in Jerusalem. That’s where I feel at home.”

Words of the Week

Fighting evil is a very noble activity when it must be done. But it is not our mission in life. Our job is to bring in more light.
– Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Jew of the Week: Rod Serling

The Twilight Zone

Rod Serling

Rod Serling

Rodman Edward Serling (1924-1975) was born in Syracuse, New York. From a very young age he was drawn to performing, spending hours each day acting in his basement. Initially a class clown, and thought to be a “lost cause” by his teachers, Serling was soon a key member of his high school debate team, a public speaker, journalist, athlete, and social activist. The day after graduating high school, he enlisted in the army and fought in World War II as a paratrooper, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, among other medals. After the war, he studied physical education, then switched to theatre, broadcasting, and literature. It was in his college days that he began writing, directing, and acting in radio programs. He struggled to break through in the radio industry for several years after, meanwhile earning money on the side by participating in dangerous flight experiments for the Air Force (and nearly getting himself killed on multiple occasions). He then tried his luck at television, and after many years of writing scripts, Serling finally got a break. His 72nd script, Patterns, earned many accolades and was described by some at the time as the best program in the short history of television. After this success, he had little worry finding jobs. However, corporate sponsors and politicians always meddled with his scripts. Fed up with this, Serling created his own show: The Twilight Zone. The series became an instant hit, and in 2013 was ranked as the third best TV show of all time. Serling went on to write and produce a number of other television, film, and radio programs. He also wrote many short stories and poems, and published 11 books. On top of this, Serling taught film and media at colleges across the US. Throughout his life, his primary goal was to spread awareness of human equality, world peace, and social justice. This was the underlying theme of all of his work, and Serling himself often stated that “the ultimate obscenity is not caring.” Sadly, Serling died at the young age of 50 from a string of heart attacks. He is credited with helping to establish television as a serious medium, and his episode of Patterns was the first TV rerun in history. He was ranked first among the “25 Greatest Sci-Fi Legends” by TV Guide. Serling won 8 Emmys, 3 Hugo Awards, and a Golden Globe, among others, and has been inducted into both the Television Hall of Fame and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Words of the Week

As long as they talk about you, you’re not really dead, as long as they speak your name, you continue. A legend doesn’t die, just because the man dies.
– From an episode of The Twilight Zone (written by George Clayton Johnson)

Jew of the Week: Barbra Streisand

Top Female Singer of All Time

Barbra Streisand

Barbara Joan Streisand (b. 1942) was born in Brooklyn to parents whose families both immigrated from the former Russian Empire. Her father died soon after her birth, leaving her family in poverty. Streisand studied at the Jewish Orthodox Yeshiva of Brooklyn, where she developed her singing abilities and gave her first solo performances. Starting in her teens she sang at many nightclubs and also started to act in stage performances. Her first big break was on The Tonight Show in 1961, and in 1962 she acted in a small Broadway role. The following year, Streisand released her first music album. An instant hit, it brought her two Grammy Awards. Returning to Broadway in 1964, she made a splash with her performance in Funny Girl, which put her on the cover of TIME Magazine. Streisand would go on to release an incredible 50 studio albums. She is still the best-selling female artist of all time, and the only female in the Top 10. At one point, she only lagged Elvis Presley and The Beatles in terms of albums sold, and many of her songs still hold records. She owns a total of 8 Grammy Awards, in addition to 5 Emmy Awards, a Tony and 2 Oscars! This makes Streisand among the most decorated entertainers of all time, and also among the most diverse, achieving success in film, stage, and music. Barbra was the first woman to produce a movie that she also directed, wrote, and starred in. She is also a great philanthropist, having personally raised over $25 million for charities, and has donated millions more from her own pockets. She has been listed among the most charitable celebrities in the world. Adding to her fervent support of Israel, Streisand will be performing several sold-out shows in the Holy Land this summer.

Words of the Week

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson