Tag Archives: Orthodox Judaism

Jew of the Week: Steven Spielberg

The Greatest Film Director of All Time

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg

Steven Allan Spielberg (b. 1946) was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Cincinnati, and grew up in New Jersey and Arizona. As a twelve year old boy scout trying to get a photography merit badge, his photo camera broke so he made a short film with his father’s video camera instead. It sparked a life-long passion for film. The following year he made a 40-minute war flick that won a prize, and at 16, made his first full length sci-fi movie, which made $1 in profit. After high school, Spielberg studied film, then got a job at Universal Studios as an unpaid and uncredited intern, working seven days a week in the editing department. During this time, he put together a 26-minute film. A Universal exec saw it and immediately signed Spielberg to a long-term contract, making him the youngest director to do so. He first made 4 TV films, then was offered the chance at Jaws (which had so many production issues it almost never made it). Jaws won 3 Academy Awards and set a box-office record, propelling Spielberg to huge fame. Spielberg continued to make big hits that smashed box-office records, winning two Best Director awards and having his films earn a total of 33 Oscars. Together with two other Jews, Spielberg founded his own studio, DreamWorks, most famous for producing animated hits like Shrek, Antz, and The Prince of Egypt. Spielberg has also participated in many philanthropic causes, including aid to Israel (for which the Arab League voted to boycott his films in 2007). Most notably, he founded the Survivors of the Shoah Foundation to record video testimonies of the Holocaust, lest it be forgotten or denied. Over 52,000 interviews have been conducted in 56 countries and 32 languages. Spielberg was made an honorary Knight of the Order of the British Empire, as well as a knight of the French Légion d’honneur. He has been voted the greatest director of all time, listed as the most influential figure in the film industry, and included by TIME Magazine in their list of 100 Most Important People of the Century.

Words of the Week

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
– William Shakespeare

Jew of the Week: Gershom Scholem

Gerhard Scholem (1897-1982) was born to a secular Jewish family in Berlin. At a young age he showed a great interest in religion, but his father was staunchly anti-Orthodox and opposed it. After his mother intervened, Scholem was allowed to study Judaism with an Orthodox rabbi. In university, he studied mathematics, philosophy, and Hebrew, and met other greats like Martin Buber and Hayim Bialik. He later received an additional degree in Semitic languages. During his studies, he discovered Kabbalah and the infinite depths of Jewish mysticism. He ended up writing his doctoral thesis on the oldest known Kabbalistic text, Sefer ha-Bahir. In 1923 Scholem moved to Israel and changed his name to Gershom. He worked as a librarian and spent his time in study. In 1933 he became the first Professor of Mysticism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, teaching a unique view of Kabbalah from a scientific and historical perspective. He stayed at this post for over 30 years, while writing over 40 world-famous texts (in addition to over 700 articles) and winning a handful of prestigious awards, including the Israel Prize. He is credited with being a major force in opening the study of Kabbalah to the masses, both Jews and Gentiles. Despite studying Judaism through a scholarly approach, he maintained that Hebrew is a divine language, alone capable of revealing hidden truths.

Words of the Week

There are two things that are no cause for worry: that which can be fixed, and that which cannot be fixed. That which can be fixed, can be fixed, so what’s there to worry about? And that which cannot be fixed, cannot be fixed anyways so what’s there to worry about?!
– Rabbi Michel of Zelotchov