Celebrity Jews: Movies/On TV And Olympic Additions
AT THE MOVIES/ON TV
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Opening on Friday, Feb. 23 is Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman, 36, as Lena, a biologist and former soldier. A series of expeditions enter into a sinister, mysterious and growing area labeled Area X. The expedition members either die inside Area X or shortly thereafter. Lena’s husband, severely injured, returns from the last expedition; Lena joins a new expedition, hoping that she can find out how and why he was injured and save his life. Jennifer Jason Leigh, 54, co-stars as Dr. Ventress, a psychologist and the de facto leader of the all-female expedition.
Living Biblically, a comedy/drama, premieres on CBS on Monday, Feb. 23 (9:30 p.m.). It’s based on The Year of Living Biblically (2007), by A.J. Jacobs, 49, a self-described agnostic Jew who, for one year, tried to follow the Bible’s rules to the letter. In the TV series, the central character is Chip Curry, a Roman Catholic who decides to follow the Bible literally for one year. He frequently consults his
priest (Ian Gomez). Recurring characters include Rabbi Gil (David Krumholtz, 39)
and Mrs. Meadows (Camryn Manheim, 56). The show’s publicity makes clear they have no desire
to disrespect religion, and they’ll glide around tough issues such as homosexuality in an
effort to walk the fine line of being funny, but thought-provoking.
AN OLYMPIC ADDITION
AND ‘GRANDMA’ ALY
A Jewish Olympic athlete I neglected to include in my last column: Adam Rosen, 33, is a British American luge athlete. He was born and raised in New Rochelle, N.Y., the son of an American father and a British mother and has dual citizenship. He lives in New York. He competed for the UK in 2006 and 2010 in the one-man luge event, finishing 16th both times. Injuries prevented him from competing in 2014. He’s named for his maternal (Jewish) British grandfather, a WWII Royal Navy combat veteran. His paternal grandfather was a rabbi and a U.S. Air Force chaplain.
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Aly Raisman, 23, of course, is the great gymnast who won three gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze medal in the last two Olympic Games. Virtually everyone in the Jewish community fell in love with Raisman when, in the finals of the floor exercise event at the 2012 Olympics, she performed her routine to the music of “Hava Nagila” and dedicated her routine to the Israeli athletes murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Olympics. It was almost like a “too-good-to-be-true” movie script when she won the gold medal in this event and the United States won the team gold medal.
A Jan. 24 profile in the New Yorker beautifully details how Raisman is a role model in other ways. Much of the piece describes how she’s been a forceful and articulate leader in the campaign to call to account those who turned a blind eye as Dr. Larry Nassar molested hundreds of young gymnasts, including Raisman herself. Raisman also joins other models appearing nude with messages written on their bodies in Sports Illustrated’s special “empowering” swimsuit issue, which focuses on the #MeToo movement.
Before the Nassar campaign, Raisman was a U.S. Olympic team leader and a super kind mentor to younger gymnasts. In return, these “youngsters” constantly praise her to the press and many fondly call her “Grandma Aly.” The New Yorker also reports that while “Grandma” “has not officially begun training for the 2020 [Toyko] Games, she has told the press that Toyko is on her mind.”