Celebrity Jews: Major League Hebrews & Casting
MAJOR LEAGUE HEBREWS
The following Jewish players were on a major league roster as of opening day, 2018: Richard Bleier, 30, Baltimore, relief pitcher. He appeared in 23 games with the Yankees in 2016 and pitched well, but was in the minors last year; Ryan Braun, 34, Milwaukee, outfielder/first base. This six-time All-Star and National League MVP (2011) had a decent 2017 season, during which he hit his 300th home run; Alex Bregman, 24, Houston, shortstop. Bregman had a very good 2017 season, hitting especially well in the second half. He turned in a stellar performance in the World Series, which the Astros won; Ian Kinsler, 35, Los Angeles Angels, second base. Kinsler, a four-time All-Star, had a weak bat in 2017 and was traded from Detroit to the Angels in the off-season; Joc Pederson, 25, Los Angeles Dodgers, outfielder. Always a streak hitter, Pederson saved his major league career with a great performance in the playoffs and World Series; Kevin Pillar, 29, outfielder, Toronto. Pillar had a very good hitting season in 2017, with a career high 16 home runs; Danny Valencia, 33, Baltimore, first base/outfield. The much-traveled Valencia had an OK 2017 season with Seattle. A free agent, he was signed by Baltimore and earned a spot with the club in spring training; Zack Weiss, 25, Cincinnati, relief pitcher. This rookie came back from surgery on his elbow late in 2016.
All these players have at least one Jewish parent and identify as Jewish or secular. I know the following players had a bar mitzvah: Bregman, Pillar, Valencia and Weiss. The others did not, with the exception of Bleier, whom I am unsure about. Pederson did play for Israel in the World Baseball Classic. Weiss often posts memes wishing happy Jewish holidays on his Twitter account. Worthy of note: Former major leaguer Gabe Kapler, 42, who was a Tiger (player) rookie in 1998, is now a rookie MLB manager. He just began helming the Philadelphia Phillies. Kapler managed the Israeli team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Scarlett Johansson, 33, has reportedly signed to co-star in the film Jo-Jo Rabbit, playing a non-Jewish German woman who is hiding a Jewish girl in her home. Things turn dicey when her 10-year-old son, a Hitler Youth member, discovers her secret. The film is directed by New Zealander Taika Waititi, 42, who also plays the part of Hitler. Waititi, the son of a Jewish mother and a Maori (native Polynesian) father, has the “juice” now to make any film he wants. He’s made several films in New Zealand (comedies and dramas) that made money and were critical hits. He was tapped to direct Thor Ragnarok (2017), a big-budget Hollywood flick, a monster box-office and critical hit.
The plot is weird, but Waititi has made weird work before. The young boy invents an imaginary friend, Hitler (Waikiki), a combination of his missing father and Hitler, his idea of whom is informed by Nazi propaganda: He is gentle and semi-comic. The official film synopsis says, “Waititi blends his signature humor, pathos and deeply compelling characters in a WWII satire about a boy who, ridiculed by his friends and misunderstood by his mother, struggles to understand his place in fascist Germany, resorting to an imaginary friend.”