Celebrity Jews

Chanukah items?

The media hype about Madonna’s trip to Israel is over, but when you’re shopping for a Chanukah gift, you’ll probably see Madonna’s three children’s books piled up on the “Jewish kids’ table.” Worth buying? Well, reviewer Ayelet Waldman, a Berkeley Jewish mother who is familiar with books for Jewish kids, has eliminated the guesswork. She also happens to be the author of the acclaimed “Mommy Track” detective series.

Writing for nextbook.org, Waldman notes that Madonna herself says that the books aren’t explicitly Jewish, “but are inspired by Baal Shem Tov stories told to her by her ‘Kabbalah’ teacher.” Waldman tells us what is Jewish and not Jewish about the books — and they don’t sound too Jewish. Nonetheless, she gives the books’ illustrators high marks.

Sci-fi Jews return

Brent Spiner, known as the android Data on “Star Trek-Next Generation,” will appear in “Star Trek: Enterprise” in three weekly shows, starting Oct. 29. Spiner will play the great-grandfather of Data’s human creator — a bad guy who happens to be needed by the Enterprise’s captain. (Spiner was the only Jewish actor who was a regular on “Next Generation.”)

Also returning is Claudia Black, a talented and pretty Australian actress who was the co-star of “Farscape,” an intelligent cult hit that ran until last year on the Sci-Fi cable channel. Black will reprise her role as Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun in four new episodes that will be on Oct. 17 and 18.

Falk swims on

It seems like Peter Falk always has something going on. As noted in this month’s Esquire, Falk is currently doing the voice of Don Brizzi in the huge animated hit “Shark Tale.” Meanwhile, a five-DVD set of the films of John Cassavetes, several featuring Falk, has just been released. But Falk most wanted to tell Esquire that his paintings are now for sale on his Web site, Peterfalk.com. (Be advised: There are some nudes.) His portrait of Albert Einstein didn’t impress us, but his drawings of himself as Columbo were charming.


Two New York Jews, Richard Avedon and Rodney Dangerfield, died last week. The former was stylish and handsome. The latter was famously not. Avedon, the fashion photographer, turned the dress into an iconic object, but his beginnings in “trade” made him pay the price of getting “no respect” for his more artistic work among many artsy critics. Finally, in the last decades of Avedon’s life, there was no denying that he was one of the great photographers of our time. Likewise, Dangerfield, born Jacob Cohen, couldn’t earn a dime as Borscht Belt comic Jack Roy. But when he reached 40, he re-invented himself as the perfect zhlub — Rodney Dangerfield — and played the part to perfection. Never has any loser been more respected.

Nate Bloom is the Oakland based editor of www.Jewhoo.com.

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.