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Paul Newman, Über-mensch

As everyone has heard, actor Paul Newman, 83, died Sept. 26. Among the amazing number of tributes, I was struck by this passage in a Los Angeles Times article by Lynn Smith:

“Friends said Newman abhorred what he called ‘noisy philanthropy.’ He felt the awards and honors offered him were excessive and once declined a national medal in a letter to President Clinton, calling such recognition ‘honorrhea.’

“‘When people would say, “What a mensch you are,” he would always denigrate himself,’ said friend Alice Trillin [the late wife of author Calvin Trillin]. To friends, Newman was open, if vague, about not always having lived an exemplary life. Exceptionally tolerant of others’ foibles, he explained, ‘I used to be a fool myself.'”

Newman’s father was Jewish, and while Newman was not religious, he did identify as a Jew. Every obituary is filled with people recounting how he was personally kind to them and/or citing one of Newman’s acts of philanthropy. It’s no surprise, then, that one of his Hole-in-the-Wall camps for seriously ill children is located in Israel, and when three Sacramento-area synagogues were firebombed by anti-Semites in 1999, the actor was one of the first people to send a check to the rebuilding fund.

Pigskin Hebrews, 2008 edition

The following list of Jewish players in the NFL this season was prepared with the help of the Jewish Sports Review newsletter:

Lennie Friedman, 32, guard, Cleveland Browns, a 10-year NFL veteran. Last year he appeared in every regular season game; David Binn, 36, long snapper, San Diego Chargers. A 14-year-NFL veteran and former Cal player, Binn was All-Pro in 2007. He holds the record for the most games anyone has played in a Chargers uniform; Sage Rosenfels, 30, backup quarterback, Houston Texans. Rosenfels made an emergency start Oct. 5 and guided his team to a 27-10 lead, but the Indianapolis Colts scored 21 points in the final 41⁄2 minutes (aided by three Rosenfels turnovers) and won 31-27; Adam Podlesh, 25, punter, Jacksonville Jaguars. Adam had a good rookie season in 2007; Igor Olshansky, 26, defensive end, San Diego. A top player who grew up in San Francisco. The 2007 season was Igor’s best yet; Geoff Schwartz, 23, an outside tackle who was second team, All-Pac 10, with the University of Oregon. This season’s only Jewish NFL rookie, Geoff was signed by the Carolina Panthers and is on the practice squad.

New on the tube

“Hellboy” costar Selma Blair, 36, plays Kim, the daughter of Kath (Molly Shannon) in the new NBC comedy series “Kath & Kim,” which premiered Oct. 9. Kath is a 40-something divorcee who feels she can finally live her own life. She is relieved when her daughter marries and finally moves out. However, Kim’s marriage lasts only six weeks before she moves back in with Kath. Even though Kim is in her mid-20s, she dresses like a teenager and is obsessed with celebrities.

Debra Messing (“Will and Grace”) returns to TV as the star of the USA cable network series “The Starter Wife,” which has a two-hour premiere Friday, Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. Messing, 41, plays the ex-wife of a powerful Hollywood executive who has left her for a much younger woman. She tries to rebuild a new life with her 7-year-old daughter. Handsome actor David Alan Basche, 40, plays Messing’s ex-husband. Basche, who comes from a religious Jewish family, co-starred in “United 93” and he also has a recurring role as nasty boss Mike Harness on the NBC series “Lipstick Jungle.” David’s real-life wife, actress Alysia Reiner, 32, has quite a list of stage, film, and TV credits. She’ll appear in a recurring role on “Starter Wife” as Cindy, another ex-wife of a Hollywood bigwig.

Columnist Nate Bloom , an Oaklander, can be reached at [email protected].