Celebrity Jews: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Barbara Walters, Larry David, Ben Stiller & more

More ‘Roots’

Maggie Gyllenhaal

The PBS series “Finding Your Roots” airs new episodes at 8 p.m. Sundays. But you can view already aired programs online (including the fascinating one about Barbara Walters, 82, shown April 1).

The April 15 episode will feature three clergy: evangelical minister Rick Warren, Muslim Imam Yasir Qadhi and Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl, 40. Buchdahl was born in Seoul, Korea, the daughter of a Jewish American father and a Buddhist Korean mother. Today she is senior cantor and associate rabbi for the 6,500-member Central Synagogue in New York City. She is the first Asian American rabbi (ordained in 2001) or cantor (invested in 1999)  in North America. Advance publicity indicates it will be Buchdahl’s Korean ancestry that will be most explored.

The April 22 episode will feature actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, 34, and actor Robert Downey Jr. Gyllenhaal, who identifies as Jewish, is the daughter of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father. Downey’s paternal grandfather was Jewish, and his father’s original last name was Elias. In 2005, Downey wed Susan Levin, 38, an important film producer, in a Jewish ceremony. He gives her great credit for his comeback and continued sobriety. He now often calls himself “half Jewish” and a “Jewish/Buddhist.” The couple’s first child, a son they named Exton Elias Downey, was born two months ago.


‘Three Stooges’ — the movie

OK, don’t expect it to make sense “ethnic wise.” It doesn’t. I speak of “The Three Stooges,” a slapstick comedy from the Farrelly brothers (“There’s Something About Mary,” et al) that opens Friday, April 13. The “real” Stooges were almost all Jewish — brothers Moe, Shemp and Curly Howard; Larry Fine; and replacement Joe Besser. (Last replacement Joe DeRita wasn’t Jewish.)

The plot of the movie has Curly, Moe and Larry left as infants at a Catholic orphanage. Fast-forward to the present, and the wacky guys return to the orphanage to help save it. They accidentally stumble on a murder plot and wind up starring in a reality show.

Meanwhile, “balance” is provided by Larry David, 64. He plays the nun who runs the orphanage, Sister Mary Mengele. (I suspect this last name gives us a clue as to the character — a reference to Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele). Playing an orphanage nurse is one of the Farrellys’ favorite character actresses, Lin Shaye, 67. She may be best known as the extremely tan neighbor whose small dog maniacally attacks Ben Stiller, 46, in “Something About Mary.”


‘Mad Men’ and rookie cops

Ben Feldman

The April 1 episode of “Mad Men” saw a first for the ad agency featured in the hit AMC series — its first Jewish copywriter, Michael Ginsburg. He’s a quick-witted, hustling guy and an obvious contrast to the buttoned-down WASPs who dominated ad agencies until the mid-’60s (when this season takes place). Playing Ginsburg is Ben Feldman, 31. His credits include playing the Dustin Hoffman role in a Broadway version of “The Graduate” opposite Alicia Silverstone, 35. But he’s best known as the angel Fred on the Lifetime series “Drop Dead Diva.”

The new CBS series “NYC 22” premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday, April 15. It follows six diverse New York police rookies as they patrol Upper Manhattan. Their supervisor is played by Adam Goldberg, 41 (“The Hebrew Hammer”). One of the rookies is played by Leelee Sobieski, 28. Her maternal grandfather was Jewish and, in 2010, she married successful fashion designer Adam Kimmel, 33. Kimmel’s late father, Martin Kimmel, was a billionaire real estate developer and a “huge giver” to medical charities in the States and to the Weizmann Institute in Israel. Sobieski has expressed a great affinity for her Jewish roots in the past, and it’s possible she has quietly converted to Judaism.

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

Nate Bloom

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