Celebrity jews

Breast cancer activists

Joan Lunden

Joan Lunden, 64, the former host of “Good Morning America,” disclosed last June that she had breast cancer. On Oct. 6, marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she appeared on the cover of People  with a bald head. (She had shaved her head rather than wait for her hair to fall out as a result of chemo treatments.) Lunden was also named a special correspondent for the “Today” show for the month of October — doing weekly reports on breast cancer issues. Born and raised in the Sacramento-area, Lunden converted to Judaism shortly before marrying her first (Jewish) husband in 1978. They have three now-adult daughters (one of whom recently made Joan a grandmother). In 2000, she wed her second husband, businessman Jeff Konigsberg. Together they have two sets of twins.

Paula Abdul, 52, has partnered with the Avon Foundation for Women in a new campaign called #CheckYourself. For this campaign, Adbul made a video that includes a song and dance based on the simple steps to self-check for breast cancer.

She says in a news release: “Singing and dancing are my passions. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to apply these passions to create a new music video in support of the new global #CheckYourself. This [campaign] is very personal for me. My sister Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. … She inspires me every day. My hope is that this new video will inspire women and men to take charge of their own breast health through screening, detection and treatment.”


Minyan-plus of ‘Innovators’

Sergey Brin

The new popular history “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” by Walter Isaacson, 62, is already a best-seller. To his credit, Issacson does discuss the Jewish background of five of the most important “innovators.” But it occurred to me that one could write another book just about the “unidentified as Jewish” innovators mentioned in Isaacson’s book (most have Bay Area connections). The five “biggies” he notes who were/are Jewish are John von Neumann (1903-1956), a brilliant mathematician who made essential contributions to computer programming and design; Andrew Grove, 78, the engineer who turned Santa Clara-based Intel into the world’s largest maker of microprocessors; Arthur Rock, 88, a founder of Davis & Rock, a San Francisco venture capital firm, which provided the seed money for Apple and Intel, among others; and Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both 41, the co-founders of Mountain View–based Google.

Here are a few of the book’s brilliant Jews not identified as Jewish in the text: Paul Baran (1926-2011) was a co-inventor of packet switched network computing who lived and worked in Palo Alto from 1970 until his death; Stewart Brand, 75, is famous as the creator (1968) of the Whole Earth Catalog (which Steve Jobs said was incredibly important to young computer geeks). He also co-founded The WELL (1985), a Bay-Area based pioneer virtual community. Also Terry Winograd, 68, a still-active Stanford computer science professor who has been a mentor to many brilliant students, including Page.

Isaacson doesn’t overlook the contributions of women in this male-dominated field. There’s a nice section on the six women who were recruited, near the end of World War II, to program the first electronic general-purpose computer (ENIAC) for the Army. Isaacson notes that two of the six were Jewish: Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum (1924-1986) and Marilyn Wescoff Meltzer (1922-2008).


Movie notes

There are credible reports that Richard Gere has signed to play

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the late “father of the atom bomb” (who taught at U.C. Berkeley). The bio-pic is being directed by Israeli Joseph Cedar, 46. It’s definite that Ezra Miller, 22, will play the title role in a movie version of the comic book character the Flash. Miller (“Perks of Being a Wallflower”) is a brilliant actor who raises the level of everything he’s in. This “Flash” may slow down and show us his colors.

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

Nate Bloom

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