Celebrity jews

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


At the movies

Director and writer Noah Baumbach, 45, explored the lives of sophisticated urbanites in generally well-received films starting with “The Squid and the Whale” (2005). Critics are saying that his new film, “While We’re Young,” is his most fully realized and satisfying work to date.


Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller, 49 (who starred in Baumbach’s 2010 film “Greenberg”), plays Josh, a Brooklynite who seems unable to finish his documentary. Cornelia (Naomi Watts), his wife, is the daughter of a legendary documentary maker (Charles Grodin, 79). Cornelia and Josh, who can’t have children, drift away from their best friends, a couple their age who’ve just had a baby, and become friends with an energetic couple 20 years younger (Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver of “Girls”). The contrast in styles and worldview of these two age-disparate couples is often amusing and usually thought-provoking. Appearing in supporting roles are Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, 48, as the male half of Josh’s “old couple” friends, and Peter Yarrow, 76 (Peter, Paul & Mary), as a left-wing intellectual. The movie opens widely on Friday, April 10.



Adam Horovitz

“The Longest Ride,” also opening April 10, is based on a 2013 novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook”). After being trapped in an isolated car crash, the life of 91-year-old Jewish widower Ira Levinson becomes entwined with that of young college student Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) and Luke, the cowboy she loves (played by Scott Eastwood, son of Clint). Ira recalls his life with his wife, Ruth, as he waits to be rescued (Alan Alda, whose wife and daughters are Jewish, plays the elderly Ira).


Ira and Ruth were the first Jewish characters that Sparks created. In a 2013 interview, he said he drew from his memories of the many Jews he knew in his North Carolina hometown. Sparks’ Levinson is proud to be a Southerner and proud to be Jewish. Ruth’s background is much different: She came to North Carolina as a teen refugee from Nazi-occupied Austria. The film and novel follow Ira and Ruth as they fall in love almost the minute she enters Ira’s father’s small clothing store. Then we see them courting while going to synagogue together. Later, they share a passion for modern art and weather the dark days of World War II.

Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of Charlie) plays the young Ruth with Jack Huston (grandson of John Huston and nephew of Anjelica) as the young Ira.

By the way, Huston, who played a disfigured war vet on “Boardwalk Empire,” has some remote Jewish ancestry: His maternal grandfather was the son of Marchioness Sybil Sassoon, of the famously wealthy and accomplished Iraqi Jewish/British Sassoon family.


Depeche Mode in Israel


Dave Gahan

A few weeks ago, Dave Gahan, frontman for the Brit new wave band Depeche Mode, made a surprise visit to Israel. He was there to attend the Jewish wedding of his son, Jack Gahan, 27, to Israeli native Sigal Mamis. (It’s unclear if Jack Gahan’s mother is Jewish, or perhaps he converted to Judaism.) Gahan met Mamis following a Depeche Mode concert in Tel Aviv in 2009. That was the second appearance by the band in Israel, where they are very popular. By the way, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood is married to an Israeli, as is reggae musician Ziggy Marley, son of the legendary Bob Marley. Both Radiohead and Ziggy Marley have played in Israel. Also, recent reports have Kanye West and wife Kim Kardashian visiting Israel this weekend right after Passover ends.



Nate Bloom

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