Celebrity Jews

‘Hamilton’ mania

Daveed Diggs

Normally I write about Tony Award nominations the week before the ceremony. However, when a local landsman is nominated, early attention must be paid. Nominated for best featured actor in a musical (“Hamilton”) is Daveed Diggs, 34, who was born in Oakland and graduated from Berkeley High School. He plays two roles, the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. His father is Dountes Diggs, who works for San Francisco Muni, and his mother is Barbara Needell, 67, of Richmond. A U.C. Berkeley grad, Needell worked for her alma mater from 1996 to 2015 and, for some years before retiring, was principal investigator on the California Child Welfare Indicators Project. She describes herself on Twitter “as the mother of two fine men” (Daveed and his brother, Malcolm Diggs).

Last July, Daveed told Broadway.com: “I went to Hebrew school, but opted out of a bar mitzvah. My mom is a white Jewish lady and my dad is black. The cultures never seemed separate — I had a lot of mixed friends. When I was young, I identified with being Jewish, but I embraced my dad’s side too.”

“Hamilton” has earned a record 16 Tony nominations. The musical is based on a 2004 biography by Ron Chernow, 67. In 2004, I wrote: “Chernow, who describes himself as ‘Jewish, but more in the breach than in the observance,’ covers Hamilton’s Jewish connections. … Hamilton wrote that a Jewish woman tutored him as a child and he once recited the Ten Commandments in Hebrew before her. … As an adult, Hamilton defended Jews from the bigoted attitudes of the day.” Chernow, who lives in New York, had an aunt in the Bay Area, Linda Wittlin, who was active at Palo Alto’s Congregation Etz Hayim and died in 2013.

Wedding and musical notes

Max Weinberg

A mazel tov to Max Weinberg, 65 (he’s Bruce Springsteen’s drummer). On April 16, daughter Ali Weinberg wed Bloomberg News columnist and CNN political analyst Josh Rogin. The bride is a digital journalist for ABC News who can really sing, too (she performed a rock song at her wedding). The couple, both in their 30s, married under a chuppah, with the traditional Jewish wedding blessings said by the groom’s cousin, who served as officiant. Max’s son Jay Weinberg, 25, was there, too. He’s the drummer for Slipknot, a metal band Grammy-nominated this past year.

Guests included CNN anchors Wolf Blitzer, 68, and Jake Tapper, 47, and NBC political director Chuck Todd, 44. Steve Van Zandt of Springsteen’s E Street Band also attended. Guitarist Van Zandt was in the news recently for his fierce opposition (on Twitter) to the boycott, divestment and sanctions supporters who were trying to pressure him and Springsteen not to play in Israel this summer (no concert date has been announced).

Final note on Philip Kives, the K-tel founder and pioneer of the infomercial who died on April 27: He recognized early on the public appetite for big-hit compilation records. He bought the rights to many songs at the time, and in the last 10 years of his life he made another fortune licensing the songs to iTunes.

Reiner revival?

Rob Reiner

There’s pretty good advance buzz for “Being Charlie,” which opens in Bay Area theaters on Friday, May 13. Directed by Rob Reiner and co-written by his son, Nick Reiner, 22,  it is a semi-autobiographical account of Nick’s battle with drugs and the burdens of having a famous last name. Rob, 69, told ABC News: “Over the course of making the film, our relationship definitely changed. It wasn’t terrible or anything, but it got better, because I then understood a lot more of what he had gone through and he understood a bit more what I had gone through.”

Nate Bloom

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