Jake Tapper speaking on stage
Jake Tapper at the South by Southwest media festival in Austin, Texas, March 2017 (Photo/Flickr-nrkbeta CC BY-SA 2.0)

Einstein’s ‘Genius’ — and Jake Tapper’s rising star

Einstein’s ‘Genius’

Jake Tapper at the South by Southwest media festival in Austin, Texas, March 2017 (Photo/Flickr-nrkbeta CC BY-SA 2.0)

National Geographic Channel’s first scripted television series, “Genius,” looks at the life of Albert Einstein (1879-1955) over 10 episodes. The first one premiered on April 25, with encore airings on April 28 and 29. According to early reviews, Einstein’s colorful life and multifaceted personality are depicted pretty accurately. Major sources for the series include Einstein’s huge body of writing and correspondence, released over the last 30 years by the Einstein Papers Project, and Walter Isaacson’s 2007 biography “Einstein: His Life and Universe.”

I liked Isaacson’s book, which reported on how Einstein’s Jewish background influenced him. It also explained the science in an understandable way. The same can’t be said of the NatGeo series, according to reviewers, who said it isn’t the best source for a lay person who wants to better understand the scientific breakthroughs that made Einstein a genius.

Jake Tapper’s rising star

In 2013, I wrote about CNN journalist Jake Tapper, in which I said it was likely he would follow the path taken by his two immediate CNN predecessors. They were so reined in by CNN’s bland style at the time that they got tepid ratings and were canceled. I was surprised when a CNN representative called me and pointed out that Tapper’s ratings were inching up. I told this rep I was rooting for Tapper. But in my heart, I worried he wouldn’t last long if he wasn’t allowed to assert himself and be more editorial.

Tapper, 48, not only managed to survive but is now thriving in the ratings. The Trump era has proven to be a boon for CNN, bolstered by Trump’s attacks on the media and “fake” news, the investigation of pre-election ties to Russia and much more. Many traditional media outlets have been forced to adapt their reporting to this new reality. Tapper and other seasoned reporters, for example, have dispensed with the tradition of calling a falsehood “a misstatement” and are now using the word “lie.”

Tapper, who grew up in Philadelphia where he attended Jewish day school, is probably the most high-profile Jewish anchor ever and seems proud of his heritage. (He even wished former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, 63, a happy Passover this year.) His sister-in-law, Rabbi Laurie Hahn Tapper, 41, a Bay Area native, is the director of  Jewish studies and school rabbi at Yavneh Day School in Los Gatos. She is married to Jake’s brother, Aaron Hahn Tapper, 43, a Jewish studies professor at the University of San Francisco and author of the recent book “Judaisms: A 21st Century Introduction to Jews and Jewish Identities.” In it, Aaron recounts how a yeshiva in Israel required him to prove, through his own research, that his mother’s conversion to Judaism had met Orthodox standards — and he did so, successfully.


Members of the rock band Yes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 7. Current members give the induction speech for new inductees. Rush bassist Geddy Lee, 63, inducted Yes and his laudatory speech included praise for Trevor Rabin, 63. Rabin was a guitarist for Yes and a principal songwriter (“Owner of a Lonely Heart,” “Love will Find a Way.”) Also, Bob Dylan, 75, praised inductee Joan Baez in a recorded message.

Nate Bloom

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