a black and white of bernstein seated at a piano, making annotations on a piece of sheet music
Composer Leonard Bernstein (Photo/Library of Congress)

Orthodox mom ‘Ninja Warrior’; Leonard Bernstein documentary; Jake Gyllenhaal grilled by children; etc.

Frum and tough

There are moms, and then there are … ninja moms. Liba Yoffe, a 35-year-old Orthodox mother of four, is one of this year’s competitors on “American Ninja Warrior,” a brutal athletics competition-cum-reality show. “I love my religion, I love my culture. But there’s something missing,” the 4-foot-11 resident of Phoenix said in her audition video, before launching into a spiel about normalizing sports in school for girls. She’ll compete wearing modest sportswear and covering her hair.

In other frum sporting news, 31-year-old marathoner Beatie Deutsch has scored an Adidas ad campaign. The haredi mother of five, a native of Passaic, New Jersey who lives in Israel, was going to the Tokyo Olympics before Covid postponed those games. They’ve been rescheduled for this summer, but the marathon is on a Saturday. That’s a hard no for Deutsch, so she’s set her sights on the next games, and until then is training. “If there’s anything I’ve learned from running, it is to stand strong and stay positive, to drown out the voices of self-defeat and hold onto faith,” she posted on her social media. (Like Yoffe, Deutsch is 4-foot-11!)

More than music

A new documentary on Leonard Bernstein goes beyond the baton to talk about his upbringing, his difficult relationship with his Ukrainian Jewish immigrant father, and his long marriage and bisexuality. It also tackles his leftist politics, including a party he threw in 1970 to raise defense funds for imprisoned Black Panther Party members, something that drew the ire of many at the time. “Bernstein’s Wall” made its world premiere at the Tribeca film festival this month.

The Jewish Barbie

Drag queen Miz Cracker, who has described herself as a “Jewish Barbie on bath salts,” placed 10th on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in 2018. Now she’s doing episode recaps of the cult fave series with a series on YouTube called “Review with a Jew.” Miz Cracker is the stage name of Maxwell Heller, who told the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle: “If you were going to make a Jewish Barbie, you would take a regular Barbie doll and just raise one of her eyebrows! She’s just as gorgeous as the other dolls, but she has the brains too and she’s a bit cynical, because she knows what it’s like to be just a little bit on the outside.” J. interviewed her in 2019.

Calling out Hollywood

In an op-ed for Variety, editor Malina Saval takes issue with non-Jewish actresses playing main roles in biopics of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, activist Gloria Steinem, politician Golda Meir and others. She also calls out celebrities for antisemitism that goes unpunished. “If Jews controlled Hollywood, it’s fair to say this would not be happening,” she writes.

Gyllenhaal vs. the press

Jake Gyllenhaal has faced his toughest interview yet. To promote his new film (he’s the voice of the dad in the new computer-animated film “Spirit Untamed”) he sat down with 8-year-old Lyla and 5-year-old Luna (the children of a Yahoo journalist). Facing the tricky question of which one he likes better, mermaids or unicorns, the 40-year-old actor came down firmly on Team Unicorn. He also admitted to fighting with his sister, actor Maggie Gyllenhaal, 43, back when the two were kids.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.