Ryan Danz is not the first Jewish contestant to compete on the TV reality show “The Amazing Race,” but he’s definitely the only one to have come out of Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Rafael.
“Jew through and through from circ. to bar mit,” he tweeted to a fan. “I know I’m not the first — but I’m the Jewiest.”
Danz, 35, competed in the current season of the Emmy-winning CBS show, which sends 11 teams of two in a race around the world for a $1 million prize. Danz and girlfriend Abbie Ginsberg ran a tight race and were favorites to win, but they were eliminated in the Nov. 25 episode. They made it through nine of the 12 legs, racing through China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Russia and the Netherlands, and overcoming challenges that included eating frog fallopian tubes and riding motorcycles next to racing bulls.
Danz grew up in Sausalito and attended Brandeis from kindergarten to sixth grade in the 1980s. He had his bar mitzvah in Seattle, where he has a large extended family (his mother still lives in Sausalito). “I’m definitely culturally Jewish,” he said in an interview last week. “I’m loud and proud about it.”
Though “The Amazing Race” has not traveled to Israel in any of its 21 seasons — the country has its own version of the program, “HaMerotz LaMillion” — Danz has been to the Jewish state, on a confirmation youth trip when he was 16. “I loved Israel, climbing Masada at sunrise, going to Haifa to visit family. It was awesome,” he said.
Danz, who has his own financial services company and in his free time competes in the Brazilian martial art jiu-jitsu, returned to his home in Encinitas (San Diego County) in mid-June after “The Amazing Race” ended filming. He has been reliving his experience while watching the show each week along with 10 million other viewers. The finale is on Sunday, Dec. 9, and earlier episodes can be viewed on the CBS website.
As a result of his recent fame, Danz said he has reconnected on Facebook with nearly all of his Brandeis classmates. Was there anything about his Jewish education that might have led him to compete on reality TV? (He also did one season on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” in 2005.)
“I do know I dominated the SF/Marin Brandeis Olympics in the 6th grade,” Danz joked in an email. “Didn’t hurt that I was only 1 of 2 boys in my class however.”