Celebrity Jews

I left my home in San Francisco

“Company Town” is a documentary about how San Francisco is being transformed by the influx of high-paid tech workers, as well as Airbnb, the home-sharing service. The film, which premiered in the Mill Valley Film Festival and opens on Oct. 28, shows how Airbnb gives property owners incentive to convert rent-controlled buildings into lucrative mini-hotels. Activist Jeffrey Kwong visits a Chinatown apartment building where long-term residents are being evicted to make way for short-term rentals. Petty rule violations, like hanging Chinese holiday decorations on doors, allegedly are being used as a pretext for eviction. As Kwong, who grew up in Chinatown, aptly points out in the film, this is like evicting a Jewish person for hanging a mezuzah.

The story of the displacement of middle- and working-class residents is mostly told through the prism of the 2015 election for supervisor in a district that includes North Beach, Chinatown and Telegraph Hill. The seat was then held by Julie Christensen, an appointee of the mayor who appeared to be wishy-washy about the housing crisis. Her principal challenger was Aaron Peskin, 52, who supported legislation to limit Airbnb rentals. His election would (and did) tip the board majority to supervisors determined to slow down gentrification.

Deborah Kaufman

Filmmakers Deborah Kaufman, 61, and Alan Snitow, 68, don’t pretend to be neutral or look at the other side of the issue, in which struggling homeowners depend on income from Airbnb rentals. The film holds Peskin up as the hero and drives home that the changes are hurting the ethnic, economic and cultural diversity of the city.

A sweet moment comes when Peskin’s parents, Harvey and Tsipora (a native of Israel), cheer him at an election-victory party.

In the film’s notes, native San Franciscan Kaufman, founder of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, recalls a project with her Congregation Beth Sholom confirmation class painting rooms in the residential International Hotel, which at the time housed mostly low-income Filipino immigrants. From 1977 to 1981, a political firestorm took place over the hotel’s demolition to make way for office buildings, foreshadowing today’s events.

Diggs on the move

Tracee Ellis Ross

Oakland native Daveed Diggs, 34, who won a Tony Award for playing Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette in “Hamilton,” left the the Broadway smash hit in July and is now appearing in a six-episode story arc in the ABC series “Black-ish.” Diggs plays Johan, the brother of family matriarch Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross, 43). Rainbow and Johan are biracial, as are Diggs and Ross. Each actor also has one Jewish parent — his mother and her father. Diggs told Time: “I’ve always related to [Rainbow] the most because there’s something particularly hippie/Bay Area about her upbringing.”

During the interview, Diggs sang a hip-hop song he wrote about Oakland’s gentrification. Here’s a bit: “Feeling the weight of a city growing fat off hipster chic/Fusion food, organic beets … So much hand-to-mouth in the streets.” Diggs said things have become much worse since he left in 2012 and, ironically, with his success, he feels that he’s now a gentrifier.

Actress in Trump video is Jewish

Arianne Zucker, 40, is the actress who has been seen around the world since the release of a 2005 video in which Donald Trump makes notoriously lewd comments about women. Zucker is seen greeting Trump as he arrives on her soap opera set.

Here’s what she wrote about her Jewish background, posted on a fan site in 2003. “I wanted to clean up my article from Soap Digest a little. I am not both Jewish and Christian. I grew up in an interfaith family. Meaning my Mom is Jewish and my Dad’s family Christian. You can only be one (well you can be anything you want) but knowledgeable of all. So being that my Mom is Jewish, I am Jewish. But we learned about my Dad’s side as well. So in turn we got to celebrate both.”

 

Nate Bloom

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