Celebrity Jews

Double take in Show-Me State

Two especially interesting Jewish candidates are running in Missouri — a nice place, but certainly not a state known for electing Jews to high office.

Eric Greitens

The Republican nominee for Missouri governor is Eric Greitens, a 42-year-old St. Louis native who has quite an eye-popping resume. Here are a few highlights: He was a Rhodes scholar; he has a Ph.D. in development studies from Lady Margaret Hall, a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England; he was a Navy SEAL who led raids on al-Qaida cells and earned both a Bronze Star and Purple Heart; he founded the Mission Continues, which encourages and facilitates volunteerism by disabled and wounded veterans; and he’s written three books (including a memoir about his SEAL service).

A poll taken late last week indicated that the Missouri governor’s race was too close to call, according to KYTV, a Springfield, Missouri, TV station.

Meanwhile, another very tight race involves Democrat Jason Kander, 35, attempting to oust Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. After graduating from Georgetown University Law School, Kander did a tour of duty in Afghanistan as an Army lieutenant, then served in the Missouri Legislature and as the secretary of state. He believes in background checks for gun buyers, and has countered Blunt’s criticism of his position by posting a video in which he took apart and assembled a rifle, blindfolded.

Kander has known his wife, Diana Kagan, 34, since grade school. They reunited at Georgetown Law and married in 2003. A startup expert, author and teacher at the University of Missouri, Kagan immigrated to the United States with her parents as a Jewish refugee from the Soviet Union. Jason’s great-uncle is John Kander, 89, the composer and co-lyricist of many hits, including “Chicago,” “Cabaret” and “New York, New York.”


New on the tube

Jessica Chaffin

“Man with a Plan” is a CBS comedy series that started on Oct. 24, with new episodes scheduled to air Mondays at 8:30 p.m. Matt LeBlanc stars as a stay-at-home dad whose wife has returned to work. Jessica Chaffin, 34, has a regular supporting role as Marie, a neighbor LeBlanc consults about parenting.

Chaffin and her comedy partner, Jamie Denbo, 43, have long had a comedic podcast (“Ronna and Beverly”); they play two 50-something Jewish women who dispense advice and interview real celebrity guests.




Here comes Mel Gibson again

Andrew Garfield

The new movie “Hacksaw Ridge” is a biopic about Desmond Doss, an Army medic and Seventh-day Adventist whose religious beliefs prohibited taking human life. He was a hero during World War II and his story is perfect for an action film that also explores questions of morality and courage.

However, much of the attention around “Hacksaw Ridge” is focused on director Mel Gibson and whether the film will be a comeback vehicle for him. His films have flopped since his infamous 2006 anti-Semitic incident and later reports of spousal abuse. In promoting the movie, which opens on Friday, Nov. 4, Gibson has been saying he “repents” for his past sins.

Andrew Garfield, 33, has been cast as Doss, and some are speculating that Gibson made that choice because Garfield is Jewish. Was Gibson thinking ahead to Garfield promoting the film, hoping that Garfield will say something like, “I’m Jewish and Mel treated me with respect”? Maybe.

However, reportedly Gibson has always had good/respectful relations with Jews on movie sets. It’s his off-set words and actions that have been appalling.

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at middleoftheroad1@aol.com.

Nate Bloom

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