Friday, March 26, 2004 | return to: celebrities


Celebrity Jews

by nate bloom

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Something older, something new

Jann Wenner was the only Jewish inductee into the Rock Hall of Fame this year. Wenner founded in 1967 the famous bible of the music business, Rolling Stone, when he was 21. The S.F.-raised Wenner created the magazine in Haight-Ashbury but moved it to New York in 1977.

In articles on her Web site,, novelist Kate Wenner, Jann's sister, describes a familiar Jewish family odyssey — her parents left the religious practice of their youth, and the only Jewishness in the Wenner household while Kate grew up was the mention of accomplished Jews in the arts, etc. As an adult, Kate went on a spiritual quest, political and religious. She returned to California from New York in 1988 to care for her dying father. Just before she left, she sought the counsel of the charismatic Rabbi Marshall Meyer, who had just taken the pulpit of the almost empty Congregation B'nai Jeshurun. Over time, Kate became an observant Jew and B'nai Jeshurun revived as the hippest shul in Manhattan. Much later, Kate found out from her uncle that B'nai Jeshurun was the temple where both her parents were confirmed.

While Jann has been around a long time, Toby Lightman is just being noticed. This attractive, 20-something singer/songwriter has been all over the media since the release of her debut video single, "Devils and Angels," and she has been compared to Sheryl Crow and Lauren Hill. She's featured in the April issues of YM, Teen People and Teen Vogue magazines, and her video of "Devils" is now playing on MTV/VH1. She appeared on Letterman in February and will appear on Conan O'Brien's show on March 30. Her Conan appearance coincides with the release of her first CD, "Little Things." (See and VH1/ MTV Web sites.)

Briefly noted

Elijah Wood, who isn't Jewish, but is a megastar because of "The Lord of the Rings," series, has signed to play the lead in the film version of Jonathan Safran Foer's award-winning novel about a young American Jew's visit to his ancestors' home in the Ukraine, "Everything is Illuminated." Actor Liev Schreiber, who is Jewish on his mother's side, is making his directorial debut with this flick.

Alicia Silverstone's series "Miss Match" has been put on hiatus following disappointing ratings. NBC promises it will be brought back later this spring, but it appears to be on a ratings deathwatch. Meanwhile, Silverstone opens this week in the kid movie "Scooby Doo 2." More promising is Alicia's co-starring role (opposite Queen Lafitah) in the upcoming "The Beauty Shop," a sequel to the hit African American film "The Barber Shop."

The popular reality show "Average Joe" has brought back Jewish bachelor Adam Mesh for a four-part series, which started Monday, March 15, called "Adam Returns." In December, a beautiful woman rejected Mesh in the last round. However, TV fans loved Adam, and he's back — except this time he does the picking from a group of 19 women whittled from thousands who wrote in wanting to marry Mesh. Our sources tell us that at least two of the 19 are Jewish: Jennifer Lifshitz, a grad student at the University of Michigan school of social work who's studying to be a Jewish community worker, and Stephanie Cahn, an Ohio native. (Two more have very Jewish names.)

This Sunday's episode of "The Sopranos" features the Jewish wedding of an associate of the crime family. Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, has a cameo role at the wedding. Made us think that if Wieseltier really was connected he would have been sorely tempted to put a hit on Michael Medved, the most prominent Jewish apologist for Mel Gibson. Wieseltier savaged Medved and Gibson in his review of "The Passion." Medved can say what he wants, but he is this month's clear winner of the Noam Chomsky award for the Jewish celeb most unpopular in the mainstream Jewish community.

Autumn Chiklis, 11, is an actress who isn't allowed to see her own show. What? Autumn is the daughter of Michael Chiklis, the Emmy-winning star of the violent FX network series "The Shield." Michael just told Craig Kilborn, host of "The Late Show," that he was happy to cast his real-life daughter as his daughter in the show, but he won't let her watch "The Shield": She's too young. He does let her see her scenes in dailies, however. Michael isn't Jewish but his wife is, and the couple belong to an L.A. synagogue where Autumn and her sister attend Hebrew school.

Nate Bloom is the Oakland-based editor of


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