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Friday, April 30, 2004 | return to: celebrities


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Celebrity Jews

by nate burns

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Jewish geography

There may be six degrees of separation between any two people on Earth, but it often seems among Jews there are three or less. Example: Film producer Martin Richards was recently spotted in the theater staring at Ralph Lauren. Richards told the New York Post: "I'm Marty Klein. He's Ralph Lipschitz. We grew up on the same block. I won an Oscar for 'Chicago.' He made a billion dollars. Isn't America wonderful?"

Likewise, the Washington Post just reported that A. Mark Neuman, the trade counselor for the Victoria's Secret company, has an interesting connection to the lingerie empire's new pitchman, Bob Dylan. His father, a rabbi, was Bob's bar mitzvah tutor. Neuman, known in D.C. as the "bra guy," is kicking himself for not being the one who thought of hiring Dylan. Rabbi Isaac Neuman also had '60s radical Jerry Rubin in a Hebrew school class, but quickly kicked him out for bad behavior.

However, the strangest bar mitzvah pairing of all-time came when Rabbi Meir Kahane, the extremist, tutored '60s hippie icon Arlo Guthrie ("Alice's Restaurant") for his 1960 bar mitzvah. Guthrie told the New York Jewish Week that he recalled Kahane as a "sweet, young rabbi" and characterized their relationship as "ironic." Arlo, son of legendary singer/composer Woody Guthrie, is Jewish on his mother's side.




Brit styles of the rich and famous

Debra Messing ("Will and Grace") and her husband, actor-writer Daniel Zelman, gave birth to a boy on Friday, April 9. Before the birth, Messing had a well-publicized baby shower and Messing's baby gift registry was on the Web. Some generous friends added to Ralph Lauren's earnings and bought her a lot of Polo clothing.

Now, I'm not sure that Messing's son had a brit, but she and her husband seem fairly traditional, so it's very likely. Messing and Zelman don't seem likely to be part of the trendy, New Agey opposition to circumcision that even has touched some Jews. Recently, Dr. Joel Piser, a Berkeley urologist and mohel, told the Alameda Star-Times about this opposition: "I think we live in a time where people question everything. It's a reflection of that more than anything. ... The foreskin is sacred in Berkeley. It is quite an emotional issue for a lot of people."

No doubt, Dr. Fred Kogen doesn't get any Berkeley clients wearing a T-shirt proclaiming "The foreskin is sacred." Kogen, an L.A. doctor and mohel, is just about the closest thing we have to a "mohel to the stars," and Jewish celebs like Jason Alexander and Jake (Body by Jake) Steinfeld have used his services. He has also circumcised the sons of non-Jewish celebs, like Michelle Pfeiffer.

Kogen knows his market, and he has been described in a New York Times Magazine article as wearing expensive Italian suits and driving a fancy car. He maintains that such touches inspire confidence in him. However, he told The Times that he emphasizes the seriousness of the moment, "For everyone, movie stars included, it's a question of, 'How can I make this meaningful?' So they try to make everyone feel involved — the relatives, people serving, the guy making the video, the industry connections." Kogen aside, this part of Jewish life has appropriately remained a private event and — unlike celeb baby showers — doesn't attract mass-market publicity. If you don't believe me, wait until the film musical version of "The Producers" opens next year and only the Jews in the audience are giggling at the name of the director character: Roger De Bris.




Biggies for Bush

Several Web sites allow you to track the campaign donations of just about anyone. Thought there are no Jewish Republicans in show biz? Well, Bush contributors include director Sam Raimi ("Spiderman"); talk-show host Maury Povich and "Entertainment Tonight" host Mary Hart, who's a convert to Judaism. Next week, some Democrats.




Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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