Dances and speeches yield Jewish winners at Academy Awards

A minyan of Jewish talent garnered coveted Oscar statuettes at the 2011 Academy Awards ceremony.

In the opening montage of the Academy Award ceremony Sunday night, hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway played with a dreidel, which proved to be an omen that a good night awaited Jewish talent.

Israeli-born Natalie Portman, beaming and pregnant, walked off with the best actress trophy for her portrayal of a tortured ballerina in “Black Swan.”

“The King’s Speech” was named best picture and Emile Sherman, scion of a prominent Australian Jewish family, accepted as one of the three producers.

Jewish writers swept the boards, with Britain’s David Seidler of “King’s Speech” winning for original screenplay and Aaron Sorkin of “The Social Network” for adapted screenplay.

The 73-year-old Seidler, like his film’s subject, grew up as a stutterer. His paternal grandparents perished in the Holocaust.

Danish director-writer Susanne Bier, who studied for two years at the Hebrew University and the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, took the best foreign language film statuette for “In a Better World,” a story of a conflicted family relationship. Bier’s forebears fled persecution in Nazi Germany and czarist Russia, and she was raised in an observant Jewish home.

Israeli contenders in various categories were eliminated early on this year, but “Strangers No More,” a short documentary on the work of the Bialik-Rogozin School in south Tel Aviv won in its category.

The film, by married American filmmakers Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman, chronicles the school’s efforts to educate and integrate students from 48 countries, many the children of foreign workers — dozens of whom are under the threat of deportation.

Goodman, who is Jewish, sent her regards to the Tel Aviv school in her acceptance speech, calling it an expression of tolerance between human beings. The couple was accompanied by the school’s principal, Karen Tal.

Director-writer Lee Unkrich of San Rafael accepted the award for his animated feature “Toy Story 3,” which also won an Oscar for veteran composer Randy Newman’s original song “We Belong Together.”

The award for sound mixing went to Lora Hirschberg and two colleagues for their contribution to “Inception.”

The 10 Jewish Oscar winners’ ranks were augmented by an array of Oscar presenters, including Kirk Douglas, Scarlett Johansson, Billy Crystal and Steven Spielberg.

Franco, a Palo Alto native, added another heimishe note by introducing his beaming Jewish mother and grandmother sitting in the audience.

JTA

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