Celebrity Jews

Hank and Jackie

Opening in theaters on Friday, April 12, is “42.” The title refers to the jersey number of the great Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), the first African American to play Major League ball. The film follows Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) as he is selected by Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford, 70), the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager, to break the “gentleman’s agreement” that kept owners from signing black players. Robinson agreed to Rickey’s request that no matter how much racist abuse he suffered during his rookie season (1947) he would not react with strong words or by fighting back.

Hank Greenberg

Depicted in the film is one teammate (Dixie Walker) who wouldn’t play with Robinson and players on other teams who directed racial slurs at Robinson or even tried to injure him (Ben Chapman, the Phillies player-manager, and St. Louis catcher Joe Garagiola, now 87).

Robinson’s allies included Dodger shortstop Pee Wee Reese, a Southerner; Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca, now 87; and Hall of Fame first baseman Hank Greenberg (1911-1986). Branca, a devout Catholic who was the Dodgers’ pitching ace during the 1947 season, found out in 2011 that his late mother was born Jewish. He told the reporter who discovered this fact that maybe her Jewish background led his mother to teach him to be tolerant of people of any background. Branca welcomed Robinson on his first day with a hearty handshake.

Greenberg is not depicted in “42”. However, the details of his friendship with Robinson are found in many sources, including what many view as the best Robinson biography, “Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy” (1983), by the late San Francisco State historian Jules Tygiel. During a May 1947 game, Greenberg, then playing for Pittsburg, told Robinson, “Stick in there. You’re doing fine. Keep your chin up.” A couple of days later, Robinson told reporters that Greenberg was his “diamond hero” and “Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg.”


Bar mitzvah invitation goes viral

This month, Toronto resident Jorel Hoffert is scheduled to have his bar mitzvah. In the words of the Wall Street Journal: “He conscripted his parents and grandparents to make a truly mind-blowing [bar mitzvah] video invitation, which has to be seen to be believed (and beloved).The video features young Hoffert throwing down serious East-West swag: Crooning a reskinned ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ showing off serious air-guitar and actual-piano chops, and finishing off with an epic Gangnam-style finale. And the lyrics are hilarious, with lines like ‘I’m half a Jew/Learned Hebrew/I’m half Asian and proud of that too.’ ”

To see it, go to YouTube and search for “Jorel Rocks.”


Check out Tapper

Award-winning journalist Jake Tapper, 44, started last month as the host of a new CNN news program, “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” (1-2 p.m.). Tapper, who attended a Philadelphia Jewish day school, was ABC’s senior White House correspondent from 2008 to 2012.

Jake Tapper

Sadly, early ratings are anemic, and while Tapper’s shows are informative, they don’t take a strong point of view like the similar shows on MSNBC and Fox News. As Bill Maher recently put it wryly: “For the left, there is MSNBC; for the right, there is Fox; for airport lounges, there is CNN.”

CNN International benefits from being perceived as nonideological and makes a lot of money. Management doesn’t want to confuse the brand by remaking CNN domestic channel into an opinion outlet. Things may change if Tapper’s show fails in the ratings, like similar down-the-middle CNN shows hosted by good journalists like Campbell Brown, 44.

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

Nate Bloom

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