Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Top 10 Jewish Celebrity Role Models (Living)

November 20, 2011 12:31 pm 14 comments

Actor Liev Schreiber on the Salt panel at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con in San Diego, California. Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Owning a PR agency, I work to build brands and create personas. We have worked with many celebrities and are well aware of the impact that “famous” people have in today’s world. As a proud traditional Jew and Zionist, I decided to create a list of the top 10 Jewish celebrity role models. Qualification for this list required more than just being Jewish – my choices are famous and also care about Judaism, Israel and upholding our faith, or some part of our faith. For this list, I have excluded nebbishes (no Woody Allens here,) and figures that are actively anti-Israel (Billy Crystal boycotted an event celebrating Israel’s 50th anniversary.) Being Jewish by name only wasn’t enough to qualify one for this list, it required a lot more than that!

Read it with a sense of humor – it is compiled by a public relations pro, not a rabbi, so it’s open for debate – and keep things in perspective, this was a much harder task than anticipated. In no particular order here is the 1st ever top 10 list of famous Jewish role models:

Steven Spielberg: As director of Schindler’s List, creator of Holocaust memorial programs, and noted philanthropist, Spielberg deserves placement on the list. In his own words “I went to school without Jewish friends and did not have Jewish community centers to go to. So I was kind of like an odd duck, so to speak. There was a lot of antisemitism – I learned something from all of this and it wasn’t to turn the other cheek.” While Holocaust education remains a key focus for him, he has also established the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at Hebrew University and is active in other areas of Jewish communal life.

Adam Sandler: Perhaps his greatest contribution to the Jewish world, Sandler wrote The Chanukah Song so that Jews wouldn’t feel alienated during Christmas. It is possibly the most important Jewish lyrical release in the last 25 years. Sandler also positively presents  the “Jewish experience” in many of his movies. Especially in 2008 release “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” which paints an uncannily accurate picture of Israeli culture, mannerisms and behaviors.

Sacha Baron Cohen: If you have watched Ali G, you know he’s fluent in Hebrew, and if you have a sense of humor you realize he pokes fun at everything, even often exploring antisemitic thresholds. He lived in Israel for a year, keeps kosher, attends synagogue, and has said “I am a proud friend of Israel.” His wife, Isla Fisher converted to Judaism after three years of study and said “I will definitely have a Jewish wedding just to be with Sacha.” She took on the Hebrew name Ayala and has described herself as Shabbat observant.

Liev Schreiber: Defiance is one of the greatest Jewish movies ever, and Schreiber’s character in the movie, Zus Bielski is a true Jewish hero (Bielski is one of three Jewish warrior brothers who fought the Nazis.) As Schreiber says “this was a remarkable story — a triumphant story. It sets out to redefine the Jewish image — that of fighter. We all know tough Jews like that. My own grandfather was incredibly tough and athletic and was the main male role model in my life.” Not one prone to stereotypes, Schreiber is “also inspired by the feats of a different kind of Jew.” He jokes that “all American Jews point to baseball player Sandy Koufax and swimmer Mark Spitz as evidence that the stereotype of the effete, cerebral Jew is not true. They even take a little pride in the fact that there was a Jewish equivalent of the mafia. While nothing like the mafia, once the conflict started, the Bielski brothers had no qualms about using brutal violence against the Nazis.” He says,I write and I act a lot about being Jewish.” He is proud of his Jewish heritage, and both of his children were circumcised according to Jewish law, with a Hebrew naming ceremony so boot, on the occasion he commented “I’m not an observant person but I love the idea of a bris in the same way I love the seder. I really appreciate the sense of continuity and relatedness in Jewish culture.”

Emmanuelle Chriqui: A good Jewish Moroccan girl who was raised religious and is active in Jewish charities and causes. She cares about Israel, is gorgeous, and is a positive reflection of our people.

William Shatner & Leonard Nimoy: These “trekkies” are both active in the Jewish community and proud. The v-shaped hand signal that Nimoy made famous as Mr. Spock was a remembrance from his synagogue days – the shape of the letter shin in the Hebrew alphabet, the first letter of “shalom,” or peace. The symbol was inspired by the priestly blessing ritual of the kohanim, whom are genealogical descendents of Jewish priests from the historic Jewish temple in Jerusalem. William Shatner is involved with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and serves as an ambassador for causes in Israel.

Paula Abdul: With a unique ethnic background – Her father is a Syrian Jew and mother is a Canadian Jew – Abdul is proudly Jewish. She visited Israel after an invitation from the Israeli government saying, “my dream is to visit Israel, go to the Dead Sea, to tour the Western Wall and other holy sites.”

Fran Drescher: A Jewish style icon, Drescher was one of the first to show that Jewish girls could be sexy, glamorous and successful while openly very Jewish.

Benjamin Stein: Frequently refers to himself as a proud Jew.

Ivanka Trump: Since converting to marry media and real estate entrepreneur Jared Kushner, she has been Shabbat observant, kosher and was featured in media outlets worldwide this year carrying a lulav and etrog on the second day of Sukkot, headed to synagogue with her husband. This Jewish power couple have given their time and hearts to Jewish causes. It is beautiful and inspiring to see such a nice, young, smart, and attractive, Jewishly committed couple.

Honorable mention goes to criminal defense attorney Benjamin (Ben) Brafman who, after successfully defending Sean “Diddy” Combs, – achieving an acquittal on all counts late on a Friday afternoon – said : “This is an amazing victory, and I am, of course, very happy for Puffy and his family. I know that following the Super Bowl, the winning quarterback generally announces that he is now ‘going to Disneyland.’ Well, ladies and gentlemen, this winning quarterback is going to synagogue — Shabbat is coming!” This statement received worldwide attention and served as a beautiful inspiration for proud Jews worldwide. As Brafman said “leaving a press conference because ‘Shabbat is coming’ turned a personal professional victory into a genuine Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name).”

Owning a PR firm and working in an industry that involves high profile encounters, I have often found it difficult to find proud Jewish role models. Let’s hope that all good Jews – celebrity or not – work to portray a positive image of our people and faith.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5WPR, a Top 25 PR Agency and author of Amazon best-selling PR book “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations,” available for purchase here.

14 Comments

  • Henry Rodrigues

    Thank you for this list. It is a true pleasure to read the comments of others on these boards, whether someone is in agreement or not, they are very civilized . Algemeiner is doing a good job of attracting people. I have a further list of people over here: http://bit.ly/1MW3mLM

  • Love a top-10 list that references Liev Shreiber in Definace. Completely agree.

    Evelyn

    http://www.rockymountainjewess.blogspot.com
    http://www.beckerimpact.com

  • frania kryszpel block

    Mr.Brafman’s statement is something of which we can be proud. Defending a famous businessman and icon like Combs in court. Then needing to leave to celebrate the coming of Sabbath. Pure poetry. That tidbit is so interesting and valuable. I know I will remember and talk about it for a long time. Mr. Torossian, your last sentences an this article are powerful. All good Jews ,you hope,will work to portray a positive image of Jewish people. You are an example of that. Good looking, smart, world wise, steetsmart, not afraid of much. Can go either way using your many talents. yet you care. You are the example of morally,physically, spititually strong Jews. No one should ever mistake that for weakness. That same strength turns to wrath at injustice.

  • What? No Kinky Friedman?

  • I agree with Mayim Bialik to a degree.

    Although a natural-born Jewess, she initially married out-of-faith, then her husband became a ger (convert) and she became baal-tsuvah (born again Jew).

    Id really love to hear her story.

  • What about Matisyahu?!

  • frania kryszpel block

    Thank you for this list. A good fit and well thought out. It is a true pleasure to read the comments of others on these boards, whether someone is in agreement or not, they are very civilized . Algemeiner attracts good people. Thank you

  • Such a source of pride, how many more Jewish Role Models we have, who could have easily been included on this list. Maybe we need a top 100! :)

  • I’m surprised that Natalie Portman isn’t on the list, how is not only proud of her Judaism, and her Israeli heritage, but has repeatedly spoken out in support of Israel.

  • 5WPR must represent some of these people otherwise i dont think they’d include some of them – Ben Stein ?

  • Benjamin Stein? That would be the idiot creationist of “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”? A film rife with selective editing and out-right lies? The former Nixon underling? Him you call a role-model because of what he calls himself?

    A pig can call itself a blintz but it still ain’t kosher.

  • that mayim bialik is not on this list is a shanda

  • Dont’ forget Mayim Bialik! She is a proud Jewess! Shomeret Shabbat, etc. and famous!

  • Thank you Ronn Torossian I agree we need something like this cute and fun reading but wheres my girl bar rafaeli

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →