Top 10 Jewish Celebrity Role Models (Living)

November 20, 2011 12:31 pm 13 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.

13 Comments

  • 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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough took to Instagram on Tuesday to marvel about climbing the famed Masada fortress with his band during their visit to Israel, where they will perform this week for the first time. The group’s second day of sightseeing in the Jewish state included the Masada hike, and taking a mud bath at the Dead Sea. A picture from the band’s official Twitter page shows the five singers covered in mud. While relaxing in the Dead Sea, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews US & Canada ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    A new book and its upcoming film adaptation tell the true story of how three former yeshiva students who habitually smoked marijuana scored a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply weapons for the Afghan Army, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday. Arms and the Dudes details how the Miami Beach potheads became “the most unlikely gunrunners in history,” according to the book’s author, investigative reporter Guy Lawson. The tale begins with Efraim Diveroli, nephew of [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    JNS.org – Natalie Portman, who directs and stars in the new Hebrew-language film adaptation of author Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, says that despite Oz’s record as a vocal left-wing critic of Israel, her film is not political. Like the book on which it is based, Portman’s film is about a young boy at the time of the founding of the state of Israel. “I think the movie is very much about this very particular, specific family story. Of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.