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...

  • Europe Featured Sports Major Jewish Group Accuses Popular Soccer Website Goal.com of ‘Inciting Jew-Hatred’

    Major Jewish Group Accuses Popular Soccer Website Goal.com of ‘Inciting Jew-Hatred’

    Major Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Monday sharply criticized popular soccer news site Goal.com for “denying the legitimacy of Israel and inciting to Jew-hatred” in its Arabic language versions, The Algemeiner has learned. In a sharp letter to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the Center’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, drew attention to articles on the site that refer to Israel as the “Zionist entity” or an “enemy,” and accuse the Jewish state [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Time Out Features Single Lady Who Likes ‘Big Schlubby Jewish Comedians’

    Time Out Features Single Lady Who Likes ‘Big Schlubby Jewish Comedians’

    A profile published Wednesday in Time Out New York highlighted a 25-year-old Brooklyn woman who claimed she is attracted to chubby Jewish comedians, Maxim Deputy Editor Jason Feifer pointed out via Twitter. Talking about a date she went on, Steph, a sunglasses designer living in Borough Park, told the magazine, ”He was very attractive, just not my type. I like big schlubby Jewish comedians and he was clean-cut.” Feifer posted a picture of the magazine page and commented that Steph’s preferences amounted [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Gold on the Galilee: Israeli Kayaker Comes of Age, Eyes Olympics (VIDEO)

    Gold on the Galilee: Israeli Kayaker Comes of Age, Eyes Olympics (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Three years ago, kayaking coach Roei Lev found aspiring Olympian Ilya Podpolnyy crying on the steps of the Jordan Valley Sprint Kayak Club overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Podpolnyy, then 17 years old, had just been disqualified from the Israeli kayaking championship. He couldn’t survive the heats. He didn’t make the start line. He was devastated—and he had no one with whom to share his hopes, his dreams, and his disappointment. His divorced parents still live in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    “Girls” creator Lena Dunham responded on Tuesday to charges of antisemitism over an article she had penned for the New Yorker, saying it was all in good humor. Speaking to Variety, Dunham reflected on her “tight-knit Jewish family, where Jew jokes were part of the essential fiber of our communication.” The article Dunham referred to was called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” with options such as “He doesn’t Tip” and “He’s Crazy for Cream Cheese.” Among Dunham’s critics, Anti-Defamation [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Retired NBA player Keyon Dooling tweeted a link on Wednesday to a wildly antisemitic article that accuses Jews of seizing control of the world’s media and using it to promote their own interests. The article, published by an obscure blog in April 2013, highlights six companies it claims are owned by Jews — such as Time Warner, Inc. and the Walt Disney Company – that allegedly “control 96 percent of the world’s media.”  The post includes allegations of “Jewish control” and says [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz responded to an outcry from Jewish fans on Tuesday, saying he will go ahead and play in the season opener despite the fact that it falls on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Keep getting tweets about that being the first night of Rosh Hashanah… Don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you. It’s a tough break,” the Jewish athlete wrote, referring to the Giants’ on-the-road game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    JNS.org – When David Blatt was hired as head coach of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers last June, he was not often recognized when he walked the streets of downtown Cleveland. What a difference a year makes. Now, Blatt can go few places without being recognized. For good reason. The Jewish coach has the Cavaliers in the mix to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since the Browns won the National Football League title in [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.