Nate Bloom blogs on this week’s Jews in the News.
On Nobel Prizes and Baseball
As I write this (Oct. 6), the Nobel Prizes in medicine, physics, and chemistry have been awarded. Two out of three of the 2011 medicine winners (the late RALPH STEINMAN and BRUCE BEUTLER) are Jewish, as are two out of three of the physics laureates (SAUL PERLMUTTER and ADAM RIESS.) Also Jewish is the sole winner of the 2011 chemistry Nobel, Israeli DAN SCHECHTMAN. The number of Jewish winners, so far, is better than most years.
But it isn’t a shocking number. Nobel Prizes have been awarded since 1901 in five fields: medicine, chemistry, physics, literature, and peace. An economics prize was added in 1969. Most prizes are given to individuals. However, 23 out of 121 Nobel Peace Prizes have been given to organizations. Out of 815 Nobel Prizes given individuals, 181 of those winners have been Jewish or “half Jewish.”(Persons with one Jewish parent are about 10% of the 181). In other words, Jews, who represent less than a tenth of 1% of the world’s population, have won 22% of all the Nobel prizes given individuals. Jews have won 26% of the awards in the four “hard science” categories. (One can “quibble” about a handful of the winners: A few of the “half Jews” were raised Christian, and three Jewish winners converted away from Judaism before WWII; two did it for career reasons. By the way, one chemistry winner was a Christian-born convert to Orthodox Judaism.)
Wouldn’t it be great if someone made a documentary on these Jewish Nobel laureates with some attention to the ways in which the Jewish experience lead to this remarkable production of intellectual greats? There are tons of books, documentaries, etc. on Jews in baseball. However, less Jews (about 160) have played major league ball than have won Nobel Prizes (and about 18,000 people have played in the majors). A film on these laureates would be a source of pride for Jews and great public relations for the worldwide Jewish community. I am pretty sure that SANDY KOUFAX would rather see such a film than be asked, yet again, about sitting out on Yom Kippur.
Director DAVID FRANKEL, 52, has shown a very sure touch with his two recent hits (“The Devil Wears Prada” and “Marley and Me.”) So, it’s likely that his new comedy, “The Big Year,” which opens on Friday, Oct. 14, will be much better than many so/so movies about people who hit a life crisis and decide to chuck it all to pursue their dream. In Frankel’s film, three friends (Owen Wilson, Steve Martin, and JACK BLACK, 42) have come to a crossroads. Unhappy with their lives, they decide to take a year off and have a wild, cross-country adventure. All three are avid birdwatchers, so in their year off they try to outdo each other by finding the most bird species in North America. Appearing in supporting roles are RASHIDA JONES, 35, KEVIN POLLAK, 53, and TIM BLAKE NELSON, 47.
By the way, I recently pieced-together that Nelson, an Oklahoma native who wrote and directed the Holocaust film, “The Grey Zone” (2001), is the nephew of GEORGE KAISER, 67, a quite famous oil billionaire who is among the 100 richest people in America. Tim’s mother, RUTH KAISER NELSON, is George’s sister. Their parents were refugees from Nazi Germany. Ruth and George’s father and uncle founded an Oklahoma oil company in the 1940s, which George joined in the ‘60s and now heads-up. George and Ruth are among the biggest benefactors of the Oklahoma Jewish community and their philanthropy to the general Oklahoma community, including the arts, is truly incredible. In January 2009, Geo. Kaiser made headlines when he told the Oklahoma legislature that the state should eliminate or reduce tax incentives for the oil industry, and instead use the money for health care or education programs or for tax cuts for other taxpayers. He has, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, pledged to give half his wealth to charity.
On Oct.1, actor SETH ROGEN, 29, wed his longtime girlfriend, filmmaker/writer LAUREN MILLER, 30, in a Jewish ceremony held in a vineyard in Sonoma, California. Guests included Rogen’s frequent co-stars ADAM SANDLER, PAUL RUDD, and JONAH HILL. Director JUDD APATOW, who gave Rogen his first big breaks (the TV series, “Freaks” and Geeks,” and “Knocked-Up,” the movie), was also in attendance. Rogen recently told the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles that he planned to honor writer WILL REISER at his (then) upcoming wedding. Reiser, who wrote the script for Rogen’s new hit film, “50/50” (which was inspired by Reiser’s own fight with cancer)—was the person who first introduced Miller to Rogen. (In Sept. 2010, I profiled Miller, who grew-up in Lakeland, Florida, in this column: http://letmypeoplegrow.org/2010/10/jews-newscelebrity-scoop-conviction-freakonomics-seth-rogen/
Nate Bloom writes a weekly column on Jewish celebrities, broadly defined, that appears in the Atlanta Jewish Times, the Cleveland Jewish News, the American Israelite of Cincinnati, the Detroit Jewish News, and the New Jersey Jewish Standard. It also appears bi-weekly in j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California. Most of the items in Bloom’s weekly newspaper column differ from the items in his bi-weekly column on interfaith celebrities for InterfaithFamily.com. If you wish to contact Nate Bloom, e-mail him at email@example.com . The author welcomes questions and celebrity “tips,” especially about people you personally know.