Nate Bloom blogs on this week’s Jews in the News.
Here is my list of Jewish athletes competing at the London Games, other than Israelis. My research was not as extensive as in some past years and I don’t claim this list is exhaustive.
Australia: STEVE SOLOMON, 19, track, 4x400M relay team. He plans to attend Stanford Univ. after the Games and become a physician, like his father; Germany: SARAH POEWE, 29, swimming, 100M breaststroke. She was born and raised in South Africa, the daughter of a German (non-Jewish) father and a South African Jewish mother. In 2004, she swam for Germany and won an Olympic bronze medal in the 4X100M medley relay. New Zealand: JO ALEH, 28, sailing. In 2012, she competes in the two-woman “470” class (a small dinghy). Her team is very high ranked. In 2008, she competed in an individual sailing event. Ukraine: VASYL FEDORYSHYN, 32, wrestling. In 2008, he won the silver medal in the Men’s Freestyle 60KG weight class and competes in this class again in 2012. In 2009, he competed in the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
United States: DAVID BANKS, 28, rowing, Men’s Eight [man boat]. A Stanford graduate, he’s the son of an African-American father and a Jewish mother; ANTHONY ERVIN, 31, swimming, 50M freestyle. The son of an African-American father and a Jewish mother, in 2000 he was the first African-American to win an Olympic swimming medal (a gold in the 50M individual and a silver in the 4x100M freestyle medley). He retired in 2003, but came back this year after earning his college degree; JASON LEZAK, 36, swimming. In 2012, he will compete on the 4x100M freestyle relay team. Lezak has been in every Olympics since and including 2000. He has won seven medals, including four gold ones. In 2008, he anchored the 400M relay team that won the gold medal in amazingly exciting fashion; MARK MENDELBRATT, from St. Petersburg, 39, sailing. In 2004, he finished 8th at the Olympics, sailing a “Laser” class boat. In 2012, he is back, sailing a two-man “Star” class boat; MERILL MOSES, 34, water polo. He was the goalkeeper on the 2008 US Olympic team that won the silver medal; ALY (ALEXANDRA) RAISMAN, 17, gymnastics (floor, beam). A top competitor in a “marquee” sport, she’s likely to be the most seen and heralded Jewish athlete at the Games. She’s on the cover of the current issue of Sports Illustrated and her bio is “everywhere”. Here’s a little “Jewish color”: Raisman, who was bat mitzvah, has performed solo floor exercises to the music of “Hava Nagila”; SOREN THOMPSON, 31, fencing. He fences in the épée sword class. He was on the 2004 American team, taking 7th place in individual competition and 5th place in team competition; JULIE ZETLIN, 21, rhythmic gymnastics. Her sport is much bigger in Europe than in America. She did well enough in international competition to earn a berth at the Games. In the last Olympics, no Americans competed in this sport.
The two Israelis with the best shot at a medal are both judo athletes: ARIEL ZE’EVI, 35, 100KG weight class. He won a bronze medal in 2004; and ALICE SCHLESINGER, 24, 64KG weight class. She’s ranked among the top 5 worldwide.
Extra Notes: Mark Mendelbratt was born and raised in St. Petersburg, where he still resides and works as a securities broker. Mark went to St. Petersburg high school and helped their sailing team win four consecutive national titles. His father, FRANK, and his brother, DAVID, are ophthalmologists. His mother, KATHY, works as her husband’s office manager.
Famous basketball player Sue Bird is on the women’s team. Her father is Jewish, but she was raised in her mother’s Christian faith. In 2006, she took Israeli citizenship to more easily play in European basketball leagues. But, so far as I know, she has never identified with Judaism or even called herself Jewish.
A Funny Neighborhood Watch
Well, if you need a break from the Olympics, you can go out and see “The Watch,” which opens on Friday, July 27th. Yes, it is about a neighborhood watch group, but it has very little in common with the tragic events (Trayvon Martin) in Florida. The premise: a group of suburban guys form a neighborhood watch group that mostly exists to provide the guys an excuse to get away from their routine and often boring home lives. The twist: they discover the existence of a space alien invasion and have to fend it off.
“Watch” is directed by AKIVA SCHAEFFER, 34, a former “SNL” writer and a “BFF” of ANDY SAMBERG. The script is by SETH ROGEN, 30, and his fellow Canadian and childhood friend, EVAN GOLDBERG, 30. The “Watch” group is made up of four guys: Evan (BEN STILLER, 46), Franklin (JONAH HILL, 28), Bob (Vince Vaughn), and Jamarcus (Afro-Brit actor Richard Ayovade). Evan is the leader of the group—but he’s lead several other Watch groups that fell apart because nobody likes him. Franklin is a “cop wanabee” whose emotional problems lead the real police to reject him; and Bob mostly joins the group so he can easily spy on his teenage daughter’s dating life.
Jewish Dog Days of Summer
During the summer, media outlets are looking for some light news. So, if you want publicity, there’s no better time to break the Guinness World Record for the most expensive animal wedding. Well, the record was broken on July 12 at a swank Manhattan hotel. It isn’t quite as appalling as it sounds. You see the four legged nuptials were a benefit for the Humane Society of New York. The whole shindig would have cost $250K if the organizers were buying the goods and services “retail.” However, almost everything was donated, like the $6,000 wedding dress for the “bride,” a little dog called “Baby Hope,” and a $5,000 sushi spread. Even the wedding planner, whose last name, funnily enough, is “Katz,” threw in her services, gratis.
Seats at the wedding cost $250 and whole tables would set you back $10,000. Some celebs forked over the entrance fee, including DYLAN LAUREN, 38, a fancy candy maker and—you guessed it—the daughter of RALPH LAUREN.
The main force behind this simcah was Baby Hope’s owner, animal expert WENDY DIAMOND, 38. She has appeared on tons of TV shows. Diamond opted for the item that really got my attention: a $5,300 floral chuppah for the wedding crafted by the Waldorf-Astoria’s florist. Diamond told the NY Daily News that the chuppah was there because “Baby Hope is a Jewish dog.”
While the News article said the doggie wedding was “interfaith,” I am not sure that’s right. The “groom,” a standard poodle named Chilly, was selected via an on-line contest. His owner’s name is Jake Pasternak, which sounds pretty Jewish to me.
Bringing Home the Gelt
Forbes magazine is out with their list of the 20 top paid TV actresses. (Included are reality show stars who don’t technically act). Four Jewish women are on the list. Here they are with their “ranking” before their name. I’ve slightly edited Forbes’ copy about them, which follows their name and age: (4) BETHENNEY FRANKEL, 41: “In the past twelve months Frankel helped to expand her booze line from one product to 12, penned her first novel, ‘Skinnydipping, and debuted a daytime talk show, ‘Bethenny,’ in a six-week test on Fox this summer. Ratings for her Bravo reality show, ‘Bethenny Ever After’ average a strong 1 million viewers each week. Total earnings: $12 million; (15) ALYSON HANNIGAN, 38,: “’The How I Met Your Mother’ star had an especially profitable year. Not only did the actress take home $4 million in new episodes and syndication fees for her hit TV show; she also earned a reported $3 million for the new ‘American Pie’ movie. Total earnings: $7 million. (17) JULIANNA MARGULIES, 46,: “Her show, ‘The Good Wife, ‘is a critical hit for CBS, even if it’s not pulling in top notch live ratings. The role of a scorned political wife turned litigator won her second Emmy in 2011 and earns her more than $4 million each year. Margulies also serves as a spokeswoman for L’Oreal cosmetic products.” Total earnings: $6 million; (18) KYRA SEDGWICK, 46; “She won an Emmy in 2010 for starring on ‘The Closer,’ a gig that earned her $350,000 an episode in the show’s final season. The final six episodes of the series will air this summer.” Total earnings: $6 million.” (Hannigan and Sedgwick are the daughters of Jewish mothers/non-Jewish fathers).
By the way, the total earnings of these four women are dwarfed by the highest paid TV personality of all—TV Judge JUDY SHENDLIN, 69, who signed a contract in 2010 that sets her annual salary at 45 million dollars! Year after year, “Judge Judy” is either #1 or #2 in the ratings for most watched day-time TV show. Shendlin resides in Florida during the winter.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . The author welcomes questions and celebrity “tips,” especially about people you personally know.