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"Hey, I didn't Know They Were Jewish!"

By Tamar Yonah
12/22/2013, 12:12 PM

A disproportionate amount of famous people in Hollywood (and on the world scene) may be Jewish or even have a Jewish father. But having a Jewish father or a Jewish sounding last name doesn't make one a Jew.  Not even in Hollywood.  Well, here is a short list of famous Jews who actually ARE Jews according to Halacha (Jews according to the requirements of Jewish Law where their mother is Jewish).

Note: Much of the information below was researched from Wikipedia.com)                                                                           

"Hey, I didn't Know They Were Jewish!"

Guest post by Leslie-Ann Stoffel

We all know of how the Jewish People make up only 0.2% of the world population, yet comprise 22% of Nobel laureates.  The Jewish nation far outnumbers the average representation we should have, compared to other nations.  We see so many Jewish achievers, famous in so many fields.  

But let's just take a look at some of these people whom you might be surprised to know are Jewish, Halachicly Jewish, in the entertainment and other fields.

Paula AbdulFor those who watched LA Laker Games back in the 80’s we weren’t surprised to see this Laker Girl advance quickly from Janet Jackson’s choreographer to singing and dancing in her own music videos. Paula Abdul is a pop singer, choreographer and is probably most famous for her role as a judge on American Idol.  She was born in San Fernando, California, (to Jewish parents.) Her parents according to Wikipedia indicates that Abdul's father, Harry Abdul, was born into the Syrian Jewish community in Aleppo, Syria, was raised in Brazil, and subsequently immigrated to the United States. Her mother, the concert pianist Lorraine M. (née Rykiss), grew up in one of the two Jewish families in Minnedosa, Manitoba in Canada, with ancestors from the Ashkenazi Jewish minority in Russia and Ukraine.  Paula Abdul also lights Shabbos candles.  Watch it here.

Harrison Ford - He took movie goers on swashbuckling adventures from outer space to searching for ancient artifacts. Harrison Ford (born July 13, 1942) is an American film actor and producer. He is best known for his performances in Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and several other Hollywood films. Ford was born July 13, 1942, in ChicagoIllinois. His parents according to Wikipedia tells us that  his mother, Dorothy (née Dora Nidelman), was a homemaker and former radio actress, and his father, Christopher Ford (born John William Ford), was an advertising executive and a former actor.  Ford's maternal grandparents, Harry Nidelman and Anna Lifschutz, were Jewish immigrants from Minsk, Belarus (at that time a part of the Russian Empire). Dreamy Harrison Ford is indeed a Jew according to Jewish law!

Natalie Portman - The stunning Israeli actress, Natalie Portman burst onto the screen with her fist film role as accidental side kick to a hit man, in the action film Leon: The Professional.   Born Natalie Hershlag; in Jerusalem June 9, 1981. Natalie has American and Israeli citizenship. Later she would be cast in the Star Wars prequel and in 2010 she would star in The Black Swan, winning the Best Actress Award for 2011. Her parents according to Wikipedia states that she is the only child of Shelley (née Stevens), an American homemaker who works as Portman's agent, and Avner Hershlag, an Israeli citizen who is a fertility specialist and gynecologist.   

Gal Gadot - Israeli actress Gal Gadot is an Israeli, who is set to play the role of 'Wonder Woman' in the new upcoming 2015 movie 'Batman vs. Superman'.

Superman - Really?  Well, let's just say that he was created by two Jewish high school students named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  Superman was given a background similar to what many American Jews experienced, in the they came from a  far away place to a new land (america) and Superman's name on planet Krypton, was Kal-El and his father's, Jor-El, both whose names have the name of G-d (EL) in it. For more on Superman's background, see here and here.

Scarlett Johansson - The striking American actress, model and singer, Scarlett Johansson was born November 22, 1984.  Scarlett’s breakout performance came in The Horse Whisperer in 1998. She shifted to adult roles with her performances in Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) where she portrayed the girl in the Vermeer painting.  She would go on to win Golden Globe Awards for both Girl with a Pearl Earring and Lost in Translation in 2003. These led to other roles including The Other Bolyn Girl in 2008 with many more films and awards after that.  Scarlett’s parents according to Wikipedi indicates that Karsten Johansson, her father, is a Danish-born architect originally from Copenhagen, and her paternal grandfather, Ejner Johansson, was a screenwriter and director. Her mother, Melanie Sloan, a producer, comes from an Ashkenazi Jewish family from the Bronx. Melanie's ancestors emigrated to New York from Minsk, Tsarist Russia

Goldie Hawn - Both beautiful and funny and by now a Hollywood legend is Goldie Hawn. Goldie captured everyone’s attention when she appeared on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In where she was a dancer on the show. Taking her good looks and talent she went on to more television, movies and producing her own films. Cactus Flower in 1969 won her a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. Later on she would go on to star in and produce Private Benjamin, Swing Shift and Protocol to name just a few.  Goldie has maintained a relationship with Kurt Russell since 1983 which is unusual in Hollywood. She has two children by a previous marriage, Kate Hudson & Oliver Hudson, both actors in their own right. Hawn’s early years and parentage according to Wikipedia indicate that she  was born in Washington, D.C. The daughter of Laura (née Steinhoff; November 27, 1913 – November 27, 1993), a jewelry shop/dance school owner, and Edward Rutledge Hawn (September 28, 1908 – June 7, 1982), a band musician who played at major events in Washington. Another interesting fact about Goldie is, through her father, Hawn is a direct descendant of Edward Rutledge, the youngest signatory of the Declaration of Independence Her father was Presbyterian and her mother was Jewish, the daughter of immigrants from Hungary; Hawn had a Jewish upbringing.

Kate Hudson - Of course we can’t mention Goldie without mentioning her radiant daughter Kate Hudson – Although Ms. Hawn has two children who are in the spot light, the most well known of the two is Kate Hudson.  She was propelled to stardom in 2001 after winning the Golden Globe and being nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the film Almost Famous.  Later she would go on to star in the remake of the historical romance The Four Feathers, a film which was not well received by critics or audiences. Her next film, the romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.  Her parentage and early years according to Wikipedia: Hudson was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1979 the daughter of, as we said earlier,  Academy Award–winning actress Goldie Hawn and Bill Hudson, an actor, comedian, and musician. Her parents divorced eighteen months after her birth; she and her brother, actor Oliver Hudson, were raised in Colorado and California, by her mother and her mother's long-time boyfriend, actor Kurt Russell.

Mila Kunis  - Next, from That 70’s Show we have the very alluring Milena Markovna "Mila" Kunis (born August 14, 1983) is an American actress and voice artist. In 1991, at the age of seven, she moved from Ukraine to Los Angeles with her family. After being enrolled in acting classes as an after-school activity acting obviously came easy for her as she was in many TV commercials before starring in That 70’s Show bringing her to the public’s attention.  She later won the supporting role in Black Swan opposite Natalie Portman. Her performance brought her nominations from the Venice International Film Fest, Golden Globes & the Screen Actors Guild. Her young life and parentage, according to Wikipedia states that Kunis was born in Chernivtsi, in the Ukrainian SSR (now Ukraine).  Her mother, Elvira, is a physics teacher who runs a pharmacy, and her father, Mark Kunis, is a mechanical engineer who works as a cab driver. The transition from the former Soviet Union to the US was difficult for Mila as she did not know English when first moving there.  

The Three Stooges -  When we were kids, these three kept us laughing until our sides hurt - The Three Stooges. Wikipedia tells us the following about their parents & early life, Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp were born Jewish. Moses Horwitz was born on June 19, 1897, in Brooklyn to Solomon Horwitz and Jennie Gorovitz, the fourth of five brothers of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry. Although his parents were not involved in show business, Moe, his older brother Samuel (Shemp) and younger brother Jerome (Curly) all eventually became world-famous as members of The Three Stooges. Larry was born to a Jewish family as Louis Feinberg in Philadelphia. His father, Joseph Feinberg, was a Russian Jew and his mother, Fanny Lieberman, owned a watch repair and jewelry shop. 

Tony Curtis -  (born Bernard Schwartz, June 3, 1925 – September 29, 2010)   made a splash on the screen as a handsome leading man in film and later TV.  His greatest popularity was in the 1950’s and 60’s.  Using his inherent comedic timing he delighted us with his performance in the classic Some Like It Hot. He could also be dramatic and serious as in Sparticus. These were two of his more well known films although he appeared in many.  After a decline in his career he once again grabbed film goers’ attention with his dramatic role in The Boston Strangler in 1969. Tony was also a prolific artist, creating many works of art throughout his life. Curtis was the father of actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and Kelly Curtis by his first wife, actress Janet Leigh. His young life and parentage are described in Wikipedia as follows: Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in The Bronx, New York, one of three sons of Helen (née Klein) and Emanuel Schwartz. His parents were Hungarian Jewish immigrants from Mátészalka, Hungary. Hungarian was Curtis's only language until he was five or six, postponing his schooling.  

From a Jpost piece: The world Jewish population is estimated at being 02. percent of the total populace – some 13.5 million, with just over 5.7 million in Israel, 5.6 million in the US, half a million in Russia and France, 280,000 in the UK and 200,000 in Germany. Yet in Vanity Fair’s latest list of the 100 most powerful people in the world, 51 are Jews. Ten of the 50 people on this year’s Forbes’ annual billionaires list are Jewish. Of the 802 Nobel prizes handed out to date, 162 have gone to Jews." 

Dr. Jonas Salk - In the realm of the sciences and medical research an outstanding advance was made by Jonas Edward Salk (October 28, 1914 – June 23, 1995). Before him, millions suffered from and died from the ravages of polio. Because of him, the disease has been eliminated from the face of the earth.  According to Wikipedia Dr. Jonas Salk was an American medical researcher and virologist. He discovered and developed the first successful inactivated polio vaccine.  We also read in Wikipedia that he was born in New York City to Jewish parents. Although they had little formal education, his parents were determined to see their children succeed.

Carl Sagan -  Continuing in the field of the Sciences we have Carl Edward Sagan, November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996. Sagan took to the skies with his study of the stars and planets sharing those findings with us. He made the universe understandable to all and made its wonders something all could be part of as an American,  astronomerastrophysicistcosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. His parents according to Wikipedia states that he was born in Brooklyn, New York.  His father, Samuel Sagan, was an immigrant garment worker from PodolskRussia, in today's Ukraine. His mother, Rachel Molly Gruber, was a housewife from New York. 

Irving Berlin - Although music is mathematical we will concentrate on the melodic aspect as we recognize Irving Berlin (born Israel Isidore Beilin, May 11, 1888 – September 22, 1989). An American composer and lyricist, he brought utter joy to millions with his music.  Composer of some of the best known and most loved songs in American life, including "G-d Bless America," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "You're in the Army Now," and about a thousand others. His parents according to Wikipedia – states that he was Belarusian-Jewish origin (born near Mogilyov, Russian Empire, present-day Belarus), one of eight children of Moses and Lena Lipkin Beilin . Widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history.  The family escaped a pogram by going from town to town until they made it out and to the US.  

Ted Koppel - We’ve covered much in the realm of entertainment but none yet in the genre of television journalist/interviewer, which brings us to Edward James Martin "Ted" Koppel (born February 8, 1940). Many considered him to be the best interviewer on television, he showed us just how powerful a medium it is when it's done right.  He is a British American broadcast journalist, best known as the anchor for Nightline from the program's inception in 1980 until his retirement in late 2005. After leaving Nightline, Koppel worked as managing editor for the Discovery Channel before resigning in 2008. His parents and early life according to Wikipedia:  Koppel, an only child, was born in Nelson, Lancashire, UK, after his German Jewish parents fled Germany due to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Koppel, at 13, immigrated to the United States in 1953 with his family. His mother, Alice, was a singer and pianist, and his father, Edwin, was a tire factory owner.  

Bob Dylan - He changed the face of pop music with his folksy style and stripped down delivery, Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) His songs captured the spirit of a generation and gave expression to what many were feeling. Dylan, an American musician, singer-songwriter, artist, and writer. He has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades. According to Wikipedia Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman) in St. Mary's Hospital on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, on the Mesabi Iron Range.  His parents, Wikipedia explains, were Abram Zimmerman and Beatrice "Beatty" Stone, were part of the area's small but close-knit Jewish community. Robert Zimmerman lived in Duluth until age six, when his father was stricken with polio and the family returned to his mother's home town, Hibbing, where Zimmerman spent the rest of his childhood.

The Marx Brothers - When we’re talking about a genius in humor we think of  Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx (October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977 (and the Marx brothers). His mind was so fertile and his mouth so fast, it's hard to keep up and harder not to laugh. He's influenced all comics who have come since.   Marx was an American comedian and film and television star. He is known as a master of quick wit and widely considered one of the best comedians of the modern era. His rapid-fire, often impromptu delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many admirers and imitators. According to Wikipedia He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born. He also had a successful solo career, most notably as the host of the radio and television game show You Bet Your Life.  Marx's family was Jewish. His parents, as described in Wikipedia are described as , his mother was Miene "Minnie" Schoenberg, whose family came from Dornum in northern Germany when she was 16 years old. His father was Simon "Sam" Marx, who changed his name from Marrix, and was called "Frenchie" throughout his life because he and his family came from Alsace-Lorraine.  

Louis B. Mayer  (MGM Studios) - Not only was he a brilliant filmmaker but also a visionary in the field of movie making.  Mr. Mayer set the standard for film makers to follow.  Considered a giant in old Hollywood, Louis B. Mayer - Born Lazar Meir, possibly on July 12, 1884 (from MGM) Head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, he was the most influential of all movie studio moguls with a keen sense for what Americans wanted to go to the movies to see.  He also set up the “star system” in Hollywood as well as creating the Academy Awards. His Bio in Wikipedia states that Mayer was born  to a Jewish family in Minsk, Russian Empire.  His parents, Wikipedia explains, were Jacob Meir and Sarah Meltzer.  

Harry Houdini - The first person to make escape artistry an art form, Harry Houdini Erik Weisz in BudapestAustria-Hungary, on March 24, 1874 A sensation of his time, his amazing escapes made him one of the greatest showmen of the century. His Wikipedia Bio states that his parents were Rabbi Mayer Sámuel Weisz (1829–1892), and Cecília Weisz (née Steiner; 1841–1913). Houdini was one of seven children.  

Even today, singers absolutely love to perform using his timeless music. George Gershwin Composer of some of the finest and most enduring of American music, including Porgy and Bess, and An American in Paris. Gershwin’s Wikipedia biography states that he came from Russian Jewish heritage. His grandfather, Jakov Gershowitz, had served for 25 years as a mechanic for the Imperial Russian Army to earn the right of free travel and residence as a Jew. He retired near Saint Petersburg. His parents according to Wikipedia, were Morris and Rose married on July 21, 1895, she was 19 and he was 23. Gershowitz changed his family name to Gershwin some time between 1893 and 1898, perhaps at his marriage. They made their home in the US.  

Frank Kafka - A complex early life in Prague coupled with a difficult paternal relationship created what is considered by critics to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.  Frank Kafka’s angst would be expressed as existentialism in his books and writings.  Kafka’s Wikipedia biography tells us that he was born near the Old Town Square in Prague, then located in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His family were middle-class Ashkenazi Jews. His parents according to Wikipedia - Frank’s father, Hermann Kafka (1852–1931), was the fourth child of Jakob Kafka, a shochet or ritual slaughterer in Osek, a Czech village with a large Jewish population located near Strakonice in southern Bohemia.  Hermann brought the Kafka family to Prague.  

Mel Blanc - Cartoons and animation would not have been the same without our beloved Bugs, Daffy or should I say aka:  Mel Blanc (1908-1989) American comedian and voice actor, voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and many more cartoon characters bringing joy and laughter to millions.  Taking note from his Wikipedia biography, we read that Blanc was born Melvin Jerome Blank in San FranciscoCalifornia.  His parents also according to Wikipedia were Jewish, Frederick and Eva Blank.

Rodney Dangerfield - This guy thought he got no respect but he was held dear in the hearts of many,  Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004) American comedian and actor.  Bringing laughter to audiences with his famous line, “I don’t get no respect!”  He made us laugh in his roles in Caddyshack, Easy Money and others. According to Wikipedia his early life began on November 22, 1921 with the given name Jacob Rodney Cohen.  Dangerfield was born in Deer Park within the Town of Babylon, New York, in Suffolk CountyLong Island, New York.  Parents: Wikipedia tells us that he was the son of Jewish parents, the vaudevillian performer Phil Roy (Philip Cohen) and Dotty Teitelbaum.  

Neil Diamond - For those of us of a certain age Neil Diamond’s music resonate as the theme song to our lives. Neil Diamond -  Neil Leslie Diamond (born January 24, 1941)  American singer-songwriter with a career that began in the 1960s and has spanned the decades with adoring fans enjoying his music.  Diamond’s Wikipedia biography states that he was born in Brooklyn, New York. His parents also according to Wikipedia, were Jewish family and descended from Russian and Polish immigrants. His parents were Rose (née Rapaport) and Akeeba "Kieve" Diamond, a dry-goods merchant.  He grew up in several homes in Brooklyn, attending Abraham Lincoln High School.  

Ralph Lauren - He has a gift for selling dreams of lush lifestyles to his clients whether they be of modest or wealthy means.  Ralph Lauren, (born Ralph Lifshitz October 14, 1939 in New York City) American fashion designer and business executive. His Wikipedia biography states that Lauren is an American fashion designer and business executive, best known for his Polo Ralph Lauren clothing brand, and a global multi-billion-dollar enterprise. He was born Ralph Lifshitz in the Bronx, New York. His parents according to Wikipedia were  Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants, from PinskPoland (now Belarus) Fraydl (née Kotlar) and Frank Lifshitz, a house painter.

Lou Reed - One of THE Guys of Rock N Roll and deeply missed. Lou Reed Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013) (1942-2013) American rock musician, songwriter and photographer.  After serving as guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of the Velvet Underground, his solo career spanned several decades. Wikipedia states that Reed was born at Beth El Hospital (now Brookdale) in Brooklyn and grew up in Freeport, Long Island. Contrary to some sources, his birth name was Lewis Allan Reed, not Louis Firbanks, a name that was coined as a joke by Lester Bangs in Creem magazine. Reed’s parents: according to Wikipedia were Toby (née Futterman) and Sidney Joseph Reed, an accountant. His family was Jewish, and although he said that he was Jewish, he added, "My God is rock'n'roll. It’s an obscure power that can change your life. The most important part of my religion is to play guitar."

Neil Sedaka - Capturing the essence of popular themes in the 50’s  he gave us tunes that are considered to be timeless. Neil Sedaka (born 1939) American pop singer, pianist and songwriter. His parents  according to Wikipedia, Sedaka was born in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Mac Sedaka, was a taxi driver and a Sephardic Jew of Lebanese descent ("Sedaka" and "Sadaka" are variants of "tzadaka", which translates in both Hebrew and Arabic as the word charity). Neil's mother, Eleanor (née Appel), was of Ashkenazi Polish-Russian descent. He grew up in Brighton Beach, which lies on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Sedaka is a cousin of the late singer Eydie Gormé.

WIlliam Shatner - Beem us up Scotty,  William Shatner  Canadian actor, best known for playing Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek.  His Wikipedia biography states that Shatner was born on March 22, 1931, in the Côte Saint-Luc neighborhood of MontrealQuebecCanada. His parents: according to Wikipedia were Joseph Shatner, a clothing manufacturer, and Anne (née Garmaise). Shatner was raised in Conservative Judaism.  

Leonard Nemoy - Star Trek also brought us  Leonard Nemoy. Nemoy is of Jewish heritage and played the role of Spock.  Who knew that as a boy, while sitting in Shul on Yom Kippur, he would look up to see the Rabbi using a hand gesture to bless the congregation.  Later, when on Star Trek, Spock would adopt this hand gesture as his trademark method of communication on the show. His Wikipedia biography states that Nimoy was born in Boston, Massachusetts in the West End. His parents according to Wikipedia were  Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, Soviet Union (now Ukraine). Nimoy is four days younger than his Star Trek co-star, William Shatner. His father, Max Nimoy, owned a barbershop in the Mattapan section of the city. His mother, Dora Nimoy (née Spinner), was a homemaker.  

Jon Stewart - Funny, biting and sometimes caustic, comedian and satirist, Jon Stewart (born 1962) American born, host of The Daily Show.  His early life and parents according to Wikipedia:  born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz in New York City. Jon's mother, Marian (née Laskin), is an educational consultant and teacher. His father, Donald Leibowitz, was a professor of physics at The College of New Jersey from 2001 through 2008 and then taught an online course at Thomas Edison State College. His father died on June 8, 2013. Stewart's family migrated to the U.S. from Poland, Ukraine and Belarus; one of his grandfathers was born in Manzhouli (now part of Inner Mongolia). Stewart's parents divorced when Stewart was eleven years old, and Stewart was apparently largely estranged from his father.

'The Fonz'- Henry Winkler - Hip, slick and cool took on a new meaning when Henry Winkler brought The Fonz to life on Happy Days . Henry, born in 1945, is an American actor and producer.  Wikipedia indicates that Winkler was born in ManhattanNew York CityNew York. His parents and early, also according to Wikipedia state that he is the son of Ilse Anna Maria (née Hadra) and Harry Irving Winkler, a lumber company president. Winkler's Jewish parents emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1939, "on the eve" of World War II.   

Daniel Radcliffe (AKA Harry Potter) - Did you know that Harry Potter is Jewish?  Well, sort of...Daniel Radcliffe (born 1989) British actor, best known for playing Harry Potter.   His parents and early life according to Wikipedia states that he was born in West London. He is the only child of Alan George Radcliffe, a literary agent, and Marcia Jeannine Gresham (née Marcia Gresham Jacobson), a casting agent.  His father is from "a very working-class" Protestant background in BanbridgeCounty Down, Northern Ireland.  His mother is Jewish; she was born in South Africa and raised in Westcliff-on-SeaEssex. Her family had originally come from Poland andRussia. Radcliffe's parents had both acted as children.  

Lisa Bonet - As the very fashionable and chic Denise, she was always able to get her father, Dr. Huxtable to see things her way. Lilakoi Moon (born Lisa Michelle Bonet; November 16, 1967), known professionally as Lisa Bonet, is an American actress. She is best known for her role as Denise Huxtable Kendall on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, and originally starring in its spinoff A Different World. She was married to musician Lenny Kravitz from 1987 to 1993.  Her early life and parents, according to Wikipedia - Bonet was born in San Francisco, California. Her African-American father, Allen Bonet, is an opera singer and was born in Texas; her Jewish mother, Arlene (née Litman), was a teacher.

Ali MacGraw -The Unforgettable beauty of  Elizabeth Alice "Ali" MacGraw the American actress (born April 1, 1939). She first gained attention for her role in Goodbye, Columbus in 1969, for which she won a Golden Globe Award, followed by Love Story in 1970, for which she received an Academy Award nomination and won a second Golden Globe. Her parents, according to Wikipedia tells us that Ali is the daughter of commercial artists Frances (née Klein) and Richard MacGraw. She has one brother, Dick, an artist. Her father was of Scottish descent and her maternal grandparents were from Hungary. MacGraw's mother was from a Jewish family, but did not disclose this to MacGraw's father MacGraw has described her father as "violent".

Lisa Kudrow - Who knew the off-beat Phoebe was Jewish? Lisa Valerie Kudrow  (born July 30, 1963) Best known for her part as  Phoebe Buffay in the television sitcom Friends, for which she received many accolades, including an Emmy Award and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. Wikipedia tells us she was born in Los AngelesCalifornia, the daughter of Nedra S. (née Stern), a travel agent, and Dr. Lee N. Kudrow (born 1933), a headache specialist and physician.

Lorne Greene - A fellow Canadian and a gentleman, Lorne Greene Lyon Himan Green, (February 12, 1915 – September 11, 1987) from Bonanza, Greene was born in OttawaOntario. His parents: According to Wikipedia were Russian Jewish immigrants, Daniel, a shoemaker and Dora Green (Grinovsky). He was called "Chaim" by his mother, and his name is shown as "Hyman" on his school report cards

Judith Light - The boxer and the beauty, Judith Ellen Light (born February 9, 1949) is an American actress becoming popular in Prime Time television in her role as Angela Bower on the sitcom Who’s the Boss? Daytime viewers will remember her also as Karen Wolek on the soap opera One Life to Live.  Her talent took her all the way to Broadway.  Judith’s young life and parents according to Wikipedia goes on to say that Light was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the daughter of Pearl Sue (née Hollander), a model, and Sidney Licht, an accountant.  

Jake Gyllenhaal - Keeping showbiz in the family, the ruggedly handsome Jacob Benjamin "Jake" Gyllenhaal (born December 19, 1980)- Maybe best known for  JarHead and  Brokeback Mountain.  His parents according to Wikipedia, Jake’s mother was a film producer and screenwriter Naomi Foner(née Achs) is from a Jewish family from New York City, and Gyllenhaal has said that he considers himself Jewish.

Sarah Michelle Gellar - Buffy is all grown up and has given up slaying Vampires. She’s married with two kids but is still acting and producing. Sarah Michelle Gellar  best known for  Buffy the Vampire Slayer was born on April 14, 1977 in New York City. Her parents according to Wikipedia tells us that she is the only child of Rosellen (née Greenfield), a nursery school teacher, and Arthur Gellar, a garment worker. Both of her parents were Jewish.

Moving into the realm of rumor the mysterious Nostradamus might be on that list.

Nostradamus (?) (Michel de Nostredame) Born December 14/21, 1503 – July 2, 1566 was Jewish, but according to the web site Jewish or Not  they consider him borderline Jewish and the reason is that his father was Jewish but was forced to convert to Catholicism. It’s also been rumored that Margaret Thatcher was Jewish but not so according to the site.  What is extraordinarily fascinating about Mrs. Thatcher’s life is what The Jewish Chronicle reported about her young life:

According to the Jewish Chronicle:

Baroness Thatcher (?) - was described as "a giant who had a transformative impact on Britain" by chief rabbi Lord Sacks. He added: "I first got to know her early on in my life when she was the local MP. She was loved and admired by many in the Jewish community who will miss her deeply. Few people in my lifetime have left such a personal imprint on British life. She was always extremely supportive and admiring of the ethos of the British Jewish community," said Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies. "This close relationship began when her family took in a young Austrian Jewish refugee from Nazism in the late 1930s. When she entered Parliament as MP for Finchley, a very Jewish constituency, her relationship with local Jewish institutions blossomed and continued throughout her illustrious career as Prime Minister.

Christopher Columbus (?) - It  has also been rumored that Christopher Columbus was Jewish as it is believed he was a Marrano, or a Jew who pretended to be a Catholic to avoid religious  but the web site Jewish or Not says no on that one.  Some have even wondered about Abraham Lincoln perhaps being Jewish. There is no conclusive proof but an article from The Jewish Journal states: It is historical fact, however, that Lincoln was very much a friend of the Jews, and he was much loved by the Jewish community, both in his day and after his death. There is even some reason to believe that Lincoln himself had Jewish forebears.

Sports figures you may have heard of:

Turning to sports figures we have Tal Brody in Basketball. Mr. Brody is well known in the US, Israel & the Euro League. He stands 6' 2" and his position was shooting guard. Mr. Brody is now a Goodwill Ambassador for Israel. In Baseball we have Michael Schwimer,  relief pitcher (Toronto Blue Jays) and in Boxing Yuri Foreman, Belarusian-born Israeli US middleweight and World Boxing Association champion super welterweight.

Famous Converts to Judaism (not necessarily halachic conversions) 

Famous converts including Kate Capshaw, an actress who is married to Steven Spielberg. Ivanka Trump, Donald’s Daughter, the one and only Sammy Davis Jr., the translucent Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, actress Carol Baker and Film Star Polly Bergen.

We’ve literally only scratched the surface as to the scope and influence that the Jewish people have had on our lives and our culture.  It is startling to learn that many escaped poverty and the threat of annihilation in Europe and Russia going on to accomplish so much. Perhaps this is why  we are drawn in and riveted by the mystique that surrounds a people who are able to rise above tragedy and great trial and still manage to reach heights of accomplishment many of us just dream about.

Feel free to add your own 'famous favorites' who are Jews, to share with the rest of the readers in the comment area below!