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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18, 1987
"My Jewish roots," Tartikoff has said,
"have had an impact on the way I view
things, whether inside or outside Holly-
wood." It is a special sensibility, he noted.
"I would call it a reawakening of
nostalgia," said Baron. "It brings back a
lot of beautifully felt experiences."
Indeed, such disparate talents as Joan
Rivers and Barry Manilow have talked
openly about the importance of their
heritage in the direction their careers have
Manilow does so in his new book, Sweet
Life: Adventures on the Way to Paradise,.
in which he fondly recalls prayer lessons
alternating with piano lessons.
Rivers, too, has shown a link with her
"Joan has a very strong feeling for her
Jewish identity," said Baron. "She went
through a lot of crises this past year'L-. the
suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg,
the failure of her late-night television talk
show "and I think her strong relationship
to her identity helped her through?'
Identifying with one's Jewishness is a
heartening change of heart for some
witnessing it on the parameters of the
Mordecai Richler, a native of Montreal,
has written extensively about the Jewish
experience. Two of his books, The Appren-
ticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Joshua
Then and Now, have been turned into
"It seems we are seeing more and more
Jewish stars who are proud of being Jewish
and not hiding their Jewishness on screen,"
said Richler. "You see people like George
Segal and Richard Dreyfuss becoming ro-
mantic leads. Twenty or 30 years ago they
would have changed their names, like
Edward G. Robinson," once known as
And there are more Hollywood person-
alities choosing to become Jewish. Nell
Carter, the black star of "Gimme a Break,"
recently converted to Judaism — her hus-
band is Jewish, as was her grandfather.
Cybill Shepherd, star of "Moonlighting,"
wants to be a full-time Jew and is now tak-
ing conversion classes. She reportedly in-
tends to convert so her twins, Zachariah
and Ariel, will be raised as Jews. Shepard's
husband, Bruce Oppenheim, is Jewish.
(Not to mention Whoopi Goldberg, who
chose a Jewish surname though she is not
Then there is the issue of the depth of
one's Jewishness. Monty Hall, long active
on behalf of United Jewish Appeal, is con-
cerned that too many people are dazzled
by the glitter of a star's Jewishness rather
than the substance.
For years the TV show host has been on
the lecture route, telling people "it's not im-
portant if someone is born a Jew; it's what
he has done as a Jew that matters. Because
if he hasn't given a nickel to the UJA, he's
Actors like Richard Dreyfuss don't have to change
their names to get romantic leads.
not important in my book."
Exactly, says Rabbi Seidler-Feller. He
acknowledges that there has been some
movement among Hollywood's Jews in the
direction of discovering their roots. "I
believe there are changes," he said. "But
that is almost unimportant because there
is no concrete evidence of a real trans-
"If you would say that more groups of
people today in society are interested in
their Judaism, you would be right. If you
would say that Hollywood is more open to
Jewishness, that would be correct.
"But," added the rabbi, "to say that Jews
here are returning to their roots is just
Seidler-Feller is able to put his finger on
the pulse of Jewish Hollywood. "The
rhythms," he said, "are still not Jewish
rhythms. I see too much hype."
Indeed, Streisand's involvement in
"Yentl" was one of the more hyped stories
of 1983. It was a film Seidler-Feller worked
on as a consultant.
Did the Hillel rabbi witness a transfor-
mation of Streisand?
"Let's just say," he said, "that Barbra
Streisand was as Jewishly committed
before Tend' as she is after. Tend' was not
a period of transformation."
What bothers Seidler-Feller with all the
talk of Jewish Hollywood's renewed aware-
ness of roots is "the absence of content and
substance even with all this openness."