At The Movies
Ms. 'American Pie'
Jewish "Playboy" model joins cast of comedy movie trilogy.
Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
eople are shocked to discov-
er I'm Jewish," Nikki
Schieler Ziering said.
In her red, white and
blue string bikini on the cover of July's
Playboy, the blonde model-actress
looks like a sexier version of the all-
American girl. She is better known for
playing bombshells in films such as
Serving Sara than, say, making a
But on national radio call-in show
Loveline recently, Ziering — who plays
a dominatrix in American Wedding
(opening today in area theaters) —
revealed that she cooks brisket and
When co-host Adam Corolla coun-
tered, "You're not a real Jew," she said
she converted before her 1997 wed-
ding to actor Ian Ziering and that she's
continued practicing since they sepa-
rated in 2001.
"People always ask me, Are you still
Jewish?' and I say, 'Of course,'" she
said over breakfast at the Four Seasons
Hotel in Beverly Hills. "I fell in love
with Judaism because it's all about
family values and having good morals.
It's something I made a commitment
to and that I take seriously."
So seriously that she easily beat
Corolla at an impromptu "Jew off"
game featuring questions such as
"How many candles are there on a
"I had you at 'Shalom,"' she told
him on the air.
Ziering, 31, didn't know many Jews
growing up in a mostly Christian area
of Brea, Calif, but her own household
wasn't religious. Her Norwegian-
American mother, who had rebelled
against her own strict, Protestant
upbringing, didn't baptize Nikki or
require her to attend church.
During a period of adolescent soul-
searching, Ziering, then 15, had her-
self baptized and started frequenting a
hip, Orange County, Calif, church.
"It was a phase," she said.
By the time she graduated from high
school, she was more focused on
jump-starting her show business career
— which began when a modeling
scout discovered her while she was
Left to right: Nikki Ziering: Her campy Officer Krystal dominates the outrageous
bachelor party scene in (American Wedding." Eugene Levy, right, plays a supportive
Jewish dad to Jason Biggs'Jim Levenstein in 'American Wedding."
working as a dental assistant around
1993. Ziering went on to model for
companies such as Frederick's of
Hollywood, to pose nude in Playboy
and to model merchandise on CBS's
The Price is Right.
In 1994, she met her future hus-
band while playing a bit part on his
series, Beverly Hills, 90210.
"I had never had anyone close in my
life who was Jewish," she said. As she
fell in love with him, she also fell in
love with his religion.
"The family aspects appealed to me
because my parents divorced and I
didn't have that," she said. "Initially, I
worried that his parents would reject
me as 'the shiksa,' but they were totally
Although there was no pressure to
convert, Ziering decided to enroll in
the 22-week class led by Rabbi
Jonathan Aaron at Temple Emanuel in
Beverly Hills. "I think it's important
to raise your children with something,
so I just went in with an open mind,
not specifically to convert," she said.
Studying about Judaism changed her
mind: "I loved that on Yom Kippur,
you are not only supposed to ask for
forgiveness, but also to forgive," she
said. "I love how you cover the challah
when you say the blessing over the
wine because you don't want to 'hurt
its feelings.' That's such a great way to
teach children compassion; it's just
such a sweet thing."
But on the morning of her conver-
sion, Ziering initially felt nervous. "It
was that residue of what you're taught
as a Christian — that everyone else is
going to hell," she said.
She relaxed while answering ques-
tions in front of the bet din, the rab-
binical court: "I just felt so accepted, I
started crying and I knew I was doing
the right thing."
Ziering then immersed herself in the
mikvah-, in the temple that evening,
she carried the Torah, "which was
quite an honor," she recalled.
When she got married under a chup-
pah at the Beverly Hills Hotel in July
1997, she noted that it was the first
Jewish wedding she had ever attended.
Over the next few years, observing
rituals such as lighting Shabbat can-
dles proved easier for Ziering than
mastering some cultural aspects of
A Third Piece Of `Pie
The man behind 'American Wedding" gives sequel a Jewish spin.
f the summer's most anticipated
movie groom is Jewish, credit
American Pie franchise creator
Adam Herz. The Jewish screenwriter
— who grew up in East Grand Rapids,
Mich. — based the fictional Jim
Levenstein (Jason Biggs) and friends on
himself and his high school pals.
His iconic 1999 Pie, with its infa
mous pastry-nooky scene, drew on
their teenage sexual pecadillos. The
equally raunchy sequel explored how
they struggled to stay friends after
For his third slice of Pie, Herz
upgraded to wedding cake because "I
was hosting bachelor parties and
going to like, 10 weddings a year."
The movie revolves around Levenstein,
script in March 2002.
his ex-band geek fiancee
Universal had commis-
(Alyson Hannigan) and
sioned it after the first
two Pies devoured close
who wants to
to $250 million domes-
crash the wedding," he
tically — even though
the actors had sworn
they wouldn't return.
typically kvetchy bub-
"So the pressure was
bie isn't thrilled about
Left to right: Screenwriter
on, and I just couldn't
the non-Jewish bride,
Adam Herz; 'American
crack the story," he
which also drew on
Wedding" director Jesse
said. "I went through
Herz's experience. "My
Dylan (son ofBob).
the depths of 'I'm hor-
grandparents are terri-
rible and I'll never
fied I'm going to inter-
rupt the bloodline," he said But I
When Herz begged a Universal exec-
have a Jewish girlfriend now, which
utive for more time, he sounded like
should make them happy."
the bumbling Levenstein pleading for
Herz, 30, was anything but happy
an extension on his homework.
while struggling to finish the Wedding