(JTA) — Throughout his career, actor Adam Goldberg has been associated with iconic Jewish roles, from the hero in the kitschy 2003 action comedy “The Hebrew Hammer” to a Jewish soldier in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winner “Saving Private Ryan.”
But for his latest role, on CBS crime procedural “The Equalizer,” Goldberg didn’t know his character had Jewish ancestry until recently, even though the show is in its third season.
On Sunday night, “The Equalizer” will air an episode called “Never Again,” in which a wave of hate crimes strikes Midwood, a heavily Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. These incidents hit close to home for Harry Keshegian, Goldberg’s character, a computer expert and Brooklyn native who is part of the show’s team of vigilante justice-seekers. (The series, which is set in New York and stars Queen Latifah, is a reboot of the show from the 1980s, which also spawned a series of films starring Denzel Washington.)
The Harry character has long been established as being of Armenian-American heritage. But for this episode, co-showrunner Adam Glass decided to add to Harry’s backstory, giving the character a Jewish mother as well as a complicated relationship with that side of his faith.
This comes to the forefront when the hate crimes, including vandalism and antisemitic threats, start to pile up. “Growing up with a Jewish mom and Armenian dad, I can’t say I knew where I stood in the community,” Harry says during the episode. “But I definitely know where I stand on hate crimes.”
Harry later describes himself as “someone who’s got a history of genocide on both sides of my family.” And like a lot of Jewish Americans, he was of the belief, at least until recently, that antisemitism in everyday life was mostly a problem of the past.
In dealing with a rabbi (played in the episode by veteran Jewish actor Richard Masur), who tries to react to the horrific events with humor, Harry gets some surprising answers about his family’s past and reconnects, to some degree, with his mother’s faith.
The episode was co-written by Glass and Ora Yashar, who are two of several Jewish writers on the show’s staff.
In working on the show, “we’re really lucky and fortunate that we not only get to entertain, but we get sort of tackle… subject matters that are in the news, and, unfortunately, are part of our society,” Glass told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “And obviously antisemitism is one of them.”
Goldberg, 52, whose extensive list of credits over the last 30 years also includes “Dazed and Confused” and a memorable guest arc on “Friends,” told JTA that, earlier in his career, he might not have been as comfortable with this sort of storyline, since it’s subject matter that he has explored before in other high-profile Jewish roles. In 2017, he attempted to put together a crowdfunding campaign to produce a “Hebrew Hammer” sequel inspired by the spike in online antisemitism at the time.
“Given just the unbelievable horrific uptick in hate crimes at large, and antisemitism in particular, it just felt like certainly my duty to go there, and also just keep it as grounded as possible,” he said.
The episode was shot at a synagogue in Brooklyn — for security reasons, the team’s publicist would not identify which one — and the team consulted with a rabbi about getting the Jewish touches right.
“I think one of the things that we wanted to just be mindful of is when we’re actually in a synagogue that we were getting things correct,” Yashar said. At the same time, she added, they wanted to get right the way Harry would behave, as someone who hadn’t been inside a synagogue or the Jewish community for many years.
“I found myself being much more sort of moved [and] affected by it than maybe I thought I would,” Goldberg said. “Particularly having explored this terrain in the past.”
Goldberg, like his character, has one Jewish and one non-Jewish parent; he describes his mother as a “hardcore disavowed Catholic.” He went to Jewish day school in Los Angeles from first through sixth grades, and like his character Harry, he drifted away from Jewish education prior to having a bar mitzvah.
“I certainly thought of myself as a Jewish person,” Goldberg said. “I think this is the thing which I grappled with, and I think many Jewish people grappled with — which is how they see themselves, and where they fit in in a world where people have so many different ideas about what it is to be a Jewish person.”
“Grappling with all that as an actor has made that all the more confusing, how to balance all of that,” he added.
Goldberg said he has gotten mostly positive reactions over the years from people who recognize him from his Jewish roles. But he’s mindful of the idea of being typecast as a “neurotic Jew” or “nice Jewish boy,” both of which he sees as tropes. And the reactions he has gotten have not always been as positive.
“I think in many ways I’ve been sort of forced, and then sort of proudly have come to own my Jewish identity,” he said, “and in the last several years and I’ve been on the receiving end of just an incredible amount of hate on social media.” Goldberg added that he has a photo album on his phone titled “Nazis,” featuring “screenshots of just the most horrific shit you can imagine.”
In “Saving Private Ryan,” Goldberg’s Jewish soldier character taunted Nazi prisoners by waving his Jewish star at them. Around that time, his name was featured on a white supremacist website, which in the late 1990s was a single page.
“I had no idea how bad shit was until the internet,” Goldberg said. “And how bad it’s gotten [in real life] since the internet.”
The two Jewish writers of the episode come from very different backgrounds. While Glass is an Ashkenazi Jew from New York, Yashar comes from an Iranian Jewish family.
“When I was growing up, I was told, ‘They’re white until they know you’re Jewish, don’t wear your Star of David,’” Glass said, echoing a comment by Harry on the show. “Those were things my bubbe [grandmother in Yiddish] said to me. And now I’m telling my kids the same things my bubbe said to me, unfortunately.”
A comic book store also features in the episode’s plot and is a nod to Glass’ other career: In addition to his work in television, Glass is a prolific author of comic books and graphic novels, having authored more than 150. He takes credit for putting Harley Quinn in the Suicide Squad DC comic series.
“I’m in two Jewish businesses,” Glass joked. “The comic book business, and the Hollywood business. Being creative is something that we as a people have always done.”
Yashar, who previously worked on the Netflix series “Atypical,” describes herself in her Twitter bio as “Iranian/Persian/OY Veyish.”
“One of the big things for this episode was that we can’t fight hate alone,” she said. “All marginalized communities, we all need to come together. Being a woman, being Iranian, and being Jewish, you know just my whole life experience has just been teaching me that all along.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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