July 16, 2024
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10 Celebrities You Might Not Know are Jewish

10 Celebrities You Might Not Know are Jewish

Hollywood boasts an abundance of talent. Actresses and actors whose identities often blur our minds with the characters they portray on screen or stage. They share tales and emotions, shaping our perceptions and culture. 

Often, we overlook the details that make them unique off-screen – like their beliefs and heritage. Jewish roots run deep within Hollywood’s landscape. This misunderstood heritage often takes a back seat to the glitz and glamour of stardom. Here are ten celebrities you may not realize carry this rich lineage.

1. Adam Sandler

Adam Sandler has long been a staple in comedy circles, with a career spanning over three decades. Known for his humor that often borders on the absurd, Sandler’s infectious laughs have filled countless homes. Raised in a Jewish family, he has never shied away from his heritage. 


Sandler embraces it proudly and has incorporated it into his work numerous times – with “The Chanukah Song” being one infamous example. His Jewish identity was shaped by experiences like attending Hebrew school and having a Bar Mitzvah. Being a huge fan of poker, Sandler is an active participant in tournaments. With poker hands ranked from high to low, he tests his skill and strategy. Without a doubt, Adam Sandler is indeed one of Hollywood’s famous Jewish stars.

2. Paul Newman

Paul Newman’s stunning blue eyes captivated moviegoers for over fifty years. One of the most renowned actors in film history, Newman boasts a unique mix of charm and charisma. However, many are unaware of his Jewish roots. 

Newman’s father was the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Hungary. His mother came from a Christian background, but Newman identified with his father’s Jewish lineage. Despite his star-studded lifestyle, he never lost touch with these traditions and values.

3. Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder is not exactly synonymous with Judaism when discussing Hollywood celebrities – but she should be. The enchanting actress took her unique name from a town near Minnesota where she was born, but her family roots are tied to the Ashkenazi Jews of Europe.  She credits her paternal grandparents for nurturing their Jewish backgrounds living in Romania before migrating to America to escape anti-Semitism during World War II.

4. Drake

Drake, real name Aubrey Drake Graham, has graced our airwaves with his rhythmic beats and smooth lyrics for over a decade. This Canadian-born musician rose from relative obscurity into an influential cultural powerhouse. 

Few would guess that this force in modern music draws inspiration from his Jewish heritage. His mother, Sandi Graham, raised him following her Jewish faith after separating from his father. Drake continues to recognize holidays like Passover.

5. Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford is synonymous with Indiana Jones or Han Solo in Star Wars for many movie buffs – two iconic characters redefining the adventure genre throughout the years. Han Solo isn’t the only force within Ford; he also carries Jewish lineage tracing back to his maternal grandparents, both Jews who emigrated from Belarus. Despite not practicing religion during childhood, Ford identifies as “Irreligious” while acknowledging his Jewish background influenced who he is today.

6. Zac Efron

With his boyish charm and good looks, Zac Efron became the heartthrob of a generation through his role in Disney’s ‘High School Musical series. As Troy Bolton, Efron danced and sang his way into Hollywood. Yet, many fans might be unaware of Efron’s Jewish heritage. He was raised in a middle-class family with Jewish roots on his father’s side. His surname, ‘Efron,’ is a Biblical place name that comes from the Torah. Although not regularly practicing, he has acknowledged his Jewish lineage and seems proud.

7. Natalie Portman 

Natalie Portman isn’t just an Oscar-winning actress, a Harvard graduate and published author. People may not know that she was born Neta-Lee Hershlag to an Israeli father and an American mother in Jerusalem, Israel. Raised with strong ties to her Jewish traditions and customs, Portman moved to the U.S. when she was three years old but maintained her Israeli citizenship and faith throughout stardom.

8. Seth Rogen 

A familiar face in comedy, Seth Rogen – with his signature laughter and unique style –  is no stranger to Hollywood fame. This talented actor, known for hilarious movies like “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express,” was born into a Jewish family in Vancouver, Canada.  His parents met in Israel, and his father worked for local Jewish organizations supporting youth.

Rogen’s sense of humor can be traced back to his foundation, which often merged wit with realism, attributes seen clearly throughout his personal life and career. Warmed by tradition at an early age, Rogen has frequently incorporated elements within the Jewish faith in shaping his outlook and certain aspects of many cynosure roles.

9. Jack Black

Known for his comedic genius and rock-star persona, Jack Black is another celebrity from a culturally rich Jewish family background. Born to satellite engineers Judith Love Cohen and Thomas William Black – both Jews, this Hollywood idol was raised embodying Jewish traditions in Southern California. 

While his unorthodox comic flair might overshadow it sometimes, he does receive influence from this part of his heritage. What truly sets him apart, though, are the times when he brings out nostalgic Jewish melodies within his rock music.

10. Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson, known as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a top-notch actress beloved by fans worldwide. This versatile star hails from New York City with an interesting mix of Danish and Polish Jewish descent on her mother’s side. 

Despite her family’s secular approach to religion, Scarlett didn’t shy away from acknowledging her heritage. She recognizes it and appreciates its impact on her life. She has publicly stood against anti-Semitism and expressed strong support for Israel.

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