Of Brainy Jewish Actresses And Not-So-Charming Rebbetzins
12/29/2010 - 16:36

I’m not a big celebrity watcher, but I wanted to let you all know that I did, in fact, hear that American-Israeli Jewish actress Natalie Portman (nee Hershlag) is engaged. And that her intended, French dancer Benjamin Millepied, is, according to bloggers far more in the know than I, probably not a Member of the Tribe. 

So there you have it, another Jewish celeb (and a day school grad to boot) coming over to the dark side.

A charming commenter on Rabbi Jason Miller’s blog has already decreed her a “self-hater.”

And speaking of brainy (Portman is a Harvard alum) American-Jewish actresses who were child stars, are conversant in Hebrew and have ties to the Jewish state: Mayim Bialik, a regular blogger for Kveller, has been writing a fair amount about life in a quasi-interfaith family. That is, when the neuroscience PhD best known for her roles in “Blossom” and “The Big Bang Theory,” as well as her ancestral ties to  Israeli poet Hayim Nahman Bialik, is not busy breastfeeding (or pumping for) her 2 ½-year-old son.

Bialik’s husband Michael is a Jew-by-choice with Mormon and Baptist roots, and she recently wrote about celebrating Christmas with his cuisine-challenged (think giant cheese ball) family.

While neither Michael nor Benjamin is Arab, I suspect the more than 27 rebbetzins (rabbis' wives) of Israel who, earlier this week, issued a truly inspiring plea to Jewish women to avoid romantic entanglements with Arab men, will not be inviting Mayim or Natalie to be honored at fundraising dinners for Lehava, a one-year-old group whose sole purpose, apparently, is to protect Jewish women from Arab men. Their recent letter, according to JTA includes this:

[Arab men] actually know how be polite and act making you believe they really care… but their behavior is only temporary," it said. “As soon as they have in you in their grasp, in their village, under their complete control -- everything becomes different. Your life will never be the same, and the attention you sought will be replaced with curses, physical abuse and humiliation.”

Imagine, these Arab men actually know how to be polite. Nazi comparisons are way overused in our cultural discourse, and, granted, I know very little about the trend Lehava claims to address of Jewish Israeli women being lured into Arab village life, but it's hard not to be reminded of similar warnings directed toward Aryan women in 1930s Germany. 

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I really liked your article. As a european muslim with arab roots I am dating outside the faith myself and find it challenging at times. There is certainly this idea of being a traitor within the community. Racism is everywhere and calling a certain ideology in Israel racist doesn't mean calling all jews racist. If an Arab man treats a Jewish woman with respect and love and lets her practise her faith why would they not be together? Israeli anti-interfaith relationship laws are very similar to Nazi anti-interfaith relationship laws and force the couples who want to be together to live outside Israel. I think if I was jewish this would bother me even more just like as a muslim it bothers me more than anyone else if a self-proclaimed muslim commits an offence "in the name of god" somewhere.
Best regards from Europe

One may call Jews, as well as any other people, "racist" and then one should be called in turn to justify the accusation with facts or retract it, but any comparison of Jews to Nazis is inflammatory and inherently antisemitic. Julie, biased or not, you are free to do and say what you want as a journalist, but if you are so uninformed and insensitive to why the comparison of Jews to Nazis is so insulting and hurtful, why should you have a specifically Jewish "pulpit" to make it from? Is it not also possible, that this bias, arising from ignorance at best, invalidates even more of what you have to say on Jewish topics.
@ Julie Wiener - Entertaining column and from the comments here we can see it takes a certain amount of courage to write for the Jewish community. Kudos. Also, thank you for the response about racism against Arabs, we of all people should be more sensitive to racial injustice and intolerance of any kind. @ Andrew in CT - The vast majority of liberal arts grads are actually not working in their field (say, and English degree enabling you to work at a law firm or my italian degree enabling me to work in the energy sector). I'm also sorry you feel that Natalie Portman is not up to Tommy Lee Jones' level but I'm going to disagree with you there. Your opinion, even shouted or whined aloud, counts just as much as mine and as the editorialist's, here. I wonder only why you want to tear her down so much.
How do you know how Jewish Natalie Portman is? Just because she went to Hebrew school as a child doesn't make one religious at adulthood. Her career has been molded to lead people to think a certain way about her. Unless you are one of her closest friends you don't know. Also, I wouldn't call her 'brainy', she went to Harvard and graduated with some degree that she does not need to be an actor. Tommy Lee Jones went to Harvard and graduated and he is a better actor than she will ever be. I would say that most of us who have graduated college are using the field of endeavor we spent time to study.
I am sorry to say to say I find this post foolish (i.e., lacking coherent logical and factual argument) for all of the following reasons: 1 - You acknowledge you don't know much about the subject, but immediately jump to making Nazi comparisons. 2 - You should know that Nazis did not send letters trying to persuade people, they enacted strict legal bans on relationships with Jews, backed by harsh enforcement and public humiliation events. 3 - Do you believe what the letter suggests about life for women in Arab villages in Israel to be untrue, and that women in Arab villages are treated as free and equal members of society? Or does the truth not matter? 4 - If I wrote like you did, I could jump to the Nazi comparison and argue that by your promotion of intermarriage, you are promitng the aim of erasing the Jewish people that Hitler started. But I think that kind of name calling does not belong in a serious newspaper.
Anonymous: There are many non-racist reasons to marry within the faith. However, to make generalizations about Arab men, and to characterize their romantic pursuits of Jewish women in such a sinister manner, is, in fact, racist. And to compare certain Jewish rhetoric to certain Nazi rhetoric is, while not always appropriate, hardly anti-Semitic. The Jewish Week neither condones nor condemns my opinions: as you will see from perusing our site, I am one of several editors, and we publish a broad spectrum of views reflecting the diversity of the the American Jewish community.
Julie Wiener makes a gratuitously insulting, antisemitic comparison between (Nazi) Aryan women and Jewish women exhorting their sisters to marry within the faith or, at least, the "tribe." Ms. Wiener, of course, does not believe in such "racist" endogamy; I find that, in her own words, "not-so-charming." More to the point, what is she doing writing for a Jewish newspaper with an attitude like that and why are the Jewish Week's editors condoning it?
Follow-up to previous post - I went to the RCA link that you provided that was supposed to show that the RCA condemned the Lahava letter. There is condemnation of earlier Rabbis' letter about renting to Arabs, but I was unable to find any condemnation of the Lahava letter. Perhaps you can provide us with a more specific link - or else clarify this if in fact the RCA has not condemned the Lahava letter?
 Oops. I was basing my RCA information on a JTA article, which I realized I misread. The JTA said the RCA has condemned an earlier letter, the one from the rabbis calling for Jews not to rent property to non-Jews. I will edit my post accordingly. Thanks for catching my error. And I will also do more research on the issue of Arab-Jewish liaisons in Israel. 
Thanks for clarifying this, and for your willingness to look into the subject!