In ‘Greenberg,’ Ben Stiller veers from the typical Jewish neurotic role.
Special To The Jewish Week
Roger Greenberg, the eponymous hero of Noah Baumbach’s new film, “Greenberg,” is a direct descendant of all those solipsistic, narcissistic, inconsiderate neurotics embodied by Woody Allen and, most recently, Larry David. At 40, he is a twitching bundle of nerves, barely suppressed anger and tightly held grudges going back to his college days. And he is unmistakably Jewish, although, as he dryly notes, “my mother is a Protestant, so I don’t even count.”
Joshua Boettiger may be the only rabbinic student who can trace his roots to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The 31-year-old is a great-grandson of Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Depression and World War II leader alternately exalted and reviled by the American Jewish community.The elder son of an Episcopalian father –– the son of President Roosevelt’s daughter, Anna –– and a Jewish mother, Boettiger grew up attending church and synagogue. “I don’t know whether to be Jewish or Christian,” a 5-year-old Boettiger told his parents.
When I was younger, a popular bumper sticker read: “My boss is a Jewish carpenter.” Back then, I thought it referred to some strange pride non-Jews had in a series of Jews that, contrary to the direction of the gene pool, possessed modest skill with a chisel or saw.
In Hebrew and Aramaic he was known as Jacob or Yakov. He was a son of a late Second Temple period carpenter named Joseph.
And like Robert from the hit sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” he was the forgotten brother of a much more popular sibling.
But Jacob, better known to the world as James the Just, was actually no slouch. In Jerusalem, he led a religious congregation of observant Jews devoted to his brother’s memory and teachings until he was also put to death, in the year 63 CE.