August 18, 2019

Best Jewish Moments of the MTV Movie and TV Awards

Israeli Actress Gal Gadot presents. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Blake

Members of the Tribe were among the winners and presenters at the MTV Movie and TV Awards, which took place on June 15 at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica and aired on MTV two days later on June 17.

Gal Gadot was the event’s first presenter, handing out the award for most frightened performance to Sandra Bullock for “Bird Box.”

Dan Levy won the best comedic performance award for his role in “Schitt’s Creek” and gave thanks to MTV, noting he once worked there (actually, for its Canadian counterpart) and the cast, singling out his father and co-star Eugene Levy. He shared his takeaway from his “Schitt’s Creek” experience. “Kindness always wins. Love is best served unconditionally,” he said. “And wearing sweaters in the dead of summer is a very, very bad idea.”

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the subject of the acclaimed documentary “RBG,” was named the recipient of the best real-life hero award. She did not attend the event.

A Wonder Woman’s Naiveté

Rotem Sela; Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Should a prime minister debate with a model online? Maybe not. And yet, during election seasons, strange things happen, including a short and fierce debate between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rotem Sela, an Israeli model, TV personality and actress. She said, then he said, then “Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot defended Sela, then Netanyahu’s backers piled on Sela. If the right-religious coalition wins the upcoming election, the Sela moment could serve as a guide to the perplexed observer as to why the right-religious coalition rules and why the other side keeps failing.

The exchange, and even more so the aftermath, is based on a misunderstanding. Sela was upset, and rightly so, by the fact that so many politicians regard the Arab vote as semi-illegitimate. “When the hell will someone in this government let the Israeli public know that this is a country for all its citizens and that every person is born equal. And also, that the Arabs are human beings,” the model wrote on Instagram, on which she has close to 1 million followers. 

Netanyahu sensed an opportunity. Maybe this would be his 2019 “Garbuz moment.” Four years ago, Yair Garbuz, a well-known Israeli artist, unified the right by being condescending toward traditional right-wing Israelis during a leftist rally just a few days before election day. Living in his silo of secular leftists, Garbuz might not have realized that looking down at “mezuzah kissers” is not a good way to connect with, well, Israelis who like their mezuzahs. Sela, apparently, has a similar problem. She thought she was stating the obvious, when in fact she pushed a red-alert button. What did you just say? A state of all of its citizens?

This is where misunderstanding begins. Of course, Israel is a country in which all citizens have equal rights. And when they don’t, this should be corrected. But — and this is why Netanyahu was quick to zero in on Sela’s comments — in the Israeli context, a “state of all of its citizens” is not a technical description of a desired legal situation. It is a political statement. A “state of all of its citizens” is the code term used by those wanting to eliminate the character of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. 

In a response to Sela on Facebook, Netanyahu reaffirmed that all Israeli citizens have equal rights. However, he added this distinction: “According to a basic law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and the Jewish people only.” I must admit, when The Washington Post publishes such statement without context, this sounds awful. It sounds as if Israel doesn’t want to treat its Arab citizens equally. But to the trained Israeli ear,  what the prime minister wrote is quite obvious. Israelis, by and large, don’t want Israel to become a “state of all of its citizens.” Not in the way most proponents of this slogan mean it. Not in a way that will make Israel nationally-neutral.  

That’s the misunderstanding. Sela was trying to be sympathetic to Arab voters — a noble intention — but was tone deaf to the way her words are interpreted by Jewish voters. She thought that she was defending a minority, when in fact, she was attacking the majority. 

“Israelis, by and large, don’t want Israel to become a “state of all of its citizens…” Not in a way that will make Israel nationally-neutral. “

Netanyahu wants to make her the poster girl of the left. He wants her to be a Garbuz. He cynically uses her to make the same argument that he famously made in the mid-’90s, as he was whispering in a rabbi’s ear that “the left forgot what it means to be Jewish.” You think Sela had won this short battle when Gadot defended her? You think a supportive story in The Forward or Haaretz proves that the prime minister finally botched it by going against a popular figure? (“Israeli politicians, beware: Don’t mess with Rotem Sela. The woman knows how to look good while discussing public policy and nursing a baby”). 

Think again. Arab Israelis support Sela’s views. Jewish Israelis — except for a tiny minority on the far left (4 to 5 percent) — vehemently oppose her views. Not because these Israelis are racist. Not because they don’t want Arabs to have equal rights as citizens. Many of them do. But they also want Israel to remain a Jewish state. They insist that Israel must remain a Jewish state. And they understand that Sela, unintentionally, goodheartedly, naively, was speaking the language of Israel’s most cunning enemies.

Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at

Gadot, Rivlin, Sela Fire Back Against Netanyahu’s Instagram Remarks

Gal Gadot at the UK premiere of “Criminal” at The Curzon Mayfair in London on April 7. Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin joined Gal Gadot March 11 in pushing back at remarks made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu wrote on social media March 10 that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and not anyone else.”

The Times of Israel reported Rivlin rebuking Netanyahu at a Jerusalem conference about Egyptian-Israel peace March 11 by saying, “We must get to the point where we are truly able to say: No more war and bloodshed between Israelis and Arabs. Between Israel and all Arabs.”

“I refused and refuse to believe that there are political parties that have surrendered the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish, state,” Rivlin continued. “Those who believe that the State of Israel must be Jewish and democratic in the full sense of the word must remember that the State of Israel has complete equality of rights for all its citizens.”

Netanyahu’s response came from an Instagram post made on March 9 by model and actor Rotem Sela, who wrote, “Dear God, there are also Arab citizens in this country. When the hell will someone in this government convey to the public that Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people were created equal, and that even the Arabs and the Druze and the LGBTs and — shock — the leftists are human.”

Actress Gal Gadot who is most well known for playing DC superhero Wonder Woman, backed Sela in an Instagram story (which has since expired) March 10 writing “Love your neighbor as yourself …  The responsibility to sow hope and light for a better future for our children is on us. Rotem, sister, you are the inspiration for us all.”

Gal Gadot Posts ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Love Letter

Gal Gadot. Photo courtesy of Clay Enos/DC Comics.

“Wonder Woman 1984” won’t be released until June 5, 2020, but Gal Gadot is kvelling about it now. She wrote a thank you note to the cast, crew and director Patty Jenkins in a post on Instagram with photos from the set.


“We did it. Again!! And as much as the first time shooting ‘Wonder Woman’ was amazing, this time was even more unique and special,” she wrote. “We shot in four very different locations in three countries, and I’m so soooo proud of the almost 1,000 crew members who came to set every day, giving everything they have into our movie.

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We did it. Again!! And as much as the first time shooting Wonder Woman was amazing, this time was even more unique and special.. We shot in 4 very different locations in 3 countries, and I'm so soooo proud of the almost 1000 crew members who came to set every day, giving everything they have into our movie. Couldn't ask for better partners on this.. I'm so lucky to have the one and only Patty Jenkins, as my director. She always has our backs, she gives us the wings to dare, and everyday she helped us find the most creative version of ourselves .. I am so grateful to call her my friend. And to our AMAZINGly talented cast who made every day enjoyable and fun, thank you! Honestly.. Words cannot describe this experience.. This journey was so demanding and challenging but we all came and did our very best every take, every day, putting our all out there and I’m so proud… Thank you universe for this opportunity. I love this character. And thank you to all of you for being the best fans in the world. It was you that made me push myself every day. I'm so happy and excited, can't wait to share it with you in 2020! ❤️ Gal

A post shared by Gal Gadot (@gal_gadot) on

“Couldn’t ask for better partners on this. I’m so lucky to have the one and only Patty Jenkins, as my director. She always has our backs, she gives us the wings to dare, and everyday she helped us find the most creative version of ourselves. I am so grateful to call her my friend. And to our AMAZINGly talented cast who made every day enjoyable and fun, thank you!


“Honestly, words cannot describe this experience. This journey was so demanding and challenging but we all came and did our very best every take, every day, putting our all out there and I’m so proud…Thank you universe for this opportunity. I love this character. And thank you to all of you for being the best fans in the world. It was you that made me push myself every day. I’m so happy and excited, can’t wait to share it with you in 2020!”

The movie co-stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor (yes, he’s back) and Kristen Wiig as Cheetah, a new villain.

2018 Holiday Movie Guide

Rachel Weisz. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Members of the Tribe are on camera and behind the scenes in this cinematic holiday mix of comedy, drama, animation, prestige pictures and action flicks, plus one special reissue.

“Black Swan” Oscar-winner Natalie Portman is getting rave reviews for her latest performance in “Vox Lux” as a pop superstar with a troubled past, a sensational career and a complicated life. She plays Celeste, who survived a school shooting and became famous for a song she wrote to honor the victims. Twenty years later, she’s the mother of a teenage daughter and on the career comeback trail, trying to put a scandalous incident behind her. While on tour with her album, she has to deal with personal crises, the pressures of fame and another shattering act of violence. 

Written and directed by Brady Corbet and featuring original songs by Sia, “Vox Lux” will be released on Dec. 7.

Natalie Portman. Photo courtesy of Neon.

Reteaming with her “Lobster” director, Yorgos Lanthimos, Rachel Weisz (“Denial,” “Disobedience”) stars in “The Favourite” as Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, the woman behind the throne in the court of Queen Anne of England (Olivia Colman).  

Lady Sarah was an ancestor of both Winston Churchill and Princess Diana, and was the queen’s friend, confidant and trusted adviser on matters personal and political.  According to Weisz, “Lady Sarah has the whole package: She’s very intellectually powerful, she’s very sexually powerful, she’s physically quite powerful, and politically, she is in charge of the entire country. I think of her as having the clarity and decisiveness of any modern political leader. Neither politics nor battle tactics nor running the country is Anne’s strong suit, but that’s all very appealing to Sarah.”

In the film, opening on Nov. 23, the balance of the women’s symbiotic relationship is threatened with the arrival of Lady Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone), who becomes a rival for the queen’s attention and affections. Weisz also stars opposite Colin Firth in “The Mercy,” opening Nov. 30. It’s based on the true story of sailor Donald Crowhurst’s 1998 attempt to circumnavigate the globe and the cover-up of its failure. 

Sarah Silverman. Photo courtesy of Alberto E. Rodriguez/ Getty Images for Disney.

Sarah Silverman and Gal Gadot add their voices to that of John C. Reilly’s title character in the animated sequel “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” a family-friendly adventure that Silverman describes as a “completely different” story compared with its predecessor, “Wreck-It Ralph.”

In the movie, opening on Nov. 23, racer Vanellope “is missing something, a steering wheel from her game, and that becomes a complete existential crisis,” Silverman said of her character. “Who am I if I’m not a racer? So [she and Ralph] decide to go into the internet and explore this vast endless expanse and it changes them forever.”

Gadot plays new character Shank, a racer in a game called “Slaughter Race.”
Silverman explained, “It’s a racing game that’s thrilling to Vanellope but very hard-core. Vanellope looks up to her. She becomes Vanellope’s mentor and she takes Vanellope under her wing.”

Another big draw for kids: “We have this scene with every Disney princess in it,” Silverman said. 

Hailee Steinfeld. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Hailee Steinfeld stars as a teenage mechanic who befriends the titular Autobot in  Bumblebee,” a stand-alone action adventure from the “Transformers” universe, opening Dec. 21. She plays Charlie, who stumbles upon the battered Volkswagen Beetle hiding in a junkyard, takes him home and sees him as her ticket out. 

According to Steinfeld, whose single “Back to Life” appears on the movie’s soundtrack, her character Charlie “has experienced a major loss in her life. She’s constantly trying to find that freedom she craves and start her own life.” Bumblebee is targeted for destruction, which sets their escape in motion. “Better Things” star Pamela Adlon plays Steinfeld’s mother. 

Steinfeld also supplies the voice of Gwen Stacy in the animated movie “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” opening on Dec. 14.

Israeli writer-turned-director Etan Cohen’s new action comedy plays Sherlock Holmes for laughs in “Holmes & Watson,” starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in the title roles. The story sends the sleuths on a mission to stop Professor Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) from assassinating Queen Victoria. It opens on Dec. 21.

Ron Perlman plays a Mossad agent turned hitman who falls for his target (Famke Janssen) in “Asher,” opening Dec. 7. Perlman’s daughter, Blake, who was in “Hellboy 2” and “Hand of God” with her father, appears as a pregnant woman. 

The Oscar-winning Holocaust drama “Schindler’s List” will be re-released in select theaters on Dec. 7, with picture and sound digital remastering supervised by Steven Spielberg. In the 2017 HBO documentary “Spielberg,” the director talked about filming “on hallowed ground” at Auschwitz and how the little girl in the red dress — the only color in the black-and-white movie — “symbolized the Holocaust and the monstrous evil that no one did anything about. It was emotionally the hardest movie I’ve ever made.”

Read more from the 2018 Holiday Arts & Entertainment Edition here.

Gal Gadot Gets Animated in ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Sequel

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

In her latest role, Gal Gadot will be heard but not seen. The Israeli actress will voice the role of a street racer named Shank in “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” a sequel to the 2012 animated Disney feature “Wreck-It Ralph.”

“Shank is amazing at driving cars and has this bad-girl vibe to her. But as the movie goes on you realize how fun, wise and warm she really is on the inside, which is what I like most about her,” Gadot said in a statement released by Disney. The movie, starring the voices of Sarah Silverman, John C. Reilly, and Jane Lynch, will be released Nov. 21.

Gadot tweeted, “I’m so excited to finally announce that I am playing a character named Shank in Disney’s #RalphBreaksTheInternet hitting theaters this November! Such an amazing experience to be apart of this project with such great creators and cast! Welcome to Slaughter Race!”

She’s currently filming “Wonder Woman 1984” and will star alongside Dwayne Johnson in the action flick “Red Notice.” Her future film slate includes “Justice League Part 2” and a Hedy Lamarr biopic.

Gal Gadot to Play Screen Legend Hedy Lamarr

Gal Gadot is gearing up to play another glamorous Jewish actress, Old Hollywood legend Hedy Lamarr. The Israeli “Wonder Woman” star is close to signing a deal for a Showtime limited series in which she would portray the Austrian-born beauty, as well as executive produce with writer Sarah Treem (“The Affair”) and Warren Littlefield (“The Handmaid’s Tale”).

As the 2017 documentary “Bombshell,” now on Netflix, depicts, Lamarr had a brilliant mind and invented a radio guidance system based on frequency-hopping technology that led to Wifi and GPS. It also reveals her Jewish identity, something Lamarr kept hidden from her own children.

Wonder Woman of Valor: Gal Gadot Visits Children in Hospital

Screenshot from Twitter.

Taking a break from filming Wonder Woman 1984 in Washington D.C., Gal Gadot made some young patients’ day when she visited Inova Children’s Hospital in Falls Church, Va., dressed head to toe in her Wonder Woman regalia. Gadot, the mother of two daughters ages 6 and 1, cuddled with the kids and posed for pictures.

According to Inova’s director of Child Life Services, Jamie Gentille, Gadot spent over an hour with the patients, handing out stuffed animals and toys. “This was such a treat for the children and families – she held babies, played with kids, and chatted with teens. A few of the parents cried tears of joy after seeing their child’s face light up at this magical moment,” she said.

“One patient underwent a morning full of very serious procedures, and you could see her perk up immediately when she saw Gal walk into her room,” Gentille added. “Gal was such a lovely person, and brought such beautiful energy to our halls. She has a gift of making a special connection with every child she meets.

“Visits like this do more for our patients than we ever could,” Gentille said. “For a child to have the real Wonder Woman visit them in the hospital is truly magical – they will go home and remember this amazing experience, amidst all of the pokes and procedures. This allows children to heal faster and really just back to the business of being kids and being joyful. Gal has a family for life here at ICH!”

She’s now back at work on “Wonder Woman 1984,” which reunites her with co-star Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins, with Kristen Wiig joining the cast as the villain. It’s due for release in November 2019. Gadot has a couple of projects set up after that, including the art heist thriller “Red Notice” with Dwayne Johnson. She’ll produce but may or may not appear in “My Dearest Fidel,” about an American journalist who becomes a confidant to former Cuban dictator Castro.


Gal Gadot and her daughter Alma Varsano

Gal Gadot on being a Mom

Gal Gadot cuddles with her daughter Alma, now 6, in an Instagram photo. Said Gadot: “How to be a mom in 2017: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, understimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter or neglect them. … How to be a mom in literally every generation before ours: Feed them sometimes.”

The New Zionist Plants Vines, Not Trees

Adam Bellos.

Adam Bellos’ stated mission is as grandiose as his personality. “I’m here to reignite the Zionist movement,” he says, without an ounce of facetiousness.

Injecting new blood into Zionism was the impetus for The Israel Innovation Fund (TIIF), a nonprofit Bellos founded last year to highlight Israeli culture. He points to both demographics and the Jewish state’s evolving image when he asserts that North America has lost its crown to Israel as the center of the Jewish world.

“Israel is cool and sexy and holy and fun. It’s the creative state,” he says. “It’s not your bubbe’s Zionism. It’s about ‘Fauda,’ it’s about Gal Gadot. We are ‘Wonder Woman’ Zionism.”

TIIF, he’s quick to add, is composed of 60 percent women, and aside from its executive director, David Hazony, and newly appointed president, Ted Sokolsky, all of TIIF’s staff members are under 40.

Stopping short of naming names, Bellos takes a shot at the reigning kingpins of the Jewish world, charging them with being wholly out of touch with the drives and desires of young Jews.

“You’ve got these old guys in a New York office telling a 25-year-old in Israel what Zionism is when they have no idea,” he says. Rejuvenating Jewish identity isn’t about gala dinners and planting trees, says Bellos in a not-so-subtle jab at the Jewish National Fund.

“It’s not your bubbe’s Zionism. It’s about ‘Fauda,’ it’s about Gal Gadot. We are ‘Wonder Woman’ Zionism.” — Adam Bellos

TIIF’s millennial version of tree planting is its flagship project, Wine on the Vine. The online fundraising platform connects people to Israel by planting vines at select wineries, with the lion’s share of proceeds going to support Israeli charities. The organization also hosts revenue-positive parties, from Zionist-feminism soirees to wine tasting events in art galleries.

Not bad for a boy from Cincinnati who, by his own admission, wasn’t exactly an honor roll student. But there’s no love lost from Bellos for his hometown. “There’s a reason I left at 18 and never looked back,” he says.

Having always nurtured dreams of being a filmmaker, Bellos moved to Chicago to study film and theater. But a 2007 stint in a study-abroad program at Tel Aviv University turned out to be a life-altering experience that would put his Hollywood ambitions on the back burner.

“I fell in love with a girl and I fell in love with Zionism and I fell in love with Israel,” says Bellos, his face breaking into a million-watt smile.

Even when the romantic relationship fell through, Bellos knew without question that Israel would become his home. He returned to the United States to study Judaism and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Arizona before making aliyah and volunteering in the army. Two-and-a-half years later, Bellos left Jerusalem to accept a job in Ningbo, China, running a belly dance company.

After a year, Bellos returned, this time to Tel Aviv. He enrolled in a master’s degree program at Tel Aviv University, but he never quite found his place professionally. He dabbled in everything from volunteering with the city’s young, professional community to consulting for former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren for the 2015 election, in which Oren was elected to the Knesset. Eventually, Bellos settled on playing the stock market, a venture that proved lucrative enough for him to realize his real passion of promoting Zionism.

He’s unapologetically pragmatic about the checks and balances of his ideals.

“I gotta be the guy who makes the money,” he says. “There’s so much passion out there and all these people have these great ideas, but you need money.

“Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to launch the hottest Jewish organizations in existence.”

Smashing Idols in Tinseltown and Beyond

According to the familiar Midrashic legend, Abraham’s father, Terah, was a craftsman and salesman of idols. But Abram (Abraham’s original name) scoffs at the adults who worship idols. Having watched his father make the sausages, so to speak, he can’t worship them.

While Terah is away, Abram smashes all of the idols except the largest one, placing an ax in its hand. When Terah returns, he’s furious. Abram explains that the idols had brawled until one idol emerged victorious. Terah is incredulous: “Idols don’t destroy idols,” he says, “people do.” Abram smiles. “Exactly,” he says. “So, why worship them?” Terah hauls Abram to the royal court of Nimrod, where he is sentenced to death by fire. According to the legend, God saves Abram from the crucible.

Idol smashers are courageous and strong. Many Abrams have emerged from the current cultural crucible. These heroes break false cultural idols. They slay producers like Harvey Weinstein, directors like Brett Ratner and actors like Kevin Spacey. As we overturn boulders, the hideous creatures hiding beneath are scurrying blindly into the sunlight. We’re experiencing a massive cultural revolution — listening to victims of alleged abuse and believing them.

Today’s idol smashers are shaking Hollywood, and its edifice is wobbling. To some, Hollywood is a cesspool of vice run by vile, abusive men. As Hollywood idols are smashed, only debris remains. And the scornful public’s instinct is to discard Hollywood’s art, once beautiful and inspirational.

But there’s a more optimistic view.

Hollywood isn’t monolithic. It’s comprised of more victims of alleged abuse than reputed abusers. For every Hollywood villain, there are many heroes, people who succeed without harming others.

Hollywood also has its superheroes, people trying to change the world.

Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman in the DC Extended Universe. In real life, she stood up to Ratner, who has been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct. Gadot made it known that she wouldn’t work on a “Wonder Woman” sequel if Ratner were involved as a producer. Warner Bros. responded by dropping Ratner from the film.

Today’s idol smashers are shaking Hollywood, and its edifice is wobbling.

When Jimmy Fallon returned to the “Tonight Show” a week after his mother’s death, he told viewers that his mom “… would squeeze my hand three times, and say, ‘I love you.’ Last week, I was in the hospital, and I grabbed her hand and squeezed. ‘I love you.’”

During the same broadcast, Taylor Swift debuted her song “New Year’s Day,” which happened to include the lyrics, “You squeeze my hand three times in the back of a taxi. … ”

Swift wasn’t a scheduled guest. Producers had invited her to add a special touch to Fallon’s return show, and she agreed without hesitation. When she serendipitously sang “squeeze my hand three times,” there were tears all around. Afterward, the two stars embraced, overwhelmed with emotion. Swift’s brilliant performance and unbridled support for Fallon were heroic.

Drake may be the biggest superhero of all. Performing on Nov. 15 in Sydney, the artist was mid-song when he stopped to chastise a man for reportedly groping women in the audience. Drake’s righteous indignation and public calling-out is the stuff of superheroes.

If you need further reassurance that Hollywood is not a cesspool, see the feature film “Wonder,” a remarkable 100-minute sermon on kindness, acceptance, love and magnanimity. “Wonder” grabs you by the soul and, in the words of Henry Ward Beecher — used beautifully in the film — “carries up the most hearts.” It’s a reminder that no one does inspirational and powerful storytelling better than Hollywood.

One by one, false idols are falling. Morality pundits at Fox News, hypocritical politicians (left and right), Silicon Valley misogynists and Hollywood Neanderthals have been exposed and destroyed.

After Abram smashed the idols, he discovered God, the Creator. Not made of stone, wood or clay, Abram’s God was the maker of stone, wood and clay. Abram partnered with the Creator to teach morality and kindness, and together they changed the world.

We should celebrate the destruction of Hollywood’s false idols, but we should not discard Hollywood and all of its culture. Instead, let’s replace those idols with the Hollywood stars who light up our world with love and kindness.

Eli Fink is a rabbi, writer and managing supervisor at the Jewish Journal.

The 2017 GA: Day Two Wrap-Up

Sean Rad, co-founder and chairman of Tinder, participated in a morning plenary about millennials on Nov. 13. Photo courtesy of JFNA

On Day Two, Valley Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Ed Feinstein gave an impassioned speech, invoking Abraham Joshua Heschel’s plea for Jewish authenticity and encouraging Federations to make it a top priority. “You can’t build … Jewish identity with crisis and fear,” he said. “It’s the wrong language.”

In another session, Tinder founder Sean Rad, a graduate of Milken Community High School, waxed philosophical on his connection to Judaism and what millennials want. He also noted that his best Jewish education came from his family’s Shabbat dinner table.

Rad noted that the average person with an iPhone today has more access to more information than an American president would have had 10 years ago. (I wondered, if the Jewish community is fragmenting because millennials have access to too many people and too much information, doesn’t a dating app like Tinder become part of the problem?)

At a session called Millennial Roundtable, Jackie Rotman, founder of Everybody Dance Now, said that federations can be alienating for young professionals, and that the key to engagement is to earn loyalty and engage people early. She also described various types of donors, saying federations need to expand their definition of how a donor looks and acts.

Swipe Out Hunger’s Rachel Sumekh said that “If you want to engage millennials, the first step is to be curious about who we are.” Jason Leivenberg, who runs NuRoots, an L.A. Federation effort aimed at millennials, charged the attendees: “If we can’t answer ‘Why be Jewish?’ for ourselves, how can we ask others that question?”

Jodi Schwartz, JFNA’s treasurer, introduced a panel on relations between American Jews and Israel by saying, “We all love Israel but it’s sometimes hard to feel at home there.” Gidi Grinstein, founder and president of the Reut Group, said that “A vibrant Diaspora is a Zionist imperative.”

Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York, emphasized the strength of ties between Israel and U.S. Jews. “Despite the fact that we are Jewish, our marriage is Catholic — there is no divorce in this marriage,” he said, adding that, “Our obligation is to put aside our different opinions and promise never to neglect one another.”

“I study Israel education, teaching Israel to American Jews,” said Bethamie Horowitz on that panel, noting the shift in Israel support from a “solidarity” or “blue-and-white model” to something that’s “more bruising: the black-and-blue model.” Horowitz, who is a research professor at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, added that there is a “great need to address the complexities that Israel now opposes. We have to teach ourselves how to decode the complexities.”

At a session examining Hollywood through a Jewish lens, television executive Nina Tassler praised “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot for her reported decision not to sign on for a “Wonder Woman” sequel if producer Brett Ratner — who has been accused of sexual misconduct — is involved.

“She took a stand — it was an Israeli woman who took a stand, and I think it is important,” said Tassler, former chair of CBS Entertainment. The audience responded with enthusiastic applause.

Staff Writer Ryan Torok contributed to this report.

Gal Gadot is GQ’s Woman of the Year

IsraelI actress and all-around badass Jewess role model Gal Gadot has been named GQ’s Woman of the Year. Gadot joins GQ Men of the Year Colin Kaepernick, Stephen Colbert, and Kevin Durant. GQ has been doling out this honor for 22 years and Gadot is only the fourth Woman of the Year.

Gadot is also in the news this week because according to a Page Six report, she will not sign on for a Wonder Woman sequel unless Warner Brothers dumps disgraced producer Brett Ratner. Warner Brothers denies the story.




Gal Gadot to host ‘SNL’

Actress Gal Gadot signing autographs for fans during the “Wonder Woman” premier in Mexico City on May 27. Photo by Victor Chavez/WireImage

Israeli actress Gal Gadot, known the world over as Wonder Woman, will host Saturday Night Live.

Gadot is scheduled to host the October 7 episode of the show. She will be joined by musical guest Sam Smith.

Gadot informed her fans via a tweet. “No longer a secret, so excited to be hosting #SNL,” she wrote, retweeting an SNL graphic announcing the first three shows of the season.

It is the first time that Gadot will host the comedy sketch show, now in its 43rd season.

Conan meets activists in West Bank, hangs out with Gal Gadot in Israel special

Conan O'Brien reads an Israeli newspaper in the Dead Sea

When Conan O’Brien announced in August he would be going to Israel, he suggested he might try to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he visited.

Didn’t happen.

But what he did achieve in a humorous perspective is a deep-dive into Israeli life while humanizing both Israelis and Palestinians during his stops in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the West Bank.

His special, “Conan Israel,” aired Sept. 19 and is available for viewing in its entirety at

In O’Brien’s special, he covers 1,300 years of fighting, conquests and disputes in just over one minute. A nice detail Angelenos will appreciate is a one-liner about in-fighting among Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews in which Reform Jews are represented by a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball hat.

At the comedian’s first stop, Tel Aviv, the lanky, ginger Harvard University alumnus explores the city’s beaches. The physical attractiveness of the young Israeli people sweeps him up. There’s just one problem: From a lifeguard tower he calls for all the Israeli men wearing speedos to immediately remove themselves from the beach.


During his second stop, he visits the Tower of David museum, overlooking the old city of Jerusalem. Eilat Lieber, director of the museum, points out the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian quarters to O’Brien.

“The Armenians have a quarter?” O’Brien says. “I don’t understand why they get a quarter. They got all of Glendale.”


Punctuating the traveling tour is a parody of the hit Israeli television series, “Fauda,” during which O’Brien threatens to electrocute “Fauda” star Lior Raz, who co-stars in the clip, unless Raz provides him with a very crucial piece of information: The home address of “Wonder Woman,” Gal Gadot. When that doesn’t work, O’Brien threatens to torture him using more creative technique:

“I won’t kill you. I’ll do something worse. I am going to sing ‘Hava Nagila’ the way an Irish man sings ‘Hava Nagila,’” O’Brien says.


When O’Brien visits Gadot apartment, he tries to sweet talk his way inside. Unfortunately, she’s busy entertaining friends. Before the clip ends he notices the mezuzah on her door post. Indeed, the episode shows O’Brien, who is not Jewish, not only learning about Israel, but becoming more knowledgeable about Judaism. He even has a bar mitzvah.


A visit to the West Bank begins with O’Brien’s trying out an affable Palestinian’s man coffee and haggling over the price of a hookah pipe which turns to be decorative and not functional.

Then, as O’Brien visits a piece of the separation wall dividing Israel from the Palestinian territories, things take a serious turn. Palestinian activists approach and share their side of the story. They denounce the foreign aid the United States provides to the Palestinians. O’Brien doesn’t counter so much as give them a platform to share their views. When it’s over, O’Brien offers a disclaimer, that he did not conduct interviews with people who oppose the views just expressed in the segment.


In the next clip, he visits with U.N. inspectors who man Israel’s border with Syria in the Golan Heights. They discuss Hollywood karate star Chuck Norris’s having previously visited Israel. Undercutting the playfulness is that in the distance the gunfire from Syria’s civil war can be heard.

In the next sequence, O’Brien sees the results of the Syrian civil war up close when he visits an Israeli hospital, Ziv Medical Center, which is affiliated with the faculty of Bar-Ilan University and has been treating victims of Syria’s civil war. He meets a surgeon, Argentinian-Israeli Dr. Alejandro Roisentul, who has been honored for his work treating Syrians, along with a social worker named Fares.

“I think you’re doing God’s work here. I honestly sincerely think you are doing beautiful work here,” O’Brien says to Roisentul and Fares.


O’Brien then meets Syrian patients, who have been treated at the border and taken to the hospital. The Syrians’ faces are blurred to protect their identities.

Ziv Medical Center is located in Safed, home to a large Arab population. In an email, Ron Solomon, executive vice president of American Friends of Bar Ilan University, told the Journal that O’Brien’s visit must have meant a great deal to both the Jewish and Arab people of the northern Israeli city in the Galilee.

“The fact that a star, [on] the level of Conan, made the time to go all the way up to Ziv Hospital and see for himself the care that is given to all people in need, has to have an impact on both the Arab and Jewish populations in all of Galilee,” he said.

The episode concludes with O’Brien’s acknowledging he does not have a solution to the problems plaguing the region but he has learned that Israel does not deserve international condemnation for being imperfect.

“Let’s remember we’re talking about a country that is only 69-years-old. Think about it, the U.S. is 240-years-old and last time I checked we are still working out a few kinks,” he says.

While he does not broker a peace agreement, in an interview that streamed live on Wednesday on Facebook he said he achieved his goals for the special.

“There is a lot of hot-button topics there, and I did want people to know very sincerely that our intention was to go and to really try to keep it simple: meet people, try to make them laugh, make friends, make friends with Israelis, make friends with Arabs and try to find common ground with things we find universally funny,” he said. “There was nothing else, and obviously there will be certain people who want to read intention. We did go there to try and make people happy, make people laugh and when I watched the show last night, I think we did that, and that makes me very happy.”

Gal Gadot’s ‘Wonder Woman’ tops ‘Spider-Man’ as biggest non-sequel superhero movie

Gal Gadot. Photo courtesy of Clay Enos/DC Comics.

“Wonder Woman,” starring the Israeli actress Gal Gadot, has become the biggest non-sequel superhero movie ever, beating out the 2002 version of “Spider-Man.”

The movie earned $404.1 million in the United States as of Monday, and has passed $800 worldwide, with the film set to open in Japan on Friday, Forbes reported.

Forbes noted that if the film can take in another $5 million at the box office — and it is still being shown at more than 800 movie theaters in the United States — it will pass “The Hunger Games,” “Captain America: Civil War” and “Iron Man 3” in earnings.

Gadot tweeted a thank you to her fans on Monday.

“Wow! Just heard the news! Thank u to everyone who has shown their support to WW in theaters!” she wrote. “What an amazing ride this has been! #grateful

The film is set to be released in the United States on DVD and Blu-ray on Sept. 19.

Warner Bros. has already begun preparing for the sequel, “Wonder Woman 2,” which is slated for release in December 2019.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman slated to appear in ‘Flashpoint’ film

Gal Gadot in the 2017 film “Wonder Woman.” Photo by Clay Enos/DC Comics

Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s iconic Wonder Woman character is expected to make an appearance in the upcoming movie “Flashpoint.”

“Flashpoint,” a DC Extended Universe film, and the first solo movie for the DC Comics character Flash, is scheduled to be released in 2020, Forbes columnist Mark Hughes reported over the weekend.

It will be the third DC film in which Gadot as Wonder Woman will appear. She also will be seen in the film “Justice League,” with a scheduled release this fall, and a sequel to “Wonder Woman” has already been announced for December 2019.

“Wonder Woman” was expected to break $400 million at the box office in the United States over the weekend and close in on $800 million in worldwide receipts.

Qatar is third country to ban ‘Wonder Woman’ over lead Israeli actress Gal Gadot

Gal Gadot in the 2017 film “Wonder Woman.” Photo by Clay Enos/DC Comics

Qatar has become the third Arab-majority country to ban the screening of the movie “Wonder Woman” because lead actress Gal Gadot is Israeli.

The film had been scheduled to premiere in Qatar Thursday and was being promoted by local theater chains VOX Cinemas Qatar and Novo Cinemas. But in the days before its scheduled release, the film was removed from cinema websites, Doha News reported.

The film currently is banned in Lebanon and Tunisia. Jordan’s Communications Commission initially banned the film and then allowed it to be screened “due to a lack of legal precedent.”

Gadot, 32, does not shy away from touting her Israeli heritage. She praised the Israeli military in a widely shared Facebook post during the 2014 Gaza War. She served in the Israeli army as a combat instructor during the 2006 Lebanon War.

The film has grossed over $700 million worldwide since its release, Forbes reported.

Gal Gadot ranked most popular actor on social media

Gal Gadot in the 2017 film “Wonder Woman.” Photo by Clay Enos/DC Comics

Gal Gadot, the Israeli star of the film “Wonder Woman,” rose to No. 1 on The Hollywood Reporter’s Top Actors list.

Gadot moved up from No. 4 over the past two weeks in the ranking of the most popular actors on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Google Plus. The last tracking week ended June 20, according to The Hollywood Reporter; the latest list was released Saturday.

Others on the list include Dwayne Johnson, Zendaya, Priyanka Chopra, Lucy Hale, Jennifer Lopez, Kevin Hart, Lily Collins, Shay Mitchell and Mark Wahlberg.

Gadot, 32, has become an international sensation since “Wonder Woman” premiered, but she has been a household name in Israel since winning the Miss Israel pageant in 2004 at 18.

Gal Gadot’s husband went viral on Instagram because of this t-shirt

Yaron Versano, left, with Gal Gadot. Photo from Instagram

You can’t blame Gal Gadot’s husband for feeling a little protective or anxious these days. His wife, the star of the “Wonder Woman” film, is rapidly becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Yaron Versano, a 38-year-old Israeli real estate developer who has been with Gadot for over 10 years, posted a photo of himself in a humorous t-shirt alongside his wife last Thursday.

#mywife #therealwonderwoman ❤️

A post shared by JaronVarsano (@jaronvarsano) on

The image has since been liked over 109,000 times and garnered nearly 1,500 comments.

That’s likely because of the message on Versano’s shirt, which shows a generic symbol for a female above the words “Your Wife” next to a depiction of the Wonder Woman character, which is above the words “My Wife.”

Buzzfeed pointed out that the shirt is available for anyone on Amazon, although it might seem custom-made for the man who is, according to at least one commenter on his Instagram post, the “luckiest person ever.”

Wonder Woman’s other mission

Actress Gal Gadot signing autographs for fans during the “Wonder Woman” premier in Mexico City on May 27. Photo by Victor Chavez/WireImage

When I told my wife how much I liked “Wonder Woman,” she said, “I bet you did.”

Well, yes, if I have to watch someone run around in spandex for two hours, I’d rather it be Gal Gadot than, say, Michael Keaton. So sue me.

But even a woman that striking wouldn’t stand out if the rest of the movie hadn’t been so entertaining: the script, the direction, the superb score. 

That’s why I wish I could sit down Lebanon’s Ministry of Economy & Trade and tell them, Look, don’t be a shmuck.

When “Wonder Woman” came out, the Hezbollah-run Lebanese ministry banned it, on account of Gadot being Israeli.

Israelis and Jews were bound to make a big deal of Gadot’s star turn. That’s what tribes do: boast of every Jewish wrestler, Armenian astronaut, Azerbaijani chess master. But what would have been just a source of parochial pride now, thanks to Lebanon, has become an international symbol.

Here’s yet another example of how the irrational hatred of Israel in the Arab world inevitably backfires.

Gadot’s Israeliness would have been a footnote on IMDb. Now — shukran Lebanon — she is carrying the Israeli brand on a platform that eventually will reach into every movie theater, laptop, cellphone, toy store, kids meal, Halloween costume and childhood fantasy.

The fictional Wonder Woman has to rescue humanity from the Kaiser’s army. The real Gal Gadot now has an even harder task: rescuing Israel’s image whenever and wherever it is maligned unfairly.   

It’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a 32-year-old mother of two. But if she can film the re-shoots of “Wonder Woman” while five months pregnant, she can handle the BDS crowd. 

Recently, I impulse-bought a T-shirt online that was pure white but for the black outline of a round head and an eye patch. In the 1960s and ’70s, any adult in the world instantly would have recognized it as Moshe Dayan. In the days before and after the Six-Day War, he didn’t just come to represent Israel, but to reflect its best qualities of bravery, fearlessness and intelligence.

Although it’s not a role she signed up for, Gal Gadot is destined to be this generation’s Moshe Dayan. Real Israeli heroes of the military type have become far too controversial. A make-believe action hero is much safer: Gadot as the Amazon princess Diana still embodies fearlessness and brains, and reflects it back on her native country. She just doesn’t have to worry about landing in Europe and being carted off to The Hague.

What’s striking, considering how fraught the subject of Israel can be, is how fearless Gadot has been in taking it on. It was striking not just that she has been called out for being Israeli, but how Israeli she is. Most movie heroes are deracinated totems of Middle American virtues. Just try to think of a single tent-pole superhero who speaks with a Southern drawl or Spanish accent. For generations, the same has been true of all leading men and women in most movies and TV shows — they had to grind down their noses and names and polish their accents if they ever wanted to be accepted. 

But Gal is Gal. She kept her Israeli name (OK, Gadot used to be Greenstein, but the change was an Israeli, not a Hollywood, thing). And strikingly, she kept her Israeli accent. In fact, director Patty Jenkins went a step further. To make Gadot not stand out as foreign, all the other Amazons adopted variations of her accent. The ones who did it well, like Robin Wright, sound like they could be selling Dead Sea cosmetics at the local mall. 

And Gadot’s character acts Israeli. When her love interest, Steve, kowtows to his English commanders, she marches into their conference room, shouts them down, then turns to macho Steve and dresses him down for buckling to authority. Any polite American Jew who has dated an Israeli has lived that moment, minus the generals.

Until Gadot, the Israeli image was essentially macho.  The most famous Israeli woman abroad was Golda Meir, whose reputation had long faded, especially in her own country. Now Gadot comes along and fuses feminism to Israeliness — “badass and kickass and morally courageous” as Times of Israeli journalist Sarah Tuttle-Singer put it.

In the end, I wonder what will have more power to soften the hearts of Israel’s most irrational enemies: the fake heroics of the character she plays, or the more subtly heroic choices Gadot has made to embrace who she is, and to stand up for where she comes from.  

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email
him at You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

Israelis kvell over Gal Gadot’s public response to a 7-year-old fan

Actress Gal Gadot signing autographs for fans during the “Wonder Woman” premier in Mexico City on May 27. Photo by Victor Chavez/WireImage

Is it possible that Israelis could fall even more in love with Gal Gadot, its homegrown Wonder Woman?

The answer this week is a resounding yes.

On Thursday, the star of the new blockbuster responded, on Facebook, to a young Israeli girl’s endearing handwritten fan letter.

Gadot called the 7-year-old, Zoey Vardi-Bar, “clever and creative” and sent her a “big hug.” The exchange between the leading lady and her fan quickly went viral in Israel, adding to what is already a national infatuation.

The girl’s mom, Liat Vardi-Bar, posted a photo of the note Monday on Facebook. She described Zoey as a feminist and a big fan of heroines, including Wonder Woman — and the 7-year-old, disappointed by the lack of Gadot-themed merchandise at Israeli stores, had left a note on the subject on the kitchen table that morning.

“Dear Gal,” Zoey wrote in blue and red marker, with some spelling and grammar errors. “I love Wonder Woman very much, meaning you. So if you don’t mind? Could you please produce games, pajamas and surfboards of Wonder Woman. With love Zoey Vardi Bar. I am 7 1/2 years old.”

In the middle of the note, she wrote Gal Gadot’s name surrounded by hearts.

Zoey’s note. Photo from Facebook


After the post received several dozen comments, Gadot — who has two young daughters of her own with her husband Yaron Varsano, an Israeli real-estate developer — weighed in with a personal message to Zoey. She explained that she was not in charge of Wonder Woman merchandise, but praised the proposal.

“Sweet Zoey. I loved reading your letter. You have really beautiful handwriting. Good job!” she said. “I’m not responsible for the issues of pajamas and surfboards, but I think it’s a really great idea and we certainly need to find whoever is responsible for this and tell him to produce games, pajamas and surfboards of Wonder Woman.

You are very clever and creative. Interesting to know what you would like to be when you grow up.. In the meantime I am sending you a big hug. Gal.”

The message ends with a smiley face icon.

Vardi-Bar, who lives in a small town near Haifa, reposted an image of Zoey’s note along with Gadot’s response. In an accompanying message, she praised Gadot as a real-life superhero.

“I haven’t admired anyone for a very long time, and then Gal arrives with tons of personal magic and strength that can stop the entire planet,” Vardi-Bar said. “This is just a little note of a 7 1/2 year-old girl (my daughter who will be so excited when she comes back home from school), but in my eyes, it’s huge and testifies so much about this woman who is Wonder Woman on the outside and apparently the inside as well.”

Zoey Vardi-Bar. Photo from Facebook


The Facebook page of the popular nightly news show Hazinor on Israel’s TV Channel 10 picked up the story on Thursday, which quickly spread across Hebrew Facebook. By the afternoon, the post had more than 6,000 “likes” and 100 comments praising Gadot.

“She served in the army, a beauty queen, a successful actress in Hollywood, a mother and still a kind person. Apparently she really is Wonder Woman,” said one woman.

Long popular in Israel, Gadot has become an international sensation since “Wonder Woman” premiered last week — raking in hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide and earning largely positive reviews. Israelis have watched with pride as Gadot, who is from Rosh Haayin and served as a combat instruction in the army, has become a bona fide movie star and feminist icon.

Gadot’s appearances on American TV or in Facebook live videos gets breathless coverage by the local press. Photos and videos of her as a soldier, a young model, 2004’s Miss Israel and an actress in smaller Hollywood roles seem to blanket Israeli social media, accompanied by kvelling comments.

A huge billboard for the movie overlooking Tel Aviv’s main highway declares, “We love you!” Nearby, the Azrieli Towers, the tallest buildings in Israel, featured illuminated messages in honor of the Israeli premiere of “Wonder Woman.” One read, “We are proud of you, Gal Gadot,” and a second said, “Our Wonder Woman.”

Lebanon’s ban of the film, because of its Israeli star, has done little to dampen the mood.

At a screening of “Wonder Woman” at a cinema in central Tel Aviv Saturday, the sold-out audience applauded Gadot’s on-screen heroics from the beginning to the end.

But for at least one little girl, all that was not enough.

“My heart exploded with pride that the way I work and what I believe permeates the children,” said Vardi-Bar, describing her reaction on finding Zoey’s note. “Want something? Make it happen.”

The Questions of no Consequence Department: Is Gal Gadot white?

Cast member Gal Gadot poses at the premiere of "Wonder Woman" in Los Angeles, California U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Gal Gadot is a movie star. Her new film, Wonder Women, is a success. I cannot say I’m not happy for her. I am. I will not say that I don’t find her slight accent endearing. I do. I cannot say I don’t feel a certain sense of childish pride because she is Israeli. I do. I will not say that Lebanon’s even more childish decision to ban the film – because the star is Israeli – does not feel personal. It does.

Gadot is an Israeli success story. Not the first one, and hopefully not the last one. She is also – and this surely plays a role too – a Jewish success story. Naturally, Israelis focus more on the Israeli component of Gadot’s identity, while Jews in America emphasize her Jewishness. But all in all, it seems as if Jews in both Israel and America have a certain sense of ownership when they converse about Gadot. She is a member of their tribe. She is demonstrably and proudly a member of the tribe. Of course, we love her for that.

Then, there is the issue of Gadot’s whiteness. I have read two or three articles on this subject until I got tired of it. Too soon. According to the Washington Post, “The debate ‘Are Jews white?’ has seen a resurgence since the presidential election last year and was resurrected surrounding the release of ‘Wonder Woman.’” Apparently, there are people with enough free time on their hands to spend on this question. And they do it with the kind of intensity and vigor that should be reserved for really vital questions.

Take a look at this guy, Dani Yishai Behan, writing for the Times of Israel:

Yes, Wonder Woman is intended to be a white woman, but just because Gal Gadot landed that role doesn’t mean she’s white. It means she’s phenotypically ambiguous/light skinned enough to pass as white. Are Arabs, Latinos, Native Americans, and Iranians who look just as white as her (if not whiter) white? Or do Jews get to be special? And while we’re on the subject of phenotypes, Gadot’s physical appearance is actually very common among Levantines, Israeli or otherwise.

So I realized that this was an issue, I spent some more time reading some more articles about this issue and looking at some tweets too (Yes, it is a waste of time, but for me it is a professional vocation). When I was finally done, the following questions lingered:

Do we want Gadot to be “white” – or do we (and by we, I mean the Jews) want her not to be white? I get a sense that some Jews believe that calling Jews “whites” is an insult to Jews, because it denies them the legitimate claim they have as a group that suffered from discrimination, or something of this sort. I also get the sense that some Jews feel the opposite: tagging us as non-white denies the Jews of European descent among us our claim to whiteness. Some people even believe that calling Jews non-white is an insult to non-white people because the Jews they know are generally, well, white.

Another question: by “white,” do we refer to color (Gadot’s is whitish)? Do we refer to social status (Gadot is now successful and probably rich)? Do we refer to geography (She comes from the Middle East)? Do we refer to privilege (her accent has little to do with privilege)? Reading some articles on Gadot’s whiteness, there seems to be a confusion – writers use the word “white” to mean different things. In fact, it is not that difficult to determine if Gadot deserves to be called “white” or “non-white” when the meaning of whiteness is clearly defined.

And my last question: why does it matter? Let’s say Gadot is white – does that deny her of any title? I get it: if she is white, we cannot say that Wonder Woman is a woman of color. But why does it matter if Wonder Woman is a woman of color? Had Gadot had demonstrably black or brown skin, one could argue that having someone with such skin play a leading role in such a film points to a change in American society. But Gadot’s skin is not demonstrably black or brown, and hence the debate people are having is detached from the reality on screen. Saying that Gadot is not white will not make her not white to the viewers of her film. It will mean nothing.

And what about Gadot’s tribe, the Jews – should we care whether we are categorized as white or non-white? No, we should not. This debate about Jews is artificial. It is an attempt of some American Jews to have a part in something that has nothing to do with them. Or with Gadot. Who’s Jewish. And that’s more than enough baggage to have to deal with.

WATCH: Israelis react to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman


The Jewish Journal asked movie-goers in Jerusalem for their thoughts on Israeli actress Gal Gadot, star of “Wonder Woman.” They were excited to respond.

RELATED: Gal Gadot and the Jewish essence of Wonder Woman

Harvey Stein is a filmmaker and video journalist (he made aliyah in 2006), and has made many short videos for various websites. His feature documentary “A Third Way” (about Rabbi Menachem Froman and others) came out last year, and his new feature project, “Double Selfie,” going into production later this year, is a mockumentary set in Jerusalem. He can be reached at



WONDER WOMAN *Movie Review*

Wonder Woman (2017) Gal Gadot

Over the past several months, I’ve eagerly anticipated “Wonder Woman” while simultaneously biting my nails considering the potential box office results.  A movie like this isn’t just about how much money Warner Bros. and DC Comics will make in a weekend, but about the future opportunities available for female actors and directors.  It sounds like an undue amount of pressure on a single movie–and it is, in ways with which male directors rarely contend.

At this point, the early polls–excuse me, box office–are in and “Wonder Woman” is a bona fide success.  The film’s domestic and international grosses are hovering near $220 million and director Patty Jenkins (Academy Award winner “Monster”) has earned the superlative of best opening domestically for a female director.  Gal Gadot, the Israeli actress/model previously best known in the United States for her roles in two of the “Fast and the Furious” franchise movies is now better known as Diana, princess of the Amazons.

In the midst of the fervor surrounding Jenkins, Gadot and “Wonder Woman” the question becomes is the movie actually good?  In fact, “Wonder Woman” is perhaps the best recent example of why gender doesn’t matter.  This is the quintessential superhero movie complete with ‘fish out of water’ jokes as Diana learns about the world outside her home island.  As with the other superheroes before her who are not of this planet or people, Diana’s charming naïveté is the basis for much of the movie’s humor.  Also like others before her, she gradually learns to harness her power and come into her own as illustrated through epic (and costly) battle sequences.  The challenges these heroes face speak to universal themes which know no gender.  In fact, it’s perhaps the most compelling explanation for their endurance in all artistic mediums.

For more about “Wonder Woman”, including how vertical movement is used as Diana comes into her own as a warrior, take a look below:

—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

Gal Gadot and the Jewish essence of Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot in the 2017 film “Wonder Woman.” Photo by Clay Enos/DC Comics

When Wonder Woman first appeared on the comic book scene in 1941, she entered as a kind of messianic figure.

She soared to life during World War II, when most of Europe was in shambles. The devastating human and economic losses of the war had taken a grave toll on the global order thanks to real-life villains Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. And male superheroes, such as Batman and Superman, entered an existential crisis — their hypermasculinities seemed a little too simpatico with the villains of the war, even as their ignorance of the gas chambers made them irrelevant. A shattered world called out for a new superhero, someone who could elevate the genre and redeem humanity from the ashes of Auschwitz.

Enter Wonder Woman.

Sculpted from clay on the all-female island of Themyscira, Diana Prince (her civilian name) is nurtured by Aphrodite and trained as an Amazon warrior. When U.S. Army Air Corps intelligence officer Steve Trevor crashes on her island, he tells her of a world at war and she feels a duty to try to stop it.

Fast forward to 2013, when the casting of Israeli model and actress Gal Gadot in the Hollywood reboot of “Wonder Woman” — which opens in theaters on June 2 — was no less momentous than the moment of the character’s creation. Surely, this was good news for the Jews.

“So exciting!!! Can’t express how happy I am :)))),” Gadot tweeted to her followers after the announcement.

Her elation was widely shared. The editorial board of The Jerusalem Post saw fit to write about why this casting choice was so meaningful: “Israel — and the Jewish people — need heroines such as Gal Gadot,” the editors gushed. “They present a picture to the world of the beautiful, sexy Israeli, countering the all-too-pervasive negative and ugly imagery of Israel and Israelis in the international media.”

Nowadays, superheroes don’t just save the world; they apparently can save Israel’s image. Or so went The Jerusalem Post’s slightly delusional logic.

The newspaper was right to acknowledge the occasion’s significance, though for the wrong reason. The real power in casting Gadot as Wonder Woman is that it offers the moviegoing public both a real and fictive revenge fantasy. It isn’t just a triumph for women that the new savior of the world is female; it is a triumph for the Jews.

“Wonder Woman was created in and for World War II,” Glen Weldon, author of “Superman: The Unauthorized Biography” said during a 2013 interview on National Public Radio. “That was her whole shtick, fighting the Nazis.”

Indeed, Wonder Woman’s first adversaries in the comic books are the military of the Axis powers, whose defeat is her raison d’etre. Though the new Hollywood version inexplicably changes the war from World War II to World War I, fighting Hitler is in the character’s DNA — but so is tikkun olam (repairing the world).

“She was created to be something of a contradiction,” Weldon said. “She is a warrior for peace. That’s tough.”

Ha! Not if you’re Israeli.

Besides the fact that Batman and Superman were emblematic of male power at a time when male power had left half the world in ruins, they also were psychological disappointments. As popular projections of divine, supernal power, Batman and Superman fell short. Not only had their “super-ness” failed the populace of Europe, they were ill-equipped to help survivors heal. The heroic imagination required a radical champion — someone with worldly qualities, like strength, but also divine qualities, like love. Power alone was not enough to prevail; a wounded world needed heart and soul.

Psychologist, feminist and comic book writer William Moulton Marston decided to create an antidote and alternative to what he saw as the “blood-curdling masculinity” of the superhero landscape. “A male hero, at best, lacks the qualities of maternal love and tenderness which are as essential to a normal child as the breath of life,” Marston wrote in a 1944 article for The American Scholar. So along came Wonder Woman, “with all the strength of a Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman,” Marston wrote. She would be the new, epicene ideal of heroism: an amalgam of masculine might and feminine compassion.

How appropriate, then, to cast Jewish former Israel Defense Forces soldier Gal Gadot as the character originally conceived as a Nazi-crushing superheroine. Wonder Woman may not be the only superhero to take on the Nazis (see: Captain America), but it’s the first time an actor can arm such a character with real-world cultural vengeance. Gadot’s maternal grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, which binds her psychically to her avenging character. In 2009’s “Fast & Furious,” her fighting spirit was so obvious that director Justin Lin added to her character’s backstory by making her a Mossad agent. “He really liked that I was in the Israeli military and he wanted to use my knowledge of weapons,” she told the Forward in 2011.

Tender, smart and strong, Wonder Woman was designed as a feminist archetype, but her current iteration also has come to embody Israeliness. In the Jewish state, it’s a national requirement for women to kick ass. And it is specifically within the micro-society of the Israeli military that men and women are expected to contribute equally, both serving in combat roles. This norm suggests that strength, skill and weaponry are the domain of both sexes, and reinforces equality of the sexes among secular Israelis. Mixed-gender army service also contributes to a national myth in which each soldier is a potential “superhero” whose duty is to protect innocents and fight evil (i.e., terrorists) who seek the country’s destruction.

Notably, the Hollywood “Wonder Woman” is the first superhero movie in over a decade to feature a female in the title role. It is also the first time a female director (Patty Jenkins) has helmed a superhero franchise, an effort to dispel conventional wisdom that a female-centric film can’t be a blockbuster (see: “The Hunger Games”).

Although, early on, Gadot was criticized for not having the appropriate body type for Wonder Woman — she was considered too thin and too lanky to be strong, her breasts too small to exude sexuality — she put those criticisms to rest with her real-life combat resume. When still others charged that Gadot couldn’t reconcile playing a strong female character while clad in a skimpy outfit, she shot back: “I think as a feminist, you should be able to wear whatever you like!” Gadot told The New York Times.

As Gadot herself has put it, one of the defining aspects of her character is that she transcends gender. “Feminism is about equality and choice and freedom. … And the best way to show that is to show Diana as having no awareness of social roles. She has no gender boundaries. To her, everyone is equal.”

Wonder Woman doesn’t inhabit an us-versus-them universe the way her male counterparts do. Instead, she serves as that “warrior for peace” — neither provocateur, nor pacifist — but one who only uses her strength against an unambiguous enemy. At least in theory, this also is the animating force of the Israeli army. Though Wonder Woman was conceived specifically to combat Nazism, her matchless qualities have turned her into a redemptive figure for humankind. She fights only when she must, and she loves just as fiercely.

By turning her over to Gadot, Hollywood is answering historical tragedy with a touch of irony: Wonder Woman is an Israeli Jew.

“Wonder Woman” opens in theaters June 2. 

Lebanon calls for ban of ‘Wonder Woman’ film because lead actress Gal Gadot is Israeli

Gal Gadot in the 2017 film “Wonder Woman.” Photo by Clay Enos/DC Comics

Lebanon’s Economy Ministry has filed a request to ban the upcoming film “Wonder Woman” because its star, Gal Gadot, is an actress and model from Israel.

A Lebanese security official told CBS News on Tuesday that the required committee of six Lebanese ministries has yet to take up the request.

At least one advance screening of the film is scheduled for Wednesday in Beirut, according to CBS.

Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and bans Israeli products. Lebanese citizens are not allowed to travel or have contact with Israeli citizens.

The film is still scheduled to be released in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait on Thursday. It will be released June 22 in Oman and June 29 in Bahrain.

Gadot, 32, does not shy away from touting her Israeli heritage. She praised the Israeli military in a widely shared Facebook post during the 2014 Gaza War.

Could Gal Gadot become the biggest Israeli superstar ever?

Gal Gadot in the 2017 film “Wonder Woman.” Photo by Clay Enos/DC Comics

Try to think of the most famous Israelis in history. Not necessarily the most consequential or “important” ones — like any number of Nobel Prize winners or behind-the-scenes Middle East peace deal negotiators — but those who are most universally recognizable.

Most lists would likely include a pioneering role model (Golda Meir), a supermodel who once dated Leonardo DiCaprio (Bar Refaeli), its seeming prime minister for life (Benjamin Netanyahu), a politician with crazy hair (David Ben-Gurion), a war hero with a pirate-style eye patch (Moshe Dayan) and a virtuoso violinist (Itzhak Perlman).

Some might even mistakenly include a fictional character — Ziva David, the former Mossad agent on “NCIS,” America’s most-watched TV show, who is played by a Chilean actress.

But a new name may soon go at the very top of the list: Gal Gadot (pronounced “gahl gah-DOTE”).

The actress and model is set to star in the upcoming remake of “Wonder Woman,” a film based on the legendary DC Comics series that hits U.S. theaters June 2.

[MORE: Why casting Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman really matters]

Starring in the average Hollywood superhero blockbuster instantly makes any actor an international sensation — but this isn’t your average superhero flick. “Wonder Woman,” featuring one of the few iconic female superheroes, carries the kind of symbolic weight that could turn Gadot into a global feminist torch-holder for decades to come. (That’s assuming the movie doesn’t tank, that she’ll continue to appear in sequels, and that feminists will accept a role model whose everyday outfit is essentially a one-piece bathing suit.)

For those who don’t know her yet, Gadot, 32, has long been a household name in Israel, where she has been a supermodel since winning the Miss Israel pageant at 18 in 2004. Unlike Refaeli, the famed Israeli model she is often compared to, Gadot is known, too, for carrying out her mandatory two years of military service in the Israel Defense Forces. And if you’re wondering: Yes, she is married (to Israeli real estate businessman Yaron Versano).

Gadot scored a part as an ex-Mossad agent in the fourth film of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise in 2009 — in part, she has said, because director Justin Lin was impressed with her military experience. Since then she has had a few other small roles in Hollywood films, such as “Date Night” (starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey). Her first appearance as Princess Diana of Themyscira (Wonder Woman’s real name) came in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in 2016.

Gadot, 32, shown in a scene from “Wonder Woman.” Photo by Alex Bailey/DC Comics


So she isn’t yet widely known outside of Israel (except maybe to a hardcore cadre of “Fast and Furious” fans), but her public profile is about to radically change. “Wonder Woman” isn’t an amazing piece of art, though it will likely satisfy fans of the other over-the-top superhero films released in the past decade or so. It is projected to perform at least as well as some of its male-centric counterparts, such as “Captain America” or “Thor,” at the U.S. box office (at least $65 million to $83 million) and should rake in hundreds of millions of dollars around the world.

Beyond the numbers, “Wonder Woman” must also bear the weight of the feminist anticipation that has been building steadily around the film for years. The hype only increased when a female director (Patty Jenkins) took over the project in 2015, making “Wonder Woman” the first female superhero film to be directed by a woman.

And Gadot is actually already well on her way to becoming embraced as a feminist icon. Last fall, she was included in a U.N. ceremony honoring the Wonder Woman character as an honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls. (The United Nations soon dropped the character as an honorary ambassador after staffers there complained that the comic book superheroine was “not culturally encompassing or sensitive.”) Gadot recently proclaimed that Wonder Woman “of course” is a feminist in an Entertainment Weekly interview that is being cited across the internet. From her lack of underarm hair to the kind of shoes she wears, everything is being analyzed through a feminist lens.

It won’t hurt Gadot’s popularity that she seems to be, as the original Wonder Woman character was in the comics, sculpted from clay by a god. On screen, she has a magnetic quality — simultaneously graceful, elegant, tough, athletic and bursting with sex appeal.

How popular will Gadot become? It’s hard to say. Other recent female superhero movies have starred actresses who already were well-known, such as Jennifer Garner in “Elektra” and Halle Berry in “Catwoman.” Neither movie made much of an impact. Hollywood is also prone to reboot its most popular franchises, swapping out actors and diluting a star’s connection to a character (see Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield in the various Spider-Man films, and the many actors linked to Batman and Superman).

Cast member Gal Gadot poses at the premiere of “Wonder Woman” in Los Angeles on May 25. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters


One thing is for sure: Gadot will go down in history as a distinctly Israeli actress. Unlike Natalie Portman, an international superstar and Oscar winner who was born in Israel but left at age 2, Gadot speaks English with an Israeli accent. She talks openly about being from a small Israeli city, Rosh Haayin, and her love of the Israeli character.

“In Israel, people have chutzpah,” she said in a recent cover story in Marie Claire. “People take issue with it, but I’d rather have that than play games. Here, everyone’s like, ‘We love you; you’re so wonderful.’ I prefer to know the truth, not waste time.”

So if Gadot finds the the superstardom she seems headed for, Israel will have a new most famous face.

Watch Gal Gadot in the Comic-Con ‘Wonder Woman’ trailer

MORE: Why casting Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman really matters

On second Israel visit, Kevin Costner dismisses BDS champion Roger Waters

At the Israel premiere of a film starring Kevin Costner, the Hollywood actor said he does not care whether anti-Israel activists, including Roger Waters, disapprove of his visit to the Jewish state.

“I don’t ask anyone’s permission to travel,” Costner said in an interview Tuesday a press conference earlier this week at the Cinema City multiplex near the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya. Asked by a reporter whether Roger Waters, a British musician known for his role as  former Pink Floyd frontman and for promoting boycotts on Israel, Costner said: “Who? I haven’t heard of it,” adding: “ I’ve received lots of love here. I wouldn’t have missed that.”

Costner, who in 1991 won two Academy Awards for directing and acting in the box-office hit “Dances with Wolves,” was in Israel for a screening of the upcoming action film “Criminal,” in which he stars alongside Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman and Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

But he told reporter at the cinema Tuesday that he came to support the film’s Israeli director, Ariel Vromen. “This is his country, his parents are here, and I’m very proud of him. He’s a young man who is truly doing well,” Costner said. Speaking of Gadot, Costner said she was “lovely” to work with and “a wonderful partner.”

He also said that he met Gadot for the first time ahead of a scene in which his character assaulted hers in a bedroom. “I shook her hand, said: ‘Hi, Gal, I’m Kevin, and we immediately started acting out the scene.”

“Criminal” tells the story of Jericho Stewart (Costner), a death-row inmate working to complete a deceased CIA agent’s last mission to save many lives. In addition to having an Israeli director and a co-star, the film has an Israeli producer: Avi Lerner.

Costner, 61, said he had visited Israel once before, approximately four decades ago.