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A Jewish upbringing taught Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s musical director and sidekick for 32 years, the value of giving back. “My mother taught by example,” Shaffer said. “She was a great supporter of Israel. She was a great supporter of local charities and gave her time for the Hadassah as well as the ladies auxiliary at the hospital. Growing up I watched this, so it just came natural to me. Getting involved in charities and fundraisers myself became a great opportunity for me to use my musical talents to do some good.” Letterman has announced his intent to retire in 2015, meaning the end of the line for the “Late Show.” Shaffer speaks with JNS.org about his ‘dream job,’ his Jewish upbringing, and his future.
Seven decades after the Holocaust, Josef Mengele is still a difficult name to stomach, as the repercussions of his medical experiments echo throughout history. So when film reviewer Jason Stack first heard about “The German Doctor,” a historical drama set in early 1960s Argentina and focused on part of Mengele’s life on the run from the Mossad, he wondered: Would the film portray the Angel of Death in a sympathetic light, or would it show the man as history remembers him?
According to Dr. Erica Brown, the scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and master Jewish educator, an often-neglected book of the Torah may hold some clues as to what an authentic Jewish model of leadership might be. Her most recent book, “Leadership in the Wilderness: Authority and Anarchy in the Book of Numbers,” attempts to provide today’s aspiring leaders, Jewish and non-Jewish, with practical guidance based on one of the most ancient and fundamental Jewish texts: Numbers (Bamidbar), the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible.
Hungry at night, salivating for raw meat, Greg Samstag is becoming a werewolf. Ira T. Berkowitz’s new novel, “A Wolf in the Soul,” adds a new twist to this classic theme in the horror genre, featuring a native Long Island Jewish boy who is at odds with his affluent family and increasingly troubled by his exceptional animal instincts. As Greg combats the werewolf in his soul, his faith is tested. Fleeing trouble at school, he flies to Israel, where he delves into the study of Talmud—only to discover that he must return to the U.S., face his family, and find a way to accept or overcome his condition.
In his new book “Jabotinsky: A Life,” Hillel Halkin presents a serious work of scholarship and an honest take on Ze’ev Jabotinsky and his place in Zionist history. Halkin tracks down almost everything that Jabotinsky ever wrote, whether it was in Russian, German, Yiddish, Italian, English, or French. A controversial figure in Zionist affairs, Jabotinsky was demonized by the left and worshipped by the right, yet Halkin draws an honest portrait of the man, warts and all, writes book reviewer Rabbi Jack Riemer.
Believe it or not, the recently canonized Pope John Paul II had a Jewish Cardinal in the 1980s. The French TV film “The Jewish Cardinal,” which has been receiving a limited release in the U.S., follows the life of Cardinal Jean-Marie Aaron Lustiger. Born to Ashkenazi parents in mid-1920s France, Aaron Lustiger converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, taking the name Jean-Marie, and rose up through the church ranks in the following decades. The film’s focus on Lustiger’s most influential years, rather than his formative years, allows it to examine the key issue in the Cardinal’s life: his dual religions.
On April 24, audiences around the country had the chance to feel what it is like to be William Shatner, the Jewish actor best known for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk on “Star Trek.” For one night only, the one-man show on Shatner’s life and career “Shatner’s World”—which was on Broadway and toured Canada, Australia, and the United States—was presented in nearly 700 movie theaters nationwide. “Being Jewish is a part of what I am,” Shatner told JNS.org. “What I am is what I bring to the world as an artist. In a way it’s one facet of who I am. As in many cases of people I know, where their religion is everything to them and is very imperative, for me being Jewish is not, but being spiritual is.”