Famous People with Jewish connections

An Israeli born-actress Natalie Portman who studied at Hebrew University and a British director Mike Leigh who spent time in a Zionist youth movement headed, a few years ago, that year’s list of Jewish Oscar nominees. In addition to Natalie Portman and Mike Leigh, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman also received a nod. These are just a few famous people with Jewish connections.

And a short documentary about Sister Rose Thering, a Roman Catholic nun who has devoted her life to fighting anti-Semitism, won a nomination as well.

The diminutive Portman, born in Jerusalem and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, was nominated for best supporting actress for her role in “Closer.”

Leigh, best known for his penetrating working-class dramas, was nominated for directing “Vera Drake.” He was a longtime member of Habonim, a labor Zionist youth movement, and has spoken fondly of his time there.

Kaufman was nominated in the best original screenplay category for the romantic comedy “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” His most notable past credits include “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.”

“Sister Rose’s Passion,” a short film by Oren Jacoby and Steve Kalafer, is about the life and work of the nun, professor emerita at New Jersey’s Seton Hall University, where she helped establish the school’s graduate department of Jewish-Christian studies. Thering, who went to Israel more than 30 times, was a strong and vocal supporter of the Jewish state. (JTA)

Students Connect With Israeli Heritage

Colin Sutker spent the worst night of his life during his winter excursion to Israel. He was sick and stuck sleeping in a tent shared by 200 people while touring the Negev Desert.

He wasn’t ready to pack his bags, though. Instead, the experience made him realize how significant this adventure was for him.

Sutker, along with 35 UNC students and several more from other colleges around the state, traveled to Israel for 10 days over Winter Break with the Birthright Israel program, which sent them halfway across the world at nearly no cost.

It could be a rink anywhere in North America. The kids, in their hockey gear, scramble onto the ice and begin practice. They’ve got a former NHL coach training them. And the jersey of legendary Montreal Canadiens captain Jean Beliveau is on display in the rafters.

But this is not Montreal, New York or Philadelphia. These players speak Hebrew and their uniforms bear a Star of David.

Meet Israel’s junior national ice hockey team – the only team from the Middle East that competes in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship.

They practice three times a week in Metulla, the northernmost town in Israel, straddling the Lebanese border. Why Metulla? Because this is the site of the Canada Center, Israel’s only Olympic-sized skating rink and sports complex (built courtesy of Canadian Jewry)