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Five Famous Jews Who Deserve the ‘Jewish Nobel’ More Than Natalie Portman

Want to give a prize to a rich and famous Jewish entertainer who hardly needs it? OK, but you could still do much better.

Liel Leibovitz
November 08, 2017
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, the committee behind the Genesis Prize, the self-styled “Jewish Nobel,” announced that this year’s award will go to actress Natalie Portman, who will now be joining the prize’s other rich and famous Jewish laureates, including Michael Douglas and Michael Bloomberg. I’ve already written about the absurdity of bestowing fame and fortune upon those who need it the least, but even if the prize’s organizers insist on turning the award into a platform for celebrating the already celebrated, they could still do much better. As the prize’s endowment contains multitudes, here’s a quick list of five sparkling Jews who ought to win it in years to come:

Adam Sandler: How proud is Adam Sandler of his Jewish tradition? Just look at his IMDB profile, which is thick with characters named Danny Maccabbee or Jim Friedman or Sonny Koufax. Add to that an unforgettable turn as the Zohan—still the best description of Israeli culture ever committed to screen—and that inimitable Hannukah song, and you’ve got a Jewish hero of our time.

Rachel Bloom: At some point during the first season of Bloom’s masterful Crazy Ex Girlfriend, her character—a high-powered Manhattan lawyer who throws it all away and moves to a small California town in the hope of rekindling an old romance—meets her nemesis, and the two engage in an epic rap battle, entitled, of course, “JAP Battle.” By the time Bloom drops a line like “sheket bevaka-shut-the-hell-up,” you’d be excused for wondering what percentage of those watching at home who did not go to Camp Ramah are going to get the joke. And the show keeps getting better and better, with punchlines about epigenetics and shout outs to this here Tablet Magazine.

Rashida Jones: The daughter of an African American father—the legendary Quincy Jones—and a Jewish mother—the actress Peggy Lipton—Jones is no stranger to balancing acts. In addition to being arguably one of the greatest comedic actresses working today (for proof, just watch the sublimely silly Angie Tribeca), she’s also a gifted writer, a very good musician, a producer of a harrowing documentary about the exploitation of young women in pornography, a committed campaigner for the Democratic Party, and a philanthropist involved with causes ranging from fighting poverty to curing cancer.

Mila Kunis: If you’re going to give a prize to someone from the Black Swan cast, Kunis is a much better bet. And if you’re still not sure why you should fete Kunis and not Portman, sit down for a double feature of No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits. Both films were released in 2011. Both share the exact same premise, following two friends who vow to have non-committal casual sex before falling in love. The first movie stars Portman, and is about as amusing as a visit with the hygienist. The second stars Kunis, and, while no masterpiece, is a lot of fun. From Family Guy to Bad Moms, Kunis possesses the ability—rarer and rarer these days—to give us characters that feel simultaneously anxious and badass, which, if you think about it, is a pretty good description of a Jewish mom.

Howard Stern: Forget Terry Gross: The greatest interviewer alive is the King of All Media himself, who, in the last two decades, has somehow remained as funny and cutting as ever while evolving into an immensely insightful and inspiring broadcaster. His show remains one of the last bastions on the air where the famous and the obscure alike have permission to open up about things that matter, from their relationships with their parents to their mental states to their appetites. No matter if he’s talking to Wendy the Slow Adult or to Charlize Theron, Stern is curious, warm, and respectful, a testament to what an open mind and an open
heart can do to bring people together.

You’re welcome, Genesis Prize committee, and better luck next year.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.

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