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Famous Jews and Famous Jewish People

There are many stereotypes of Jewish people. Some stereotypes are good and some are bad. The pervading characteristics that always seem to stand out in Jewish people are their intelligence and creativity. One measure of the success of the Jews is the fame that some members of this ethnic group have acquired in religion, finances, science, and the arts. "Fame" is a widespread popular recognition of the achievements of a person that transcend cultural barriers.

Hebrew Alphabet 
The Hebrew Alphabet

Who is a Jew? Jews originated in the Land of Israel, where they developed a monotheistic religion called Judaism. Traditionally, Jewishness passes from mother to child, but it can also be based on the practice of Judaism as a faith, or by the practice of Jewish customs and traditions. Sometimes the term "Hebrews" is used to distinguish the Jews that lived before the birth of Jesus from Jews that lived afterward. Several times in the history of the world, it has been mortally dangerous to be Jewish, and many Jews hid their faith and ancestry to survive persecution. Two such periods were from the 15th to the 18th century during the Spanish Inquisition, and in 1938-1945 during the Nazi Holocaust of World War II. People who speak semitic languages, such as Arabic or Hebrew, are classified as Semites. The term "antisemitism" is used principally to characterize hostility or prejudice against Jews. The modern Hebrew language spoken in Israel today is an adaptation of the ancient language of the Torah with many neologisms of European and Arabic origin.

These are the most well-known Jewish holidays:

Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac
An angel stops
Abraham from
killing Isaac

Abraham (Prophet Ibrahim)
Abraham is thought to have lived around 1500 BC. He is considered the father of monotheism and a role model for his rejection of idol worship. Abraham is regarded as the founding patriarch of the Israelites whom God chose to bless. He was the principal Biblical patriarch, and he is a central figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam which are sometimes referred to as the "Abrahamic religions" because Abraham is in their holy books and plays a role in their beliefs. In Islam, Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) is the friend of Allah and the father of the Prophets Ismail (Ishmael) and Ishaq (Isaac); he is also one of the ancestors of the Prophet Muhammad. Each year, about three million Muslims journey to Mecca in a spiritual pilgrimage known as the Hajj to perform religious rituals around the Kaaba which is said to be the site where Abraham built a shrine.

The Kaaba in Mecca
The Kaaba
in Mecca

The children of Abraham mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible are: Ishmael whose mother Hagar was an Egyptian handmaid (Genesis 16:15), Isaac from Abraham's first wife Sarah (Genesis 21:3), and another six children: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah from Abraham's second wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1-2). Muslims trace their lineage through Abraham's firstborn son Ishmael. Jews trace their ancestry to Abraham through the line of his son Isaac. Genesis 22:1-19 tells the story of how God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on a mountain in the land of Moriah. When Abraham went to the mountain and took a knife to slay his son, an angel called out to him from heaven, and told him not to harm the boy. The angel then told Abraham that because of his obedience to God he would be blessed and have many descendants.

 Charlton Heston as Moses
 Charlton Heston
 as Moses

Moses was born approximately in 1391 BC and he died in 1271 BC. He is recognized as the leader who brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and provided them with a code of conduct known as the Ten Commandments. The commandments are a list of religious and moral rules which, according to religious tradition, were written by God and given to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of two stone tablets. They feature prominently in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Ten Commandments are listed in two books of the Bible: Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

Moses asked the Israelites to celebrate their freedom from Egypt every year during Passover by eating unleavened bread (Exodus 12:17-19).

 The Head of Christ
 The Head of Christ
 by Warner Sallman

Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus was a Jewish teacher who used parables to illustrate important ethical ideas. The main sources of information regarding Jesus' life are the Gospels of the New Testament by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus is the central figure of Christianity. He is commonly referred to as Jesus Christ, where "Christ" is a Greek title meaning "Anointed One" corresponding to the Hebrew "Messiah". Our modern calendar is based on the date of birth of Jesus. "AD" or Anno Domini defines an epoch starting with the birth of Jesus, whereas "BC" refers to the era Before Christ.  Christmas is the Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus.

Churches founded on the belief that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament include the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Protestant, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Anglican, and Mormon churches. There are hundreds of different Christian denominations.

Baruch Spinoza (November 24, 1632 - February 21, 1677)
Baruch Spinoza Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam, Holland in a community of Portuguese Jews of Sephardic Jewish descent. He worked as a lens grinder and produced lenses for telescopes that were some of the most important scientific instruments of that era. His writings on rationalism, many of which were published posthumously, reveal substantial mathematical training. Spinoza's most influential work was his Ethics, a work that established him as one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy. He is recognized as a founder of modern biblical criticism, and as having laid the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment. Spinoza was critical of the Talmud and took positions contrary to normative Jewish belief. In 1656 he was excommunicated from the Jewish community for his unorthodox conception of God.

 Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 - April 18, 1955)
Albert Einstein was a German-born scientist who made significant advances in theoretical physics, quantum theory, and statistical mechanics. Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity challenged the concepts about space and time that had been established over two centuries earlier by Isaac Newton. He is most famous for his formulation of the special and general theories of relativity, specifically for his formula of the relationship between mass and energy:

E = mc2

Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect in 1905 where he showed that light behaves like particles. These units of electromagnetic radiation are now called photons.

 The Praying Jew - Chagall
The Praying Jew
by Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall (July 7, 1887 - March 28, 1985) was a Jewish painter born in Vitebsk, Belarus. He was the oldest of nine children. Chagal started studying painting in 1906 and moved to St. Petersburg one year later. He lived for a few years in Paris in order to be near the art community of the Montparnasse district, but returned to Vitebsk in 1914. After the Russian revolution, he moved to Moscow in 1920 and back to Paris in 1923 where he became a French citizen. The memories of his Jewish upbringing and Biblical themes reflecting his Jewish heritage are portrayed in many of his paintings. He is associated with the modern movements after impressionism. Chagall died at the age of 97 in Saint-Paul de Vence, France.

 Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 - October 14, 1990)
Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1918 from Russian Jewish parents. After graduation from Boston Latin School in 1934, Bernstein studied music at Harvard University. He had a very distinguished career as a conductor, composer, music lecturer and pianist. In 1957, Bernstein was named Music Director of the New York Philharmonic and he gained notoriety for conducting concerts with many of the world's leading orchestras. Bernstein received several Emmy awards, including one for his 1971 performance of Beethoven's Birthday: A Celebration in Vienna which was televised on CBS. He wrote three symphonies, two operas, and five musicals, including West Side Story. The original 1957 Broadway production of West Side Story ran for 732 performances and was made into a movie. West Side Story is a 1950s musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet where Americans and Puerto Ricans living in Manhattan's West Side take the place of the Montagues and Capulets of the Shakespearean tragedy.

 Alan Greenspan

Alan Greenspan (March 6, 1926 -)
Alan Greenspan was born in New York City from Hungarian Jewish parents. He studied clarinet at The Juilliard School and later played the saxophone with Stan Getz. Greenspan then studied economics at New York University (NYU) and eventually became the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006.

As chief economist, Greenspan was famous for giving speeches that had complex sentence structures and were hard to understand due to their technical content. Greenspan's views on the economy were highly regarded by Wall Street, and the markets often reacted to his speeches. In 1996, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan asked "Clearly, sustained low inflation implies less uncertainty about the future, and lower risk premiums imply higher prices of stocks and other earning assets. We can see that in the inverse relationship exhibited by price/earnings ratios and the rate of inflation in the past. But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?". The Internet bubble which had sparked Greenspan's concern finally burst in January 2000 and Internet and tech stocks prices continued to drop for over two years.

 Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor (February 27, 1932 - March 23, 2011)
Elizabeth Taylor started her movie career as a child star. She won national attention at the age of 12 for her role in the movie National Velvet where she played a young girl who trains her horse to win the Grand National. Elizabeth had leading roles in many movies that received great popular acclaim. Some of her more memorable movies are Giant with Rock Hudson and James Dean, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman, and Cleopatra with Richard Burton. Elizabeth Taylor received two Best Actress awards for her role in BUtterfield 8 with Eddie Fisher, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? also with Richard Burton.

Outside of the movie sets, Elizabeth was always in the public eye. Tabloids publicized her eight marriages, several serious illnesses, her friendship with Michael Jackson, and she also appeared on television commercials promoting her line of perfumes. Elizabeth was raised as a Christian Scientist, but converted to Judaism at age 27 in April 1959. Elizabeth Taylor spent a lot of time on humanitarian efforts, including the funding of HIV and AIDS-related projects and charities.

 Woody Allen

Woody Allen (December 1, 1935 - )
Allen Stewart Konigsberg, aka Woody Allen, got his nickname "Woody" because he played the clarinet which is a woodwind instrument. He has won many awards as a film director, writer, actor, musician, and comedian. Allen has directed and has acted in the majority of his movies. Allen derives his inspiration from literature, philosophy, psychology, and New York City, where he has lived all his life.

His initial film was "What's New, Pussycat?", starring Peter Sellers in 1965. Woody Allen has had 14 Academy Award nominations for best screenplay and six nominations for best director. He won the Academy Award in 1977 for "Annie Hall", and in 1986 for "Hannah and Her Sisters".

 Julio Iglesias

Julio Iglesias (September 23, 1943 - )
Julio Iglesias was born in Madrid, Spain. His father was a prominent gynecologist, and his mother, María del Rosario de la Cueva y Perignat, was of Jewish origin. As a young man, Julio Iglesias was very athletic and earned a position as goalkeeper in the Real Madrid soccer team while he studied law. At the age of 20, Julio was involved in a traffic accident that left him partially paralyzed for about two years. Julio started writing poetry during his rehabilitation and he accompanied his poems by playing a guitar that he received as a gift.

After his recovery, Julio brought one of his compositions to a music publisher who convinced him to sing the song himself. Julio won the international competition in Benidorm and his success led to a contract with Columbia Records. As Julio's notoriety increased, he started singing in other languages. He was honored by the Guinness Book of World Records for selling the most records in different languages than any other music artist in history. Those languages include Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Italian and Japanese.

Countries with Largest Jewish Populations (2007)
Rank Country Jews % of World Jewish Population
1 Israel 5,313,800 40.6%
2 United States 5,275,000 40.3%
3 France 491,500 3.8%
4 Canada 373,500 2.9%
5 United Kingdom 297,000 2.3%
6 Russia 228,000 1.7%
7 Argentina 184,500 1.4%
8 Germany 118,000 0.9%
9 Australia 103,000 0.8%
10 Brazil 96,500 0.7%

Brief Glossary of Jewish terms:

The title of the traditional Hebrew folk song Hava Nagila means "Let us rejoice". This song is the international stereotype of Jewish music and is played at Jewish weddings, parties, and festive occasions.

Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu
Royal Albert Hall, London, England

World War 2 Jewish Holocaust
It is estimated that 5,933,900 Jews perished during World War 2 as a consequence of Hitler's final solution. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland lost 90 percent of their Jewish population or about 3,228,000 people. The following table lists the approximate number of Jews who died during World War 2 by country.

Poland 3,000,000
Hungary 450,000
Romania 300,000
Russia 107,000
Netherlands 105,000
France 90,000

Jewish Actors and Actresses:
Alicia Silverstone -- Actress - Clueless, The Crush, The Babysitter, Batman
Barbara Streisand -- Singer and actress winner of two Oscars, four Emmys, nine Golden Globes, and other awards.
Mandy Patinkin -- Emmy & Tony award-winning actor, 'Dr Jeffrey Geiger' on TV's Chicago Hope
Harrison Ford -- Actor: 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', 'Star Wars', ' American Graffiti', 'Witness', 'The Fugitive'
Gwyneth Paltrow -- Oscar winner
William Shatner -- Captain James T. Kirk on the original 'Star Trek'
Natalie Portman -- Actress, Queen Amidala in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Al Jolson -- famous entertainer. Starred in the first talking movie
Winona Ryder -- Star of films like Heathers, Girl Interrupted, Little Women, Beetlejuice
Noah Wyle -- Actor, 'Dr John Carter' on TV's ER
Michael Landon -- Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza
Mark Frankel -- Actor in 'Sisters' and 'Fortune Hunter'
Sarah Jessica Parker -- Acress in 'Sex and the City', 'LA Story'
Seth Green -- television actor, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Family Guy.
Robert Downey, Jr. -- actor in 'Less Than Zero,' 'Chaplin,' 'Short Cuts.'
Paul Newman -- Academy Award winning actor and philanthropist
Cary Grant -- (maybe Jewish, maybe not) Classical good looks and humor

Bob Dylan (nee Robert Allen Zimmerman) -- American singer-songwriter, musician, and artist who has been influential in popular music and culture.
Itzhak Perlman -- Grammy-winning Violin soloist
Max Weinberg -- Drummer for Springstein and musical director for Conan O'Brien
Isaac Stern -- Violin virtuoso
George Gershwin -- American composer of many vocal and theatrical works written in collaboration with his older brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin.
Jascha Heifetz -- Violinist
Yehudi Menuhin -- Violinist
Herb Alpert -- Leader and trumpeter of Tijuana Brass
Stan Getz -- Jazz Tenor Sax player most famous for The Girl from Ipanema
Julio Iglesias -- Internationally famous Spanish singer. Holds Guinness world record for the most albums sold in the most languages.

Albert Einstein -- One of the most famous and influential scientists since Isaac Newton
Carl Sagan -- astronomer and popular science author; made book and TV series 'Cosmos'
Niels Bohr -- Nobel prize-winning Physicist: atomic structure
Roald Hoffmann -- Nobel prize winner in Chemistry: field of electronic structures
Fritz Haber -- winner of the Nobel Prize of Chemistry in 1918, for the synthesis of ammonia from its elements
Edward Teller -- Physicist, father of the hydrogen bomb
Leo Szilard -- Physicist, proved the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction in 1933.
Jonas Salk -- Developed the first polio vaccine.

Business Professionals:
Milton Hershey -- Hershey's Chocolate founder
Michael Dell -- Founder of Dell Computer
Larry Ellison -- Founder and CEO of Oracle
Alan Greenspan -- Federal Reserve Chairman under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush
Steve Ballmer -- CEO of Microsoft and the richest Jew in the world
Sir James Goldsmith -- financier and banker who amongst others has taken over Goodyear.
George Soros -- millionaire philanthropist who has donated millions to aid Eastern Europe.
Bernard Madoff -- American financier convicted of operating a Ponzi scheme that resulted in the largest investor fraud ever committed by a single person.

Fashion designers:
Calvin Klein -- Famous Clothes Designer
Ralph Lauren -- (Ralph Lipshitz) world famous fashion designer
Levi Strauss -- Inventor of Blue Jeans
Kenneth Cole -- Fashion Designer who's married to Mario Cuomo's daughter

Jerry Lewis -- A comedian who teamed up with Dean Martin
Marcel Marceau -- The most famous mime in history
Jerry Seinfeld -- Stand up comedian, TV show Seinfeld, American Express commercials
Sarah Silverman -- American comedienne whose satirical comedy addresses social taboos and controversial topics.
The Marx Brothers -- An American family comedy act with Chico, Harpo, and Groucho.
Milton Berle -- Comedian who pioneered comedy/variety on television
Jack Benny -- Reknowned radio and TV comic

Directors and producers:
Steven Spielberg -- Director of films such as Saving Private Ryan & Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, E.T.,
Stanley Kubrick -- Director of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Spartacus
Mel Brooks -- Film director, producer, actor: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein
Woody Allen -- Film Maker/Actor: Annie Hall, Bullets Over Broadway, Mighty Aphrodite, Antz
Roman Polanski -- Director, screenwriter, actor: Rosemary's Baby, Macbeth, Chinatown, Tess
Ben Stiller -- Director/Actor: Seinfeld, SNL, Reality Bites, Something About Mary, The Cable Guy
Aaron Spelling -- Produced Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place...
Oliver Stone -- Popular Director: The Doors, J.F.K., Heaven And Earth, Natural Born Killers

Frida Kahlo- -- Mexican artist famous for vivid, surrealist self-portraits. Married to Diego Rivera.
Marc Chagall -- Painter, designer and graphic artist
Modigliani -- Artist whose elongated faces are reminiscent of African masks
Camille Pissarro -- Father of Impressionism

Golda Mabovitch (Golda Myerson, Golda Meir) - the fourth prime minister of the State of Israel.

Words and word clusters related to Famous Jewish People:
Jewish Actors, Jewish Scientists, Land of Israel, Jewish People, Chosen People, Jewish History, Jewish Heritage, Jewish Holidays, Jewish Recipes, Kosher Food, Judaica Collection,

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