Tzivos Hashem and its Crown Heights-based Jewish Children's Museum, has honored actor Jeff Goldblum its Josef Papp award. Uriel Heilman of the Jerusalem Post interviews Goldblum at the ceremony:
I ask him about his Jewish roots, and Goldblum's story seems to end with his bar mitzva and the conclusion of his Hebrew school education.
Honored by the Lubavitch youth organization, Tzivos Hashem, with the Joseph Papp Humanitarian Award - named after the late theater director and financier of programs for Jewish children in the former Soviet Union - Goldblum says he doesn't quite know why he was chosen.
Officials with Tzivos Hashem confirm that it has less to do with Goldblum's Jewish activity (little to none, it seems) or his support of the Joseph Papp Humanitarian Fund (none, Goldblum says) than with his ties to the late Papp (Papp gave Goldblum his first acting job) and the efficacy of bringing a Hollywood actor to a fundraising dinner for publicity.
On the night of the awards ceremony, Goldblum ascends the podium to receive his prize wearing a kippa after sitting through a video tribute with testimonials from several Hollywood actors and directors.
"It's just so trippy and amazing to see all this," Goldblum says. "This is as wonderful an evening and an event as I've ever had. It truly is."
A few minutes later, he is whisked by limousine back to Manhattan.
In our interview, I try to extract a little more from Goldblum about his Jewish identity. He seems to have little to tell.
"I've continued to, you know, identify myself culturally with Judaism, and have exposed myself to wisdom literature that's from one tradition or another," he says, his voice trailing off. I ask whether his Jewishness affects his work in any way.
"In the obvious ways - ways that, you know, I can imagine Jewish humor has something to do with certain shows."
Goldblum seems much more comfortable answering the more common questions about his career.…
Married and divorced twice, to actresses Patricia Gaul and Geena Davis, Goldblum is now engaged again - for the fourth time, actually, following a broken engagement in the late 1990s with Laura Dern, who appeared alongside him in Jurassic Park.
This time, the subject is Catherine Wreford, a 23-year-old from Winnipeg, Canada.
"You're 52," I inform Goldblum, switching to my old-Jewish-man persona. "When are you going to settle down and have a family already?"
Goldblum seems nonplussed. "I'm engaged to this wonderful girl, and maybe we'll do it sometime," he offers unconvincingly. He sounds much more convincing when he says he'd love to come to Israel, which he has never visited.
"Maybe I'll go soon," he says.
Let's see. We have an unaffilliated, formerly intermarried and now interdating and interengaged Jew who has only the most tenuous connection to Jews, Judaism or the Jewish people. He has done nothing to merit the honor. Yet Chabad's children's museum honors him with a major award. Is he a role model for Jewish children? Is this really the message we should send? Intermarry, be unaffilliated, don't be active in Jewish life, do nothing of humanitarian value related to the award, and we will honor you nonetheless.
This is the truth about Chabad – it's all about the money, baby.