Adorable ‘Jerry Maguire’ actor is now a martial arts-infused transporter for Orthodox Jews


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Dan Buffa, Special For the Jewish Light

Midway through Cameron Crowe’s hit movie, “Jerry Maguire,” young Ray Boyd (played by the then-5-year-old adorable Jonathan Lipnicki) asks the title character, played by Tom Cruise, if they can go to the zoo. The man and child are bonding after Jerry’s first date with Ray’s mom (played by Renee Zellweger), two strangers just goofing off.

At that time, the world knew Cruise as the hero in movies, but Lipnicki stole the audience’s heart by reminding his much-older, troubled co-star that the human head weighs eight pounds. Twenty five years later, things have changed.

Lipnicki, all grown up and out of acting, has now taken to the Cruise hero method, but in real life. These days, he’s spending his time in Fairfax, Los Angeles, transporting Orthodox Jews to their synagogue safely and keeping out of harm. He’s part of a group called “The Shabbat Angels,” whose goal is to make sure zero antisemitic attacks befall one of the people they are protecting. Each day, Lipnicki and company work a tight schedule in taking Jews to and from their place of worship without any attacks, which have grown rampant in recent months around Fairfax.

Why is he doing it? For the former actor, it’s a fitting way to honor his Holocaust-surviving grandfather, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz in Poland back during the war. For Lipnicki, he’s just doing his part and the right thing all rolled into one. He calls his grandpa “the toughest man I have ever met,” which led him to the Shabbat Angels and this movement to protect civilian Jews in their everyday life.

No, this is not a movie. I promise. This is really happening in Los Angeles, a place where heroes are manufactured, not usually molded into one by their past and ancestors. Lipnicki’s eye-opening moment came four years ago during a trip to Israel. There on a birthright tour, he found something special stirring inside him the first time he visited the Western Wall. Some child actors burn out and never find that purpose again. Lipnicki found a new and wildly better calling after the camera stopped rolling.

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He’s not spinning Cobra Kai at these bad guys either. Lipnicki has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which basically means he can take a few people down in close quarters. While karate is nice and works to a degree, hearing someone has a black belt in an extremely tough martial art is impressive. With Jiu Jitsu, specifically Brazilian style, you take someone’s offense and turn it into your own offensive attack towards them instead. A defense-minded fighting style, it’s the perfect weapon for the Shabbat Angels.

Lipnicki and fellow “Angels” wear white T-shirts and patrol the area around the synagogue in five-hour shifts. With the recent war and tension between Israel and Hamas, the attacks on Orthodox Jews during Sabbath, a time when they can’t drive anywhere, are especially prevalent. Thankfully, a group of heroes came along. Could you ever imagine little cute Ray Boyd being the head of that protective unit? Only in Hollywood, or in this case, Fairfax.

Watch out Jason Statham and The Rock, Jonathan Lipnicki, 30 years old and driven by purpose from the Holocaust, may be taking over some of that hero turf.