Jewish celebrities: William Shatner at 90, Judy Blume on film, WeWork documentary and more

Judy Blume. Photo: Twitter

By Nate Bloom, Special to the Jewish Light

On March 22, WILLIAM SHATNER turned 90. But his star still burns bright, and his trek goes on. His latest film, “Senior Moment,” opens in theaters and on-demand on Mar. 26. Shatner stars as Victor, a retired NASA test pilot whose license gets taken away after he’s found speeding in his vintage Porsche convertible with his best friend (Christopher Lloyd of “Back to the Future” fame).

Victor’s life changes as he finds himself trying to get around by riding the bus, spurring his meeting with the beautiful free-spirit Caroline (played by Jean Smart, 69, a star of “Designing Women”). Victor and Caroline have very different lifestyles and, Smart says, “they have to negotiate their romance.” But, she added, “they [end up] filling each other’s gaps.”

Shatner postponed a 90-year-blowout celebration until this summer, when things will (we hope) be much better. He’ll celebrate at a museum near Syracuse, N.Y. that houses a hand-built, precise replica of the Enterprise bridge. Festivities include a $1,500-a-ticket gala dinner with Shatner himself.

“Greenlighted” for film production is “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” which is based on a mega-selling 1970 young adult novel by JUDY BLUME, 83. Margaret is an adolescent who frequently talks to God, even though she is being raised in no faith by her Jewish father and Christian mother. Kathy Bates will play Sylvia, Margaret’s beloved Jewish grandma who gently tries to get Margaret to embrace Judaism. (This is the first time Blume has consented to have a film made from a book of hers. She says she “trusts the team” behind this film.)

On April 2, Hulu will begin streaming a new documentary, “WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn.” WeWork is an office-sharing company that attracted massive investment and then nearly financially collapsed in 2019. The company is now valued at less than the money that investors poured into it.

The co-founder and former CEO of WeWork is ADAM NEUMANN, 41. For a time, he seemed like a great Jewish success story: Born in Israel, and a veteran of the Israeli navy, he settled in the United States around 2000. This handsome and charismatic guy is a religious Jew, has a smart Jewish wife (who is a first cousin of GWYNETH PALTROW) and together they have five kids.

Most of WeWork’s debt was held by Japanese tech investor SoftBank, which felt it had too much invested to let the company fail. Neumann left the company in 2019 with a $1.7 billion severance package. The documentary was directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker JED ROTHSTEIN, 47.

I’ve previously written that Jewish physicians had a key role in the creation of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. When the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was FDA-approved last month, I looked into the background, as best I could, of DR. DAN BAROUCH, 47, the “key doctor” in the creation of the “J&J” vaccine. He runs the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston).

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Barouch, who leads a 60-person lab, has a Harvard undergrad bio-chemistry degree, a Ph.D. from Oxford in immunology and a Harvard medical degree (all with honors). He switched from looking for an HIV vaccine to a COVID-19 vaccine when the pandemic hit.

Barouch’s extended family is among the most diverse I’ve ever encountered. His wife, Dr. Fina Barouch, is an ophthalmologist of American Hispanic background. His father, EYTAN BAROUCH, 77, is a Boston University engineering professor. I believe he was born in Israel, where he got his undergrad degree (1965). He got his doctorate from the State University of New York. While a grad student, he met and married another student Winifred Yip, now 76, who is of ethnic Chinese background and was naturalized in 1963 or ‘64.