Viral Hanukkah video, Jewish cabinet picks and more

Daveed Diggs

By Nate Bloom, Special to the Jewish Light

As I’ve noted before, actor/writer DAVEED DIGGS, 38, is the son of an African-American father and a (white) Jewish mother. He was raised Jewish. In the last few years, his career has soared—a Tony for “Hamilton”; rave reviews for “Blindspotting,” a 2018 film he starred-in and co-wrote, and a big part in the 2020 Showtime series The Good Lord Bird.”  

On Dec. 5, a video he created, “Puppy for Hanukkah,” was simultaneously released on the Disney Channel and on YouTube. Simply put, it is great in so many ways. It features several Jewish children, all of whom appear to be biracial, singing and dancing to what I’d call “melodic hip-hop.”  As you might guess, one of the kids really wants a puppy for Hanukkah. The video plays on the fact that even if you don’t get your puppy the first night of Hanukkah, you have seven more chances to get your dream gift. 

The music was composed by Diggs, and it’s his voice you hear talking and singing. The kids mouth his voice, kind of like karaoke. Diggs says: “I was honored when Disney Channel approached me to come up with a fresh Hanukkah tune and embraced the opportunity to share my love of music and a little piece of my culture.”

On Nov. 22, President-Elect Joe Biden announced his first group of cabinet level nominees. All five nominees were in positions associated with national security. The Jewish media quickly, and correctly, identified as Jewish ANTONY BLINKEN, 58 (Secretary of State) and ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, 61 (Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary). However, no source identified AVRIL HAINES, 41 (the Director of National Intelligence nominee), as Jewish.  It was easy to find out that her late mother was painter ADRIAN RAPPIN (born Adrienne Rappaport) who tragically died when Avril was only 15.  Avril’s father is Thomas Haines, 87, a very interesting (non-Jewish) guy who hung out with artists, while he became a top biochemist. I discovered he wrote a memoir, parts of which I could view on Google Books.  Thomas wrote this about a trip to Israel he took with Avril: “They [Israeli young men] could see she was American, and once they found out she was Jewish (Avril considered herself Jewish because her mom was Jewish), they wanted her to move to Israel.” 

Avril Haines has trod a very unusual path: She fixed engines at a Chicago shop as she earned her B.A. in physics. After graduating, she went to Japan to seriously study judo. After a brief stint as a physics grad student, she co-founded (1993) a bookstore café named after her mother (Adrian’s Café). Her mother’s oil paintings hung on the walls. Her Baltimore bookstore was especially noted for its erotic literature readings. She then went (1998) to Georgetown Law School. After getting her degree, her career path was much more traditional—- hard work and a sharp mind helped her make her way up in the Obama/Biden State Dept. and National Security Administration.

On Dec. 17, CBS All-Access will start streaming “The Stand,” a mini-series based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Basic plot: most of the people in the world die in a pandemic and the ones left are psychically drawn to a religiously devout African-American woman or to an evil white man who may be the devil incarnate. NAT WOLFF, 25, plays Lloyd, a petty criminal who becomes Mr. Evil’s smartest and most loyal lieutenant. In other entertainment news — the big film release of the next few weeks is the Warner Bros. movie “Wonder Woman, 1984” starring Israeli actress GAL GADOT, 35, in the title role. The surprise is that it is being released (Dec. 25) on HBO Max at the same time it is released to theaters and it will remain streaming on “Max” for a month. AT&T owns Warner Bros. and HBO and it decided that getting more cable subscribers was more important now than anemic theater revenues. Seventeen more Warner Bros. new movies will be released in 2021 in the same way.

This is the happy holiday time of year. But it’s also, you know, the awful “oy to the world” 2020. Somehow it fits to turn to CHUCK LORRE, the master creator of good sitcoms, for an actually amusing COVID-19 “funny.” He writes: “My iPhone learned to recognize me with my N95 mask on. Should I be concerned? What does it know? How fast is it learning? Can it see in the dark?”