‘Fockers’ series brings together iconic Jewish actors

Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand

By MIA KWESKIN

Coming to theaters Wednesday, Dec. 22 is a movie that dares to ask: “Kids bring everyone closer…right?”

“Little Fockers” is the third installment in a trilogy that includes “Meet the Parents” and “Meet the Fockers.” The new movie continues the story of Greg (Ben Stiller) and Pam Focker (Teri Polo), an interfaith couple, and their new “little Fockers.” Also returning to the series are the Focker parents: Rozalin and Bernie, played by Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, two of the most iconic Jewish actors of all time.

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Streisand was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. to a Jewish family and has stood by her religion throughout her career. Despite pressure to deny her religion or alter her ‘Jewish nose,’ Streisand takes pride in her Jewish heritage.

Throughout her career Streisand has portrayed many Jewish characters in Hollywood and on Broadway, from Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” to Dolly Levy in “Hello Dolly!” In the movie “Yentl,” Streisand played the title character, a young girl disguised as a yeshiva boy in order to study Talmud (arguably one of her most important roles). In addition to carrying the lead role, Streisand wrote, directed and produced the 1983 film.

Streisand was repeatedly told to have rhinoplasty because her nose was “too Jewish.” Despite the persistent suggestion, she refused to give into the critics. Jewish women became less interested in changing their own noses because of Streisand’s symbol of defiance in her decision, according to an August article in The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

Streisand influenced a great number of Jewish women who were uncomfortable with their noses including up-and-coming celebrities such as “Glee” star, Lea Michele. Michele is just one of the many Jewish stars who look up to Streisand. According to an August article in AOL’s Stylelist, Streisand gave Michele confidence and made her feel comfortable with her own nose through her adolescence.

Streisand is nothing short of a legend, opening the door for other Jewish actresses to receive major leading roles. Her triumphs continue to inspire Jews around the world not only on screen or stage; she has given to many Jewish causes in the United States and Israel in honor of her late father. Through her career, contributions and defiance of stereotypes Streisand has become a renowned Jewish celebrity.

The “Focker” series pairs Streisand with another legendary Jewish actor, Dustin Hoffman. Unlike Streisand, Hoffman did not always feel his religion was a large part of his life. Though born into an Eastern European Jewish family, he was not religious as a child. Years later, Hoffman’s second wife Lisa Gottsegen, changed his perspective on religion, eventually leading all four of his children to have b’nei mitzvot.

Despite Hoffman’s lack of personal connection to Judaism, he also encountered strong prejudices throughout his acting career. The director of one of his earliest movies, “The Graduate,” considered casting Hoffman a daring choice because Hoffman did not have the look most imagined for the role of Benjamin Braddock. Some also criticized his role as a Southern gentleman lawyer in “Runaway Jury,” claiming it was miscast because Jewish Southern gentlemen did not exist.

Despite such ignorance, Hoffman and Streisand overcame adversity to become two of the most celebrated Jewish actors in modern history. The renowned actors’ appearance together in the “Focker” series is a monumental event not to mention the two create a hilarious duo that keeps audiences laughing nonstop.

Look for Hoffman and Streisand in “Little Fockers” Dec. 22 and keep an eye out for my review of the movie here in the Jewish Light.