3 Great Actresses on a Cruise; Jewish Woman Intelligence Chief, More Bourla

The original HBO Max film “Let Them All Talk” begins streaming on Dec. 10.  Meryl Streep plays Alice, a celebrated author who takes an ocean cruise. Also on the cruise are her old friends, Susan (Candice Bergen) and Roberta (Diane Wiest). The three have some rough history, especially Susan and Alice. The film was the subject of a CBS Sunday Morning feature on Nov. 29 (on CBS news app and on Youtube). It includes a trailer, cast interviews, and some comments by director Steven Soderbergh.

“Let Them” was written by DEBORAH EISENBERG, 74. She’s best known as a best-selling writer of short stories. Her awards include a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She’s had small acting parts in several films, but “Let Them” is the first film she’s written. Her acting roles may be a side-benefit of being the long-time companion of actor/writer WALLACE SHAWN, 77 (“The Princess Bride”, “Young Sheldon”).  Everybody knows Shawn, even if you don’t know his name—his look and voice are distinctive. Shawn and Eisenberg have been together for decades. Shawn refers to her as his girlfriend in his first film, “My Dinner with Andre” (1981), which he co-wrote and co-starred-in.

On Nov. 22, President-Elect Joe Biden announced his first round 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 ADRIENNE RAPPAPORT (a “very” Jewish last name.) She 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. He wrote a memoir in 2019 and I could view parts 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.

As promised---here’s more on ALBERT BOURLA, 59, the CEO of Pfizer. He was born and raised in Thessaloniki (AKA Salonika). This city in northern Greece had a large Sephardic Jewish community for most of the time the Ottoman Turks controlled it (1430-1912). Jews were often the majority of the population and they did everything—from dockworkers to top merchants. Turkish Muslim treatment of Salonika Jews had its better and worse times, but it was usually better than the way Jews were treated in Christian countries until circa 1800.  “The Greek Reporter” says Bourla’s family lived in Salonika for six hundred years and mostly they were jewelers. The paper notes that the Bourla family was among the few Holocaust survivors, but offers no details on how they survived (the Nazis killed 90% of Salonika’s 54,000 Jews). Albert Bourla, the paper says, trained as a veterinarian in Salonika and he rose to be head of Pfizer after, first, heading up their veterinary division. Interestingly, Pfizer has partnered on the Covid vaccine with a German company run by Dr. Ugur Sahin and his wife, Dr. Ozlem Tureci. Sahin had a big personal role in inventing the Covid vaccine.  Sahin is a Turkey-born Muslim who was raised in Germany and Tureci’s father was a Turkish immigrant to Germany. The NY Times reports that Bourla, a Greek, and Sahin, a Turk, have become good friends. Well, contrary to what the “Times” implied, they probably did not have to overcome the usual Greek/Turk hostility. Jews often prospered under the Turks, and the same country (Germany) that wiped out Jewish Salonika, has not been very kind to the Turkish Muslim immigrants that it invited-in decades ago to do “dirty work”.

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