Celebrities you didn’t know were Jewish and Hispanic

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Hispanic Heritage Month, which ends Oct. 15, is a fabulous time to appreciate the big names in the Hispanic Jewish community.

Joaquin Phoenix: We know, right? The coolest name in Hollywood is Jewish. The “Joker” star was born in Puerto Rico to Ashkenazi parents from Hungary and Russia. Yes, his family did join a religious cult called the Children of God, which traveled throughout South America, but they eventually left this religion and returned to the U.S. with a new last name, Phoenix, because they “rose from the ashes.” Try not to cringe, please.
Phoenix identifies as Jewish today.


Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix (Joaquin Phoenix-1325.jpg by Harald Krichel is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Bruno Mars: Maybe Mars is “Locked Out of Heaven” because he’s more focused spiritually on the present life. And “Grenade” is a love song to how much he loves Sukkot. Sorry, enough jokes. Born in Hawaii to an Ashkenazi Puerto Rican father and a Filipino mother, the “Just the Way You Are” singer often jokes about how colorful his identity is.

Daniel Burman: Don’t cry for me, Argentina, of course you’d make our list with all the refugees you accepted. (Despite Juan Peron’s Nazi-welcoming and anti-Semitic policies). Burman, a 47-year-old Jewish Argentinian film director, is best known for having begun the “New Argentine Cinema” wave, according to Wire Magazine. His Polish Jewish parents raised him in Buenos Aires. Most recently, he directed “The Tenth Man” in Hebrew and Spanish in 2016, available on Netflix now.

Daniel Bucatinsky: Ok, Argentina, why are your celebrities all Daniels? Do you have a thing for lion fighting? Bucatinsky, who stars in “Scandal,” is fluent in Spanish and open about his Jewish identity, frequently on Twitter.

Gabriel Eduardo Saporta: This beautiful work of art, somehow twice the age he looks, was the lead singer of the once-internationally famous band Cobra Starship. Can you hear the 2000s in the background? Yep, that guy who made the “good girls go bad” is actually 40 now. Saporta is an Uruguayan musician and entrepreneur, although he should be a model instead.

Ilan Chester: Chester, 51, is a Venezuelan star and producer who was born to Ashkenazi parents in Israel who emmigrated to Venezuela. His music includes elements of classical, jazz, afro-carribean and Venezuelan folk music. He has written many hits, which Mark Anthony, Cheo Feliciano and Chayenne sang.

Sammy Davis Jr.: The most charismatic member of the Rat Pack, Sammy was a Latino born to Afro-Cuban mother. He converted to Judaism in 1961 and practiced devoutly.

Geraldo Rivera: This television personality was born to a Puerto Rican father and Russian-Jewish mother. Her had a bar mitzvah, and wrote on FoxNews.com that he is a Jew-rican.

Sally Jessy Raphael: Also known as Sally Lowenthal, she was an American talk show host with glasses bigger than Edna’s and redder than her lipstick. She was born in Puerto Rico, and died in 2008. Her grandparents were all Jewish immigrants from Poland, Russia and Lithuania.

Kayla Maisonet: A win for Gen Z and girls, Maisonet, 21, stars in the Disney channel show “Stuck in the Middle.” She comes from a mixed Puerto Rican and Russian-Jewish family.

William Gutierrez Levy: This Cuban-American actor is best known for his “Dancing with the Stars” appearance. He is Jewish on his mother’s side, but not practicing.

Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal: Not exactly a celebrity, but we had to throw in this historic figure to pay tribute to Sephardic Jewish history. Carvajal was a doctor, lawyer and politician who was the last president of the Domincan Republic before the U.S. took occupation. Though his power was no match for U.S. colonialists, he was able to leverage more fair policies for his country under the new statehood. He wrote and edited for a number of publications, including ‘The daughter of the Hebrews’.

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