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Anatomy of a Jewish Wedding with Natalie Portman and a French Guy


Left to Right: Catherine Flory-Millepied, her son, Benjamin Millepied, and her Jewish daughter-in-law, Natalie Portman.

Left to Right: Catherine Flory-Millepied, her son, Benjamin Millepied, and her Jewish daughter-in-law, Natalie Portman.

This morning, searching for Jewish crumbs in the vast forest of the Internet, I ran into this JTA story: “Natalie Portman Married in Jewish Ceremony.” Now, what’s the first thing a Jewish reporter tries to find out about such a story? You got it – who’s the groom and did he really belong under a chupa. We know the couple’s 14-month-old son, Aleph, is totally Jewish, but, in the end, when JTA reports on a Jewish wedding with one of the participants probably not a Jew, shouldn’t that merit a comment? The answer involves a bit of a tour online.

First, the story:

(JTA) — Actress Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied reportedly were married in a Jewish ceremony.

The wedding took place Saturday night at a private home in Big Sur, Calif., People magazine reported.

The couple have a 14-month-old son named Aleph and have been engaged for two years. They met on the set of the 2010 movie “Black Swan,” for which Portman won an Academy Award for best actress.

OK, this is news. Natalie Portman is a fine Jewish girl, born in Israel, definitely a member of the tribe. In fact, her real name is Natalie Hershlag, and in Hebrew she goes by Neta Li Har Sheleg.

Her Jewish bona fides on Wikipedia are actually fascinating, and were obviously written by someone to whom the issue of whether or not she is Jewish mattered a great deal:

Portman was born in Jerusalem, Israel. She is the only child of Shelley (née Stevens), an American homemaker who works as Portman’s agent, and Avner Hershlag, an Israeli citizen who is a fertility specialist and gynecologist. Portman’s maternal ancestors were Jewish immigrants to the United States, from Austria and Russia (her mother’s family had changed their surname from “Edelstein” to “Stevens”). Her paternal grandparents were Jews who moved to Israel from Poland and Rumania. Her paternal grandfather, whose parents died in Auschwitz, was an economics professor in Israel, and her Rumanian-born great-grandmother was a spy for British Intelligence during World War II.

Wow. Now, that’s some Jewish pedigree!

But Benjamin Millepied? Who knew he was Jewish?

So I checked out wiki.answers.com, a user-generated archive of vast knowledge which had contemplated this question exactly: “Is Benjamin Millepied Jewish?” And they provided what must be a well researched answer, if brevity is a sign of veracity: Yes.

Except that as my eye wondered south of this emphatic endorsement, I saw this popular quiz, which, frankly, gave me pause:

Can you answer these Judaism questions?

Why do some people think Jews are bad people? Answer it!
What are the three main beliefs of the Judaism? Answer it!
How do you make a Torah cover? Answer it!
Was Klara Polzi Jewish? Answer it!
Did artist Fritz Kredel have Jewish ancestors named Gredel? Answer it!

Profound Judaism questions in anyone’s book. You want the answers?

“Jews on average are unusually successful, and other some people suffer from envy.”

There was no word yet on the three main beliefs of the Judaism, so I entered: “God is at the center of the universe. Love your fellow person as you would yourself. Never trust stuff you read on the Internet.” Go there, it’s now the official answer to the above question.

How to make a Torah cover was also unanswered, so I contributed my act of tikkun olam with: “Bring down the room temperature below zero,” which is as good an answer as any – and it’s on the Internet!

The remaining two questions struck me as a tad too esoteric even for the Jewish Press readership, so I didn’t bother. In the end, though, you’ll have to agree that the resounding “Yes” this website offered regarding Benjamin Millepied’s Jewish identity was at least suspect, if not wholly unreliable.

The Benjamin Millepied biography on his own website starts:

“Born in Bordeaux, France, Benjamin Millepied began his dance training at the age of eight with his mother Catherine, a former modern dancer.”

Not a good start as far as the Jewish thing goes. “Catherine”? Really? So I Googled Catherine Millepied. Not a whole lot there, until I ran into this bit on ZimBio:

Benjamin Millepied & Natalie Portman at the Royal Monceau

Benjamin Millepied received his honor of l’Ordre des arts et lettres from an ex-minister in France where he attended with Natalie Portman at the Royal Monceau. He gave a speech to honor those responsible for this medal of honour including his mum Catherine Millepied-Flory, who was a professional dancer as well.

A French language site named L’Officiel wrote about Benjamin’s mother, Catherine Flory-Millepied: “a dance teacher who pushed him into the seraglio at an early age.”

So it’s inconclusive, but if the Millepieds were Jewish, I’m pretty sure the folks in the shul down the block in Paris didn’t know it.

Which brings us to the obvious question: When JTA reports on a Jewish wedding with one of the participants probably not a Jew – shouldn’t that merit a comment?

Check out wiki.answers.com for the answer

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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30 Responses to “Anatomy of a Jewish Wedding with Natalie Portman and a French Guy”

  1. Alexis Worlock says:

    I've brought the room temperature down below zero. Now what?

  2. Yori Yanover says:

    Watch you Torah pulling on the covers — it's only a matter of time.

  3. Liad Bar-el says:

    According to the blog of RabbiJason.com "Turns out that the French Benjamin Millepied is not an MOT." (Member of the Tribe). Update: "While Cyberspace is buzzing about whether Natalie Portman's beau is a "Member of the Tribe" or not (ABC News reports his faith is unknown), New York City-based writer Marla Garfield is working the conspiracy theory angle. She wrote on Facebook: "I doubt that Millepied is even that guy's real last name. In French, it means 'a thousand feet,' and the dude plays a dancer in 'Black Swan.' That's just too ridiculous to be real. I bet his last name is Schwartzenbergerfeldowitz or something."
    One could visit the dancer’s locker room to see if he's circumcised but this isn’t proof either for many xians are circumcised also. IMO, let’s see what kind of lives they live before we try to pass judgment and even then, look at ourselves first to see if we fear G-d enough to follow all of His commandments including living in Israel.
    Now, where did I put my WGJ (Wheat Grass Juice)?:-)

  4. Yori Yanover says:

    His mother is a thousand-footer, too.

  5. Muriel Coudurier-Curveur says:

    Many French Jews do NOT advertise their Judaism (they haven't forgotten 1800 years of having to hide so their children wouldn't taken and baptized by force, the Dreyfus Affair, or the Vel'd'hiv. yet) and many have very French names, either because their family has been French for several centuries, or because they took the name of their job: maçon, ferrant, couturier, tailleur, crémier, boulanger, etc.

  6. Alexis Worlock says:

    It's his birthday tomorrow. Perhaps people will send a card.

  7. Pollard was smeared in the press by US anti-Israel ( pro-Saudi) officials. Info Pollard gave was for Israel's protection only – none to compromise or harm US. Pollard pled guilty to ONE count of passing info to a foreign nation for its benefit. He was NEVER fined as he did not financially benefit. US govt. broke plea deal – Life, No Parole – to prevent Pollard from outing private pro-Saudi policies – NOT FOLLOWING OFFICIAL US POLICIES.

  8. Anya Khan says:

    no, none of anyone; business.

  9. Yeremiahu Rueben Yonteff says:

    It is well known he is not jewish. I'm not sure why you even researched it.

  10. Liad Bar-el says:

    To each his own as they say. Natalie stated in YourJewishNews.com:

    "Now I have the opportunity to take on the French nationality. This will fulfill the dream of my father and me," she told the news media.

    "I lived in Paris when I was 12 and my father gave me the name Natalie as a tribute to the song of Gilbert Bécaud. Everything in my life has drawn to a French family," she added.

  11. Yori Yanover says:

    I was hooked on "Natalie" between the ages of 17 and 27 and can actually sing much of the lyrics. It's all about Bécaud visiting Moscow and getting a Soviet tour guide who takes him places and they drink hot chocolate at the Cafe Pushkin and champagne with a bunch of students in her room at the university dorms and then things go really happy.

    Almost like a Jewish wedding.

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