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SJ Super 7

by: Leslie Bunder and Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2005-03-09

Natasha Kaplinsky

Natasha Kaplinsky

The seven most amazing things you will discover in Jewish life and culture.  This week: Natasha Kaplinsky’s triple triumph at the Tric Awards, The Producers goes in front of the camera,  Streets-like Jewish band Emunah play Cambridge and Tracey Ullman – is she Jewish or isn’t she?

1. Natasha’s triple whammy: TV presenter Natasha Kaplinsky was among the big winners at this year’s Tric Awards, given out by the Television and Radio Industries Club. Not only was she named Newscaster of the Year, but BBC Breakfast, which she co-hosts, won the Best Daytime Show, and Strictly Come Dancing, on which she was a contestant, was voted Best TV Entertainment programme. It was also a good day for kosher comedian Matt Lucas, as Little Britain won the Best Comedy prize at the awards ceremony in London.
2. Is she or isn’t she? We’ve always known that comedienne Tracey Ullman has Polish origins, but we never actually thought she was Jewish. However, a recent documentary about the comedy series Three Of A Kind – in which Ullman, along with Lenny Henry and David Copperfield, first found fame – may go some way to solving the mystery. During the programme, Copperfield talked about how the show worked, even though it had the unlikely combination of what he referred to as ‘a tall black man, a Yorkshireman and a Jewish girl’. So the question remains – is Tracey Jewish or isn’t she? And if she wasn’t, why would David Copperfield refer to her in this way? We know she has played Jewish characters, but was she acting, or was it life imitating art?

3. The film of the play of the film: The film version of the Broadway and West End hit The Producers has begun shooting in New York, complete with many of the cast members from the original Broadway production. Nathan Lane, who played Max Bialystock in New York and London, is reprising the role for the film, while he’s reunited with his original co-star Matthew Broderick as nervy accountant Leo Bloom. Actors Gary Beach and Roger Bart, who also starred in the original production, are also on board, joined by cast newcomers Will Ferrell as Franz Liebkind and Uma Thurman as Ulla (replacing Nicole Kidman). And even though he’s not directing this time (having left that to choreographer Susan Stroman), Mel Brooks is still involved, as co-writer and producer. It’s due out at the end of the year – and in the mean time, if you haven’t managed to catch the stage show, it’s a must-see.

4. Baker’s Treats: the latest addition to kosher eating in North London is Mr Baker, a huge kosher bakery which has just opened up in Brent Street, Hendon (opposite Folmans). As well as selling a variety of flavoured bagels (plain, poppy, sesame and onion) and rolls, it also offers a big selection of pastries and other baked goods, as well as dips and drinks – and you can either eat in or take your purchases away.

5. Eurovision Jews: with the 50th Eurovision Song contest less than two months away, the UK has chosen its entry – Touch My Fire by former Popstars hopeful-turned solo artist Javine. And although she’s not actually Jewish (well not as far as we know), her manager certainly is – Jonathan Shalit, former manager of Charlotte Church and semitic harmonica player Larry Adler, among others. Elsewhere in Eurovision, Israel have chosen singer Shiri Maymon to represent them at the contest in Kiev in May, with a track called Hasheket shenish'ar. However, she’ll have to make it through the semi-final on May 19th if she wants a chance of competing in the main contest two days later – let’s hope she has more luck than last year’s Israeli contender David D’Or, who missed out on a place in the final by just a few points.

6. The Jewish Streets? SJ’s favourite new British Jewish band are Emunah, who combine urban beats with Jewish-themed lyrics and melodies, and sound rather like a Semitic version of chart-topping act The Streets. They recently won a Battle of the Bands competition in Cambridge – and if you want to see what all the fuss is about, then get along to Po Na Na in Cambridge on Sunday 13 March, where they’ll be playing a show. Find out more at their website:

7. Jewish book hopefuls: the nominees for this year’s Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prizes for fiction and non-fiction have been announced. Among the contenders for the fiction prize are authors Howard Jacobson, Moris Farhi and David Bezmogis, while Simon Goldhill, Amos Oz, Joanna Olczak-Ronikier and Bela Zsolt will compete for the non-fiction award. “Writing about Jews and by Jews is evidently thriving,” said David Pryce-Jones, chairman of the judging panel, “and this has been an exciting challenge to the committee.” The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on 17 May.