Excerpt: 'Stars of David : Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish' by Abigail Pogrebin

I ask for her reaction to Nat Hentoff's comment, made a few months after 9/11, that he can imagine one day hearing over a loudspeaker, "All Jews gather in Times Square." "I live with someone who can imagine that, I think," Parker says. "So I'm inclined to be able to imagine it myself. You often become the person you're married to or you live with; you just do. And I'm pretty influenced by his thinking often anyway. It wasn't so long ago that the Holocaust happened. It really did happen very recently. And so many denied it and couldn't bear the thought of it or weren't interested in the plight. So, yes; it's not beyond imagining. "

I ask her if she notices which of her friends are Jewish. "If Matthew and I are with friends who are Jewish, you just feel something you can't describe–like trying to describe a color; you can't. It's just commonality -- like, 'Oh yeah, we're with our people.' But I have a lot of non-Jewish friends. Many of them seem to think of being Jewish as slightly exotic."

I ask Parker if she cared about marrying a Jew. "No, but when I met Matthew, I was like, 'Well this is that guy!' " She exhibits a kind of aha! " 'This is the type of guy my mother always liked: the cultured, well-read Jew from Greenwich Village in New York City!' "

Parker says she and Matthew share similar reference points, despite the fact that they grew up so differently. "There's a lot about the aesthetics of our childhood that were extremely similar. And I honestly feel it's because when my mother was raising us in Cincinnati, she was thinking: 'How do cultured Jews in New York City raise their children?' " Parker says her mother emulated an ideal she had implanted in her mind. "The goal was a combination of how cultured Jews in New York City raise their children and how Rose Kennedy raised her children. She was sort of hoping to get the best of both."

I ask her if she's been asked to talk publicly about her Jewish half. "A couple of times newspapers have called -- the Forward for example -- and I've said, 'I can't do this because I would do a disservice to your faith; I don't know enough about it. I'm a Jew because my father is, and that's what we feel we are. But I think sometimes people would like anybody who has a public face at all to be part of it. I wouldn't call myself a famous Jew, but my experience over the years has been that if someone wants me to talk at length about being Jewish in a Jewish paper or publication, I feel I couldn't be further from an authority and I don't want to say things that are uneducated. There are people who are more of note who know more about being a Jew than I do. So I've never done it."

Though ethnic publications may look to her as a role model, I wonder if, in the early days of her career, she was viewed as an ethnic type? Parker nods. "I was offered a movie and it was rescinded because they decided I was too Jewish." She won't say who rejected her. "I shouldn't because they probably wouldn't want -- " She chuckles. "Because they're Jews! That's what I thought was so ironic. It's like, 'Oh, you're a Jew calling me too Jewish!' I think they said I was just 'too Jewish looking.' I think for a long time, people who had curly hair and features that weren't traditionally accepted as pretty were just considered ethnic and still are. I think there's a place for those types more now, but it's not as if we've come so far that it's the new standard. It's not gone the way of the hula hoop."

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