Dustin Hoffman knows he’s Jewish. Now what?

D. Hoffman Video Link


The upcoming holiday of Purim, (next Thursday), is an auspicious time for revealed good for the Jewish nation: G-d can save us from anything, just like He did in ancient Persia. Haman, the irredeemable anti-Semite, maneuvered a death decree against every last Jew in the land. Through Mordechai and Esther, G-d performed “miracles within nature,” saving our people from annihilation, inspiring Jews for generations to be bold, hopeful, and unified in our commitment to G-d and Torah–even in the face of annihilation.

You’re probably asking, isn’t this story getting old? The answer is, yes. But it’s about to be over.

Exactly when and how our people’s Final Redemption will happen, I don’t know, but I do know the Lubavitcher Rebbe said it can happen at any time. It’s up to each of us to be invested in the process: one small mitzva transforms the world.

Can you imagine if we could get Hollywood behind the effort? It would seem unlikely, but it’s not impossible, now that a legendary actor has discovered his Jewish soul.

Dustin Hoffman sobbed, “I’m a Jew,” on a recent episode of PBS’s, “Finding Your Roots,” when he learned the pained and often tragic fate of his ancestors in Soviet Russia.

He may not have known what hit him at first, but by now, he’s probably disconnected his phone: There’s a whole mishpacha looking to encourage him on his Jewish journey.

So add me to the list, and please share this blog post/letter. Together we might reach Mr. Hoffman. If not, at least we can reach Jews. The timing is perfect for us all to act on behalf of our people.

Dear Mr. Hoffman,

You probably understand by now that your father sought to spare you from Jewish pain. But you also understand that he didn’t. He couldn’t.

Because, when you cried, “I’m a Jew,” it was the cry of your Jewish soul, your neshama. And your Jewish soul is part of G-d. You can cover it, but you can’t eliminate it.

Welcome to the club, Mr. Hoffman. Here you’re just a Jew. Lucky you, though. You learned about your ancestors. 

Now you know that the Soviets murdered your Jewish grandfather and your Jewish great-grandfather. You know your Jewish great-grandmother endured five years in a Russian concentration camp before arriving on America.

Just so you could star in “Tootsie.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure she would have tremendous nachas from your success. But now you know how much pain she endured in order for you to achieve it. 

So, what would your great-grandmother want to you to do now, as a Jew?

You probably have a packed social calendar, so it might be hard for you to start keeping Shabbos the way she did. And she would love to see you follow Jewish dietary laws–you are what you eat, right?– but, well, let’s just say, keeping kosher is a big commitment.

The good news is that you can start with something small. Judaism isn’t all or nothing. 

One thing your great-grandmother would surely love is for you to see what’s happening in Russia today. Jewish life is thriving there; it’s filled with yeshivas, synagogues, and even kosher restaurants.

It’s mind boggling to think how our nation’s fate turns in the blink of an eye. This happens a lot throughout Jewish history. But we’re rapidly approaching a new era. Just think about how fast technology is advancing–even the fact that you’re reading this. The spiritual worlds are changing just as quickly.  Mr. Hoffman, everything happens for a reason. Your family suffered for a reason, and you became a famous actor for a reason. The movie industry itself was created for a reason.

It’s all part of G-d’s vast, eternal plan. But the Jewish story is waiting for its happy ending, the day when all Jewish souls will cry out with joy, when our pain will be over. Understood. Transformed. 

Your great-grandmother undoubtedly knew about Moshiach, the Messiah. Jews have prayed for the Redemption for thousands of years, ever since the Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem. Many Jews alive today are unaware that a final Redemption was G-d’s purpose for creating the world. Some don’t even think Moshiach should be included in the script.

But now you know about the big picture. The world is G-d’s stage. He is the Director. You and I and every single Jew play an essential role in preparing the world to understand this. Until that era arrives, all of our Jewish souls cry.

Whatever you do will make a tremendous difference in hastening the process. You’re just the person to start a trend of giving money to schools where Jewish children learn Torah. It’s not too late for you to start learning Torah yourself.  I know about a thousand rabbis who would be happy to help you. 

But, whatever you do, please do something. Do it now and let the whole world know about it. You learned about your roots for a reason: so you would know who’s up there rooting for you

You’ve got a new role, Mr. Hoffman. Break a leg.


Lieba (just like your great-grandmother) Rudolph

About the Author
Lieba Rudolph, her husband, Zev, and their young family returned to observant Jewish life when they were both over thirty. Now, after spending equal time in both worlds, she shares the joys and challenges of her journey, answering everyone's unasked question: why would anyone normal want to become religious?