Jewish World

Israeli Ambassador: Combating Antisemitism in Europe

Published in Sweden’s second largest newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet May 8th 2015.

“Antisemitism has to be fought”

By Isaac Bachman, Ambassador of Israel to Sweden

[Translated from Swedish]

… In recent years there has been a measurable rise in antisemitic violence in Europe as Jews have been subjected to ugly hate speech and physical attacks while their synagogues and cemeteries have been desecrated. The summer of 2014 saw an eruption of protests permeated with antisemitism in major European capitals in magnitudes not seen in decades. Today, in many communities, Jews can no longer publicly identify themselves without legitimately fearing for their safety while in parts of Europe, Jewish religious practices are under legislative attack. Most horrific of all, recent jihadi terrorist attacks have effectively targeted Jews for death in Paris, Brussels, and Copenhagen. The return of these jihadi terrorists with EU citizenship presents a major security threat for all of Europe, but first and foremost for Jewish communities.

In many European countries, systematic examinations of antisemitic incidents conducted by official security bodies show a rise of over a 100% in comparison to previous years. In many nations, the percentage of hate crimes committed against Jews (out of the total number of hate crimes against all minorities) is far higher than the proportion of Jews amongst the general population of those countries. For example in France where Jews represent less than 1% of the population, 40% of violent hate crimes targeted Jews in 2013.

Surveys conducted during 2013 and 2014 by respected international NGOs and intergovernmental bodies, including the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and America’s Anti-Defamation League, confirm that Jewish communities in many parts of Europe are being menaced. According to these surveys one-third of European Jewry are considering emigrating due to antisemitism and in Sweden 49% of Jews hide their Jewish symbols in public.

According to police figures there were 137 complaints of antisemitic incidents in Malmö 2013-14. Not only did none of these complaints lead to a conviction, none of them even led to a legal procedure. The Rabbi in Malmö estimates that he has been the target of roughly 150 antisemitic attacks during his 10 years in the city, including bottles being thrown at him. The Rabbi in Gothenburg has received death threats via email. Individuals have been targeted at home with swastikas drawn on their doors or cars, the synagogues in Malmö and Norrköping have had rocks thrown at their windows, and antisemitic graffiti was discovered at the entrance to the school Vasa Real in Stockholm, a school which includes some Jewish classes.

We also see the rise of a modern type of antisemitism throughout Europe. In the aftermath of the Holocaust it became widely accepted that hating Jews is wrong; however, in recent decades the hatred of Israel, the Jewish state, has become politically correct. While it is important to point out that not all criticism of Israel is antisemitic, many anti-Israel events feature blatant antisemitism.

This modern antisemitism was clearly displayed this summer when Stefan Löfven commented on Facebook that Israel has the right to defend itself, a comment which was then flooded with hate and insults. Many of the comments were clearly antisemitic, calling for the killing of Jews, for a new Hitler, praising Hitler and accusing Löfven of being Jewish, or being bought by “the Jews.”

Also this summer, demonstrations against Israel took place all across Europe. The demonstrations were officially against Israel and the operation in Gaza, but in many places marchers chanted “Jews to the Gas” and “death to the Jews.” It is noteworthy that the demonstrations in Europe were almost exclusively against Israel and hardly a word was spoken about the mass killings in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, or anywhere else in the world. A clear antisemitic double standard. In Sweden, four members of mainstream parties (from S, MP and C) were forced to resign during the summer’s operation due to antisemitic statements.

Now, more than ever, the growing manifestations of antisemitism necessitate the meeting of a forum dedicated to finding ways of contending with this threat to individuals, communities and human rights in general.

One of the primary messages that the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism hopes to convey is that this form of hatred should not be regarded as the enemy of the Jewish people alone, but as the common enemy of humanity. Wherever antisemitism is allowed to raise its ugly head, the infringement of the basic rights of other minorities is sure to follow, whether they be the rights of cartoonists to free expression or the rights of women, Roma, ethnic minorities and of the LGBT community. For this reason antisemitism has to be fought against tenaciously and urgently.

Click here for original article in Swedish.

Click here for English version.

Does anti-Israel mean anti-Semitism?

I received this comment yesterday, in response to the “Islamicized Sweden has declared war on the Jews” article I posted from Arutz Sheva (highly recommended reading):

“Seriously, if you can’t make a distinction between having a negative opinion of Israel (the state and their policies) and having an anti-Semitic opinion, how do you expect to be taken seriously?”

Let me give you three quick examples.

Israel, a liberal democracy, is always found at the top of the most negatively viewed countries in the world. In a BBC survey of 22 countries, only Iran and Pakistan are viewed worse than Israel, with North Korea tying Israel in 3rd place.

Journalists and politicans often justify this view by saying that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the world’s most dangerous conflict. However, when you rank the number of fatalities since 1950 (the modern State of Israel was established in 1948), the Arab-Israeli conflict is found in 49th place.

Moreover, at the UN, 40% of the Human Rights council resolutions are against one country: Israel. That must mean Israel is the most evil country in the world, right? Well, if you compare the number of condemnations to the number of deaths caused by a country; Israel gets several thousand percent more condemnations than she should. For example, North Korea has killed 2.25 million people, but has only received 10 condemnations. Israel has caused 46,000 deaths, but has received 223 condemnations. Go to 1:10 in the video below to see more examples.

What is the common thread? Why is Israel judged so unfairly? You guessed it, anti-Semitism.

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Pat Condell: Israel and the United Nations

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Charles Krauthammer: How to fight academic bigotry

This brilliant op-ed is from January 2014, but is just as relevant today as the boycott-Israel movement (BDS) is growing everyday.

“How to fight academic bigotry,” by Charles Krauthammer for The Washington Post, January 9, 2014:

For decades, the American Studies Association labored in well-deserved obscurity. No longer. It has now made a name for itself by voting to boycott Israeli universities, accusing them of denying academic and human rights to Palestinians.

Given that Israel has a profoundly democratic political system, the freest press in the Middle East, a fiercely independent judiciary and astonishing religious and racial diversity within its universities, including affirmative action for Arab students, the charge is rather strange.

Made more so when you consider the state of human rights in Israel’s neighborhood. As we speak, Syria’s government is dropping “barrel bombs” filled with nails, shrapnel and other instruments of terror on its own cities. Where is the ASA boycott of Syria?

And of Iran, which hangs political, religious and even sexual dissidents and has no academic freedom at all? Or Egypt, where Christians are being openly persecutedOr Turkey, Saudi Arabia or, for that matter, massively repressive China and Russia?

Which makes obvious that the ASA boycott has nothing to do with human rights. It’s an exercise in radical chic, giving marginalized academics a frisson of pretend anti-colonialism, seasoned with a dose of edgy anti-Semitism.

And don’t tell me this is merely about Zionism. The ruse is transparent. Israel is the world’s only Jewish state. To apply to the state of the Jews a double standard that you apply to none other, to judge one people in a way you judge no other, to single out that one people for condemnation and isolation — is to engage in a gross act of discrimination.

And discrimination against Jews has a name. It’s called anti-Semitism.

Former Harvard president Larry Summers called the ASA actions “anti-Semitic in their effect if not necessarily in their intent.”I choose to be less polite. The intent is clear: to incite hatred for the largest — and only sovereign — Jewish community on Earth.

What to do? Facing a similar (British) academic boycott of Israelis seven years ago, Alan Dershowitz and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg wrote an open letter declaring that, for the purposes of any anti-Israel boycott, they are to be considered Israelis.

Meaning: You discriminate against Israelis? Fine. Include us out. We will have nothing to do with you.

Thousands of other academics added their signatures to the Dershowitz/Weinberg letter. It was the perfect in-kind response. Boycott the boycotters, with contempt.

But academia isn’t the only home for such prejudice. Throughout the cultural world, the Israel boycott movement is growing. It’s become fashionable for musicians, actors, writers and performers of all kinds to ostentatiously cleanse themselves of Israel and Israelis.

The example of the tuxedoed set has spread to the more coarse and unkempt anti-Semites, such as the thugs who a few years ago disrupted London performances of the Jerusalem Quartet and the Israeli Philharmonic.

Five years ago in Sweden, Israel’s Davis Cup team had to play its matches in an empty tennis stadium because the authorities could not guarantee the Israelis’ safety from the mob. The most brazen display of rising anti-Semitism today is the spread of the “quenelle,” a reverse Nazi salute, popularized by the openly anti-Semitic French entertainer, Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala.

In this sea of easy and open bigotry, an unusual man has made an unusual statement. Russian by birth, European by residence, Evgeny Kissin is arguably the world’s greatest piano virtuoso. He is also a Jew of conviction. Deeply distressed by Israel’s treatment in the cultural world around him, Kissin went beyond the Dershowitz/Weinberg stance of asking to be considered an Israeli. On Dec. 7, he became one, defiantly.

Upon taking the oath of citizenship in Jerusalem, he declared: “I am a Jew, Israel is a Jewish state. . . . Israel’s case is my case, Israel’s enemies are my enemies, and I do not want to be spared the troubles which Israeli musicians encounter when they represent the Jewish state beyond its borders.”

Full disclosure: I have a personal connection with Kissin. For the past two years I’ve worked to bring him to Washington to perform for Pro Musica Hebraica, a nonprofit organization (founded by my wife and me) dedicated to reviving lost and forgotten Jewish classical music. We succeeded. On Feb. 24, Kissin will perform at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall masterpieces of Eastern European Jewish music, his first U.S. appearance as an Israeli.

The persistence of anti-Semitism, that most ancient of poisons, is one of history’s great mysteries. Even the shame of the Holocaust proved no antidote. It provided but a temporary respite. Anti-Semitism is back. Alas, a new generation must learn to confront it.

How? How to answer the thugs, physical and intellectual, who single out Jews for attack? The best way, the most dignified way, is to do like Dershowitz, Weinberg or Kissin.

Express your solidarity. Sign the open letter or write your own. Don the yellow star and wear it proudly.


“Obama’s Deteriorating Relationship with Israel,” by Gabriel Rosenberg from Arutz Sheva, June 28th 2013.

Here is an extract from my article that was published on Israel’s 3rd largest news site:

If you thought that U.S. President Barack Obama’s treatment of Israel was bad during his first term, brace yourself for his second and final term.

…Of course, not all treatment of Israel by Obama was bad in his first term, but I contend that it was merely a strategy as to not jeopardize his reelection bid.

After winning his second term, he no longer needs to worry about that and the true Obama agenda can emerge. This contention is not far-fetched at all, considering that in March of 2012 Obama told Russian President Medvedev, when he thought his microphone was turned off, “this is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”

We have seen a preview of that agenda early on in his second term when he chose to fill three key positions with John Kerry for Secretary of State, Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, and John Brennan as the new CIA director. These individuals have dubious or hostile views of Israel.

For example, in October of 2000 Hagel was one of only four Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel. He has also made very odd statements including “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” Furthermore, Hagel is against unilateral sanctions of Iran and single-handedly killed an Iran sanctions bill in 2008.

John Brennan refers to Jerusalem as “Al-Quds,” the Islamic name for the city in an attempt to distance Jerusalem from its Jewish roots. Another troublesome aspect of Brennan is that he has openly said: “nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists, or Islamists, because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam.”

Last month John Kerry blamed Israel’s ‘prosperity’ for the lack of progress in the peace process with Palestinians. He also compared the families of pro-Palestinian Turkish ‘activists’ killed by the IDF in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident with the families of the innocent victims killed in the Boston marathon bombings.

Moreover, recently Obama appointed Samantha Power as his ambassador to the UN, who in 2002 called for a U.S. invasion of Israel to stop the (alleged) ‘genocide’ of Palestinians.

While Obama’s second term team foreshadows trouble for Israel, the actions of his administration raise further concern. In March…

Click here for full article.


“Is the ‘Arab Spring’ Good or Bad for Israel?” by Gabriel Rosenberg from Arutz Sheva. August 12, 2013

Here is an extract from my article that was published on Israel’s 3rd largest news site:

What factors affect Israel – and the rest of the world – in the so-called “Arab Spring.”

The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ has been celebrated by the mainstream media since the very beginning. Most pundits and politicians believed that this huge movement stretching across North Africa and the Middle East was supposed to bring democracy, secularism, and prosperity for its people. They could not have been more wrong.

Granted democracy was given a chance, but instead of secularism and prosperity we’ve seen a rise of Islamism, terrorism, rape, Christian persecution, anti-Semitism, unemployment and an entire region arguably the most destabilized in modern history.

Islamist parties won the elections in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan government and constitution are based on Sharia law, Turkey is being re-Islamized, leaders of the Syrian rebels have called for a country with Sharia law, and we’ve seen a surge of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates across the region including Algeria, Mali, Yemen and Somalia.

The latest proof of the surge of Al-Qaeda was provided last Sunday when the U.S. closed an unprecedented 22 embassies and consulates across North Africa, the Middle East and Asia due to an Al-Qaeda terror threat.

To say that the Arab Spring has been a disaster for its people is an understatement of epic proportions.

But what does this mean for Israel? I would like to examine two key factors: the collapse of the economies of these countries and the extraordinary rise of anti-Semitism.

Egypt, with the largest population of the countries affected, is the best example of a shattered economy. The unemployment number has reached a record high, there is soaring inflation, chronic fuel shortages and tourism revenue is at a record low.

This is mainly good news for Israel, since a bankrupt country cannot afford a costly war. However, it’s not all good news. With (possible) further economic problems, and a deeply divided population, there is one card left a government may play to unify its people: blame the Jews. This has been used throughout human history, and while this is not exclusively a Muslim strategy, it does work particularly well in the Middle East.

That has been on rampant display in Syria, where President Assad blames Israel for aiding the rebels, while the rebels accuse Israel of aiding Assad. However, so far the rise of anti-Semitism in the Arab Spring countries is not a result of desperate governments, but rather the rise of Islamism.

Ousted Egyptian President Morsi called Jews the “descendants of pigs and apes,” said “we must raise our children and grandchildren to hate Jews,” joined in Muslim prayers calling for the “dispersal of Jews,” and appointed ministers whose remarks about the Jewish people made Hitler look almost Jew-friendly.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan called Israel a “terrorist state,” and at pro-Erdogan protests across the world anti-Israel rhetoric is common. In Germany, where 25,000 demonstrators had gathered last July, the protestors chanted “down with Israel” and “Israel be cursed.” The protestors were echoing statements made by Erdogan’s AKP party who blamed “Jewish interests” for the ongoing anti-Erdogan protests in Turkey.

…For the first time in Israel’s history – as opposed to the War of Independence, when it faced seven Arab armies – Israel faces four active borders of terrorism: Gaza ,Syria, Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula. The first Muslim country to recognize Israel (Turkey) is on a rampant path of becoming re-Islamized, Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt has never been more fragile, Hezbollah has regained all of its missile arsenal since the last conflict with Israel, and Islamists are gaining influence and power across the region.

So no, the so-called Arab Spring has not been good for Israel, it has not been good for secularism, freedom, women’s rights, minority rights, the region, the economy and much more. The list goes on.

One must ask oneself, how could so many journalists, pundits and politicians get it so wrong? Could it be because truth does not matter in the mainstream media and this politically-correct world? That aligning yourself with popular opinion matters more than facts and proper research?

Yes, that’s exactly how it happened.

Click here for full article.


“Survey: 40% of France Holds Anti-Semitic Beliefs” by

Amid the rise in hate crimes aimed at the Jewish community in France, the World Zionist Organization conducted a survey to calculate theisrael antisemitsm anti zionism level of anti-Semitism among French citizens

The survey revealed that more than 40% of the French population holds some kind of anti-Semitic beliefs, the most common one being that Jews “have too much power in the business world.”

The survey also found that 47% of the population believes that “French Jews are more loyal to Israel than the country where they live.”

Nineteen percent of young men up to 24 expressed negative attitudes toward Jews in France and 43% of those with a university degree or higher expressed positive attitudes towards the Jews of France.

Fifty-four percent of those with a college education or higher believe the anti-Semitic sentiments are primarily based on negative feelings towards Jews as a whole and have nothing to do with anti-Zionist attitudes felt in other European countries. On this note, the survey also found that 60% of French citizens prefer not to lend an opinion on the Israel-Arab conflict.

Last year French President Francois Hollande promised to take a tougher stance on hate crimes aimed at the country’s Jewish population and said he would take efforts to curb the string of anti-Semitic crimes in the country.


Norway is now Judenrein (Jew-free). Who Cares?

images-976It does not stop with Norway. Jews are leaving England, and Jew hatred is on the rise in France, Italy and the Netherlands. This is a huge problem that is the direct result of the Islamic invasion of immigrants. Yet few Jews, and not many more Christians, are willing to acknowledge that fact.

Political Islam  Earlier this year, the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported that the last Jews in Norway are leaving. (Judenrein is German for cleansed of Jews. Some debate whether there are a few hundred Jews are still remaining, but the problem is the same.) Who cares? Certainly not the Jews or the Christians of America. The progressives, secularists, the media or any other social group you can find, do not care. NO ONE CARES.

And why is this news ignored? Because if you recognize the effect (persecution) then you must inquire about the cause of the persecution. Norway is filling up with Muslims. The cause of the recent build up of Jew hatred in Europe is Islam, and Jews and Christians do not want to touch Islam, except to bend a knee to Mohammed. This is not to say that Jews do not resist anti-Semitism, but it seems that they only attack it when it is from the Christians.


Click here for full article




Israel gets first Ethiopian-born beauty queen

missisrael2013Yityish Aynaw, a former Israeli army officer, has become the first Ethiopian-born Israeli to win the Miss Israel pageant.

A panel of judges awarded the title to Aynaw, a 21-year-old model who came to Israel about a decade ago, at the International Convention Center Haifa on Wednesday.

“It’s important that a member of the Ethiopian community wins the competition for the first time,” she was quoted by Israeli media as telling the judges in response to a question. “There are many different communities of many different colors in Israel, and it’s important to show that to the world.” Aynaw came to Israel with her family when she was 12. Acclimating to Israel was difficult at first, Aynaw said, but she picked up the language quickly with the help of a friend.

She has been working as a saleswoman at a clothing store since her army discharge.

During the competition, Aynaw cited the slain American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. as one of her heroes.

“He fought for justice and equality, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here: I want to show that my community has many beautiful qualities

Yityish Aynaw in Ethiopia after winning Miss Israel.

Yityish Aynaw in Ethiopia after winning Miss Israel.

Click here for full article.



“The Future of Judaism” by Daniel Pipes. January 25, 2005

pipesUntil the eighteenth century, there was basically only one kind of Judaism, that which is now called Orthodox. It meant living by the religion’s 613 laws, and doing so suffused Jews’ lives with their faith. Then, starting with the thinker Baruch Spinoza (1632-77) and moving briskly during the Haskala, or “enlightenment,” from the late eighteenth century, Jews developed a wide variety of alternate interpretations of their religion, most of which diminished the role of faith in their lives and led to a concomitant reduction in Jewish affiliation.

These alternatives and other developments, in particular the Holocaust, caused the ranks of the Orthodox to be reduced to a small minority. Their percentage of the total world Jewish population reached a nadir in the post-World War II era, when it declined to about 5%.

The subsequent 60 years, however, witnessed a resurgence of the Orthodox element. This was, again, due to many factors, especially a tendency among the non-Orthodox to marry non-Jews and have fewer children. Recent figures on America published by the National Jewish Population Survey also point in this direction. The Orthodox proportion of American synagogue members, for example, went from 11% in 1971 to 16% in 1990 to 21% in 2000-01. (In absolute numbers, it bears noting, the American Jewish population went steadily down during these decades.)

Should this trend continue, it is conceivable that the ratio will return to roughly where it was two centuries ago, with the Orthodox again constituting the great majority of Jews. Were that to happen, the non-Orthodox phenomenon could seem in retrospect merely an episode, an interesting, eventful, consequential, and yet doomed search for alternatives, suggesting that living by the law may be essential for maintaining a Jewish identity over the long term.

Click here for full article


“Davidic-era temple unearthed in dig near Jerusalem” by The Times of Israel December 26, 2012

Archeologists say figurines date to biblical times and provide evidence for the existence of ritual cult at Tel Motza


A 2,750-year-old temple and a cache of sacred vessels from biblical times were discovered in an archaeological excavation near Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.

The finds, unearthed at Tel Motza on the western outskirts of the capital, date from the early monarchic period and include pottery figurines of men and horses, providing rare evidence for the existence of a ritual cult in the Jerusalem region at the beginning of the Judean monarchy. The precise significance of the figurines is still unknown.

“The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judea at the time of the First Temple,” said excavation directors Anna Eirikh, Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz. They said the structure’s uniqueness was enhanced by the site’s proximity to Jerusalem, which was the kingdom’s main center and the seat of kings David and Solomon.

Click here for full article


Eligible Jewish Hollywood A-listers

The Jerusalem Post (September 19) — Who are some of young Hollywood’s Jewish bachelors and bachelorettes? Take a look.

Emmanuelle Chriqui 

chriquiEmmanuelle Chriqui was born in Montreal, Canada, to Jewish parents from Morocco.

Her first Hollywood role was in Detroit rock City (1999). But her breakout performance was in the 2000 film Snow Day, in which she played the foxy Claire Bonner. In 2006 she appeared in the music video titled Lips of an Angel by rock band Hinder.

Chriqui starred in several films and in 2000 was nominated for a DVD Exclusive Award as Best Actress for her performance in 100 Girls.

In 2005 she starred in the film Adam and Eve.

She increased her visibility by playing Sloan on the TV hit series Entourage and by starring opposite Adam Sandler in the film You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008).

Rashida Jones 

A familiar face to TV fans, Rashida Jones played the role of Ann Perkins in the Rashida Jones (Reuters)TV sitcom Parks and Recreation, Louisa Fenn in the drama Boston Public, and Karen Filippelli in the sitcom The Office.

Jones was born in 1976 in Los Angeles, the daughter of media mogul, producer and musician Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton (The Mod Squad). Her father is of African- American and Welsh ancestry, and her mother is Ashkenazi of Russian origin. Jones was raised Reform and attended Hebrew school. As an adult, she practices Judaism and says she goes to synagogue on the High Holy Days.

Mila Kunis 

Actress Mila Kunis has a gift for comedy and drama, spanning the range

Mila Kunis (Reuters)between playing the perky Jackie Burkhart on the TV sitcom That ’70s Show and the malevolent Lily in the movie thriller Black Swan, for which she was nominated for several awards.

Milena Markovna Kunis was born in 1983 to a Jewish family in Chernivtsi, Ukraine. To escape the anti-Semitism there, her family moved to California when Kunis was seven.

Her mother, Elvira, is a physics teacher, and her father, Mark, is a mechanical engineer.


Michelle Trachtenberg 

Michelle Trachtenberg was born in 1985 in New York City. Her mother is Russian Jewish, and her maternal grandparents live in Israel. She and her Michelle Trachtenberg (Reuters)mother moved to Los Angeles, while her father remained in NYC.

Trachtenberg grew up in Brooklyn and started her acting career young. She began appearing in commercials at age three. She continued to act and dance through her school years, making regular television appearances from the age of 10. She landed a recurring role in the children’s TV show The Adventures of Pete & Pete (1993) and starred in Harriet the Spy (1996).

But it was her role as Buffy’s sister Dawn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1997 that brought her to worldwide attention, all before she was 18.

On TV, she had a role in All My Children and Gossip Girl. Her roles in film include EuroTrip, 17 Again and Ice Princess.

In 2011, Trachtenberg ranked No. 27 on the 2011 Maxim list of Hot 100 women.

Dianna Agron

Dianna Agron (Reuters)

Actress Dianna Agron may be most familiar to television audiences as cheerleader Quinn Fabray in the hit TV series Glee.

Dianna Agron was born in 1986 in Savannah, Georgia, to parents Ronald and Mary Agron.

Her father’s family is from Russia. Their original surname, Agronsky, was changed when they immigrated to the US and arrived at Ellis Island in the early 1900s.

James Franco 

James Franco (Reuters)James Franco was born in 1978 in Palo Alto, California. His mother, Betsy, is of Jewish Russian descent, and his father, Doug, who died in 2011, was of Portuguese and Swedish descent.To overcome his shyness, Franco ventured into acting. He made his debut in the TV series Freaks and Geeks. In 2001 he played the title role in the TV movie James Dean, which catapulted him to the silver screen. He has appeared in such films as Spider-Man, City by the Sea, Pineapple Express, Nights in Rodanthe, Flyboys and Milk.

Franco has a bachelor of fine arts degree in English from UCLA; two MFA degrees in creative writing from Columbia and Brooklyn College; and an MFA in film from New York University.

Andrew Garfield 

Andrew Garfield was born in 1983 in Los Angeles to a British mother, Lynn, and an American father, Richard. His family’s surname was originally Garfinkel.Andrew Garfield (Reuters)

When he was three, the family moved to Surrey, England. Garfield began acting in youth theater productions when he was at school. At 19, he attended the Central School of Speech and Drama.

His first professional roles were on the stage. In 2005 he made his TV debut in the UK in the teen series Sugar Rush, followed in 2005 by some episodes of Dr. Who.

On Broadway, Garfield played Biff in Death of a Salesman.

In 2010, Garfield played Eduardo in The Social Network and Tommy in Never Let Me Go, two films that brought him to full international attention. He was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor in The Social Network.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt was born in 1981 in Los Angeles to parents Jane Gordon and Dennis Levitt. After working for several years as a child actor, he became well known for his role on the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996).

Prior tJoseph Gordon-Levitt (Reuters)o that, he had already worked steadily in feature films, debuting in A River Runs Through It.

Following his work on 3rd Rock, he took time off from acting to attend Columbia University.

In the early 2000s, he began taking on a string of intense dramatic roles in indie films such as Mysterious Skin, Brick, The Lookout and Stop-Loss.

By 2009, he was considered one of the leading men of indie cinema with his Golden Globe-nominated role in the comedy-drama (55) Days of Summer. In 2010 he established himself as a mainstream star in Inception.

Other formidable films include 50/50, The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper and Lincoln.

Jake Gyllenhaal 

Jake Gyllenhaal was born in 1980 in Los Angeles. His mother and father are producer/ screenwriter Naomi Foner and director Stephen Gyllenhaal. His Jake Gyllenhaal (Reuters)mother is from a Jewish family, and his father’s ancestry includes Swedish and British.

He made his movie debut at 11 in the film City Slickers, playing Billy Crystal’s son. He made an impact in the late 1990s and early 2000s in films such as October Sky (1999) and as the title role in the cult phenomenon psychological thriller Donnie Darko (2001).

He followed this with roles encompassing many different genres, including the romantic comedy Bubble Boy, The Good Girl, and the science-fiction blockbuster The Day after Tomorrow.

He won critical acclaim for his performance in the 2005 drama Brokeback Mountain, for which he was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe. He has since appeared in such films as Zodiac, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Love & Other Drugs.

Daniel Radcliffe 

Known to movie audiences since 2001 as Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe was Daniel Radcliffe (Reuters)born in 1989 in London, England, to father Alan Radcliffe, a literary agent, and mother Marcia Gresham, who is a casting director. His father is from a Northern Irish Protestant background, and his mother was born in South Africa to a Jewish family.

Radcliffe began performing in small school productions. In 1999 he played young David on TV’s David Copperfield. Soon after, he was cast in the title role in the film in Harry Potter and the Sorcer’s Stone. He went on to star in the sequels Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002); Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004); Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005); and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007).

After signing a contract to make the fifth Harry Potter movie, he was named Britain’s richest teenager, with a £23 million fortune.

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