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This is my latest column for Jewish News:

So it turns out that the Canadian pop star Justin Bieber says the Shema prayer before he goes on-stage. I am pleased but not surprised. When I was writing my recently-published book about him I found myself wondering whether Bieber – a god-fearing young man and the most blamelessly-living pop star since Cliff Richard – might find Judaism a good fit.

He could so be a nice Jewish boy – but don’t tell his mother! A very Christian lady, Pattie used to pray that Justin might grow into a modern-day version of the biblical prophet Samuel, an inspiring voice of holiness for his generation.

But when a young Jewish pop manager called Scott Braun promised to propel Justin to superstardom, Pattie prayed again, saying: “God, you don’t want this Jewish kid to be Justin’s man, do you?” Perhaps he did. Justin recently wore a kippah at the wedding of one of his Jewish band members and sang Hava Naglia at the reception.

He is far from the only gentile celebrity to flirt with Judaism. I’ve written biographies of several famous people and I love it when these moments pop up. When I wrote about Dannii Minogue, for instance, she came across as a philosemite. She loves joining Jewish pals for Shabbat dinners and has worn Judaic jewellery.

As I researched my book about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s tumultuous relationship I found myself sidetracked as I found ever-more admirable stories of Jolie’s father Jon Voight’s love of Jewish people and his support for the state of Israel. He is the Oy Va Goy of Hollywood – or the Oy Va Voight, if you will.

Not all gentile celebs are so admirable. When Madonna – who was baptised as a Catholic – publicly embraced a monstrously-diluted form of Kabballah, she didn’t only embarrass herself. She also muddied perceptions of those of us who are sincerely fascinated by the real Jewish mysticism. Her visit to the Israeli town of Tz’fat, the home of Jewish mysticism, brought a type of attention to the town which understandably dismayed many of its residents.

Not that everyone who has critcised Madonna is on strong ground. Boy George, who bizarrely once had a Magen David tattooed to his head, has slammed Madonna’s interest in Kabbalah. He also called her “a vile, hideous, horrible human being with no redeeming qualities”. Ironically, if I was in a bad mood those would be precisely the words I would use to describe him.

It gets weirder. When Paris Hilton – who I have also written a biography of – was jailed for driving offences in 2007, she asked the wardens if she could have kosher steaks delivered to her cell from the Prime Grill restaurant in Hollywood. She is also a fan of Madonna’s form of Kabbalah. “It helps you confront your fears,” explained Paris. “Like if a girl borrowed my clothes and never gave them back I would confront her.”

During one Kabbalah class she attended, as the assembled discussed how they had used it to help them come to terms with bereavement, Paris blurted out a random story about a “hot guy” she knew. “Nobody knew what to say,” said an eye-witness. Well, quite. And why was I not surprised when Lindsay Lohan decided not to see-through her much trumpeted conversion plans? It’s just a game for some people.

I have admiration for the famous gentiles who actually converted, including Sammy Davis Jr, Ivanka Trump, Marilyn Monroe and Felicity Kendal. Partly because it’s fun to be able to put those four people in the same sentence.

If young Justin ‘Bubbeleh’ ever does decide to convert he could become more like the prophet Samuel than his mother had ever imagined. Be careful what you pray for, Pattie – it might just come true!

14 Responses to “Oy Va Voight, it's Justin Bubbeleh!”

  1. Shmuel says:


  2. Stan says:

    I’m not sure why people find Madonna’s brand of Kabbalah offensive. I don’t know what she believes. Whatever it is she is entitled to it. I happen to love Tsfat. Its an amazing place. My brand of Judaism is certainly not the same as those we think of as living in Tsfat, but I am so attracted to the place, and by aspects of Kabbalah.
    I respect Madonna’s beliefs (whatever they are) and I appreciate her support of Israel.


  3. The Fogel says:

    Fair play, Stan you’re trying to be nice but have you seen what the ‘Kabbalah’ organisation Madonna promotes does? It’s a horrible & exploitative cult. You want to look up their track record and then you will see why people find it offensive.

  4. Jacob says:

    The Kabbalah Center….they dazzle you with some lines of real kabbalah that the average person has no hope of truly understanding….then they tell you to give them money….give ’till it hurts……ah…now you’re REALLY spiritual!

  5. DF says:

    What is your faith Chas? I only just thought to ask after reading this post!

  6. stephen says:

    Hey Chas, would you consider converting to Judaism?

  7. blahblahblah says:

    But why would anyone want that creepy little Osmond imitation around anyway?

  8. anon says:

    Oy just enjoy urselves where you are people u’ll still get a place in the World to Come whether ya convert or not unless you doing anything silly in your lifetime like break every single Noahide Law which would make you a muppet on this blog :)

  9. Duvid Crockett, King of DeLancey Street says:

    Justin and the Schnip

    Let us discuss the niceties of the proposed conversion of Justin. Who would perform the brit mila and, more important, who would be the sandek and who would be invited to the reception?

    Chas; time for some fresh research for your revised Justin biography, Duvidl suggests.

  10. blahblahblah says:

    a god-fearing young man and the most blamelessly-living pop star since Cliff Richard
    Well,it’s hardly difficult for someone whose love-spuds are as small and hairless as a couple of Maltesers.Let me know if he’s still clean-living when his bollocks drop and he has the wherewithall to actually do something to those groupies.

  11. annie says:

    Talk about celebrity converts to Judaism, how could you forget the No. 1 celebrity – Elizabeth Taylor.

  12. Benjy says:

    Isla Fisher? OK, so essentially she converted to marry Sacha Baron Cohen, but she did it properly…

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