Even Hollywood feels quieter as Rosh Hashanah sweeps in with the sundown.
For the next two days, even Jews who don’t consider themselves religiously observant will probably find themselves sitting in the pew of some synagogue (Hollywood has a lot of what we call “high holiday Jews”) doing their very best to connect to a tradition that for many of us seems ancient, irrelevant and tribal. Synagogues throughout the country, and in Los Angeles in particular, will see their numbers swell, their hallways swarmed and their rabbis do all in their power to teach, inspire and connect to God, the ultimate studio boss. In that space, some Jews will pray, some will inevitably find staring at plaster more amusing than the sermon, and still others will hide their iphones and blackberries in the pages of their mahzor (high holy day prayerbook) to catch up on The New York Times. But even those who find the liturgy foreign and inaccessible, unrelatable or weird, will drag themselves to shul, armed with nothing more than their identities, to engage in the unifying fabric and comfort of community.
Others will twitter.
The Hollywood Crush blog at MTV.com reported this morning that celebrities Nicole Richie, Ricky Martin and Pink all took to their twitter accounts to say “Shana Tovah” (Happy New Year) to their followers and Jewish friends. Pink, born Alicia Moore has a Jewish mother and is celebrating her birthday this Rosh Hashanah as well.
Another gossip blog, famecrawler, wondered about the high holiday whereabouts of famous Jews Adam Sandler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jerry Seinfeld and Ben Stiller. Like, would somebody please tell us where they go to shul? Too bad paparazzi: no flash photography allowed on chag.
It occurs to me that Rosh Hashanah and Hollywood have something unusual in common: They both offer visions of the world as it is and visions of the world as it could be. Rosh Hashanah reminds us of who we are in the world and tells us that change is possible. Hollywood has the power to conjure human dreams and the influence to affect social and political change. It’s no wonder Jews have been the primary architects of Hollywood—hours upon hours in shul, you start to think about an Oscar.
Just as every unwritten script is a blank slate, Rosh Hashanah offers the soul a chance to begin again, to renew, to start fresh. Beginnings are a fundamental part of the fabric of human life and an essential element of every story. The high holidays, like going to the movies, offers us the chance to reflect on what is real, right where we are, and to imagine an ideal of where we ought to be. These are the dreamy visions of Hollywood: full of human drama, conflict and comedy, but also vehicles for imagining something different—like, say, giant blue avatars, surreal dream sequences with Leo DiCaprio and a world in which a vampire can love a high school girl.
This year let us continue to dream of a world redeemed, where violence is only seen in movies and movies wield their power to change the world.
[correction appended: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that musician Joel Madden is Jewish.]