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Jewish Literary Review
At Level Ground
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007
The Jewish Paparazzi: Nancy Travis, Dave Lieberman, and Jerry Springer

From our July/August 2007 issue

Nancy Travis
While she’s played many Jewish characters on stage and screen, married a Jew and is raising her children Jewish, Nancy Travis was raised Catholic and had to have a crash course when she landed her first post-NYU role in an American Jewish Theater play called It’s Hard to Be a Jew. “They had to write the word ‘seder’ phonetically for me because I kept calling it a ‘cedar,’” confides Travis, who went on to star in Brighton Beach Memoirs on stage and movies including Three Men and a Baby and So I Married an Axe Murderer and TV’s Becker.

Now co-starring as Bill Engvall’s wife in his new TBS sitcom, premiering July 17, she’s enjoying playing a woman “who doesn’t take any flak” from her husband or kids, and the manageable sitcom schedule that allows her to be home for her boys, Benjamin, 9, and Jeremy, 5.

“Judaism has become a big part of my life. When I met my husband we took a class together and I learned a lot through his family. Now we’re pretty involved,” says Travis, who celebrates Shabbat and holidays with her family. “We’re very active in the [Reform] temple and we go to my in-laws in Florida every Passover. We have a typical Chanukah — I make latkes and we light the candles.”

Although she hasn’t converted, partly out of respect for her parents, Judaism “is the only religion that makes sense to me. I can fit my own moral beliefs around it and embrace it,” says Travis, who’s considering a trip to Israel for Ben’s bar mitzvah.

Later this year, Travis will be seen as Hugh Dancy’s sister in The Jane Austen Book Club, a romantic drama. “I love the chance to be different people. It’s like play all the time,” she says of her chosen career. “I’m living a fantasy.”


Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman, the young chef known for the quick, simple and inexpensive meals he’s prepared for his Food Network shows Good Deal and Dave Does, learned to cook from his Jewish father, not his mother. “My mom worked and my dad was a stay-at-home dad and did all the cooking, very simple stuff. His specialty was, take a whole chicken out of the package, dry it off, put it in the roasting pan, and stick it in the oven. His secret was using kosher chicken because it’s already salted — he didn’t have to do anything.”

Lieberman learned to make Jewish holiday favorites like brisket and his grandma Polly’s noodle kugel (featured on his show), but also became skilled at pastas and party food while appearing in a local cable cooking show as a college student at Yale. Press attention from the New York Times led to the Food Network spot and two books, but the bachelor chef, having moved from New York to Los Angeles, now wants to open a restaurant, “either Italian or Turkish-Middle Eastern” — and find Ms. Right. The best romantic meal he ever planned? “The one I never had to make,” he says with a grin. “‘Why don’t you come over for dinner?’ And dinner never happened. We skipped that whole part.”


Jerry Springer
Talk show referee Jerry Springer doesn’t go back to work on his eponymous syndicated program till August, which
freed him up to host America’s Got Talent for NBC this summer, a far easier job than his last reality TV foray, Dancing With the Stars. While he watched the recent DWTS season, he hasn’t kept up his own ballroom efforts. While he did dance with his daughter Katie at her wedding, her gown was so long and full that it hid their feet and all the footwork he’d learned. “So I’ve hung up my shoes,” he declares. “I’m never dancing again.” Not even a horah, Jer?

-- Text by Gerri Miller / Photo by Art Streiber
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