Joan Rivers

How a first generation Jewish American became an entertainment legend.

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Since 1995, Joan Rivers had been a host for the E! Entertainment television network, where she and her daughter broadcast their “Joan and Melissa's E! Fashion Reviews” from the scene of the annual Golden Globe, Emmy and Academy Award ceremonies. Rivers herself won the 1990 Emmy award for best daytime talk show host.

Jewish Identity

Joan Rivers had been supportive of Jewish philanthropic and social causes and was a former Hadassah Woman of the Year. In her books, she made reference to Jewish holidays and rituals, as well as very trenchant and witty remarks about American Jewish social phenomena—including the Catskill Mountains Borscht Belt, where she performed early in her career.

In Enter Talking, there is a particularly moving account of her first Yom Kippur away from the warmth--and fury--of her family. Her portrayal of her own family's Jewish life provides us with confirmation of Jenna Weissman Joselit's observation in The Wonders of America (1994) that, for American Jews, "the Jewish home was now placed at the core of Jewish identity, often becoming indistinguishable from Jewishness itself."

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Shalom Goldman

Shalom Goldman received a B.S. degree in Hebrew Culture and Education, an M.A. in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Biblical Studies from New York University. He is currently a Professor of Hebrew and Middle Eastern Studies at Emory University.