The Chassid who got too close to Natalie Portman

Most aspiring actors would jump at the chance of starring as Natalie Portman’s husband in a Hollywood movie.

But one young amateur —a Chassidic kitchen-cabinet salesman from Brooklyn — has stepped down from just that role after an outraged response from his community.

Abe Karpen, 25, was to partner Israel-born Ms Portman in one of 12 five-minute romantic vignettes in New York, I Love You, currently shooting in the city.

In parts already filmed, the two chat in Hebrew, and the Star Wars actress, modestly dressed for her role as an observant woman, apparently tells Mr Karpen that she wants to become more religious.

But despite adhering to strict Orthodox customs — such as refusing to hold the 26-year-old actress’s hand during one scene — the father-of-three managed to offend communal leaders.

“I am backing out of the movie,” Mr Karpen told the New York Daily News. “It’s not acceptable in my community. It’s a lot of pressure I am getting. They [the rabbis] didn’t like the idea of a Chassidic guy playing in Hollywood.

“I have my kids in religious schools and the rabbi called me over yesterday and said in order for me to keep my kids in the school I have to do what they tell me and back out,” Mr Karpen continued.

“This is when I woke up and saw that I made a big mistake. My kids mean everything to me, and my community where I live means everything to me.”

“We are very sorry that this has created a problem for him personally and for the community,” said the film’s executive producer, Jan Korbelin.

“He’s a great ambassador of his faith and it came out of the left field,” Mr Korbelin continued. “This is the last thing this picture should be doing. This film is about love and understanding between different people and communities.”



Four frum films :
Ushpizin - Heart-warming drama about unexpected Succot guests that includes Chassidim among the cast
A stranger Among Us - New York cop Melanie Griffith goes undercover to solve a murder
Yentl - Barbra Streisand as the gender-bending yeshiva bucher
Kadosh - Grinding grimness by director Amos Gitai about female oppression

Last updated: 4:48pm, August 17 2009