Life & Culture

How Jewish is Jonah Hill, the 'Nice Jewish boy' from Beverly Hills

Hill, who was born Jonah Feldstein grew up going to cheder


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 13: Jonah Hill and Beanie Feldstein attend the LA special screening of Annapurna Pictures' "Booksmart" at Ace Hotel on May 13, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Jonah Hill is an actor that found fame playing Jew-ish characters, from Seth in Superbad to Donnie Azoff in Wolf of Wall Street, Hill (née Feldstein) is almost typecast as a certain type of secular-ish Jew. But how Jewish is the 39-year-old?

American actor, comedian, and producer Jonah Hill. The 39-year-old found fame as an overweight frizzy-haired brunette in stoner-slacker films such as Superbad but later slimmed down and dyed his hair blond.

A key member of influential movie maker Judd Apatow’s ‘Jew Tang Clan’ – which also includes Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and Jason Segel - he was nominated for Oscars twice for his scene-stealing performances as a numbers nerd in Moneyball (2011) and greedy trader in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).

Kanye West recently credited him and his film 21 Jump Street for making him stop being antisemitic, writing alongside a poster of the film: "Watching Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street made me like Jewish people again." Hill, who was once such a big West fan he chartered a plane to fly to an album listening party, was said to be less than impressed.

While Hill has proclaimed himself ‘a nice Jewish boy’, Hill has also recently been attacked by his former ex for using therapy language to be emotionally controlling.


Born Jonah Hill Feldstein to Jewish parents in Los Angeles, he was the middle child of music industry business manager Richard Feldstein and costume designer Sharon Lyn. Brought up in and around the movie world set, both his siblings were also in the entertainment business.

His older brother Jordan, who died unexpectedly in 2017 at the age of 40, was the manager of the pop band Maroon 5. His younger sister Beanie Feldstein is an actress with roles in Lady Bird, Booksmart and recently starred as Monica Lewinsky in American Crime Story: Impeachment.


His family were members of the Reform synagogue Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and he attended the weekly cheder. He described his bar mitzvah, which had the theme ‘Jonah goes platinum’ as ‘magical’ with the cantor Yonah Kliger later recalling: "He was electric, completely captivating and seemed very comfortable in his own skin which is a rare thing for a 13-year-old. It’s not just hindsight to say I felt this person was destined for something great, though I didn’t know what at the time."

His high school was the Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica. It was there that he made friends with Dustin Hoffman’s son Justin. The older Jewish actor thought Jonah’s acting skills shone through when the teenagers made elaborate prank phone calls and got him his first role in the 2004 film I Heart Huckabees.

What Jewish things does he say and do?

Like other members of the Jew Tang Clan, being Jewish is part of his schtick, but he can have a sometimes uncomfortable relationship with that part of his identity.

He admitted that he particularly struggled with his The Wolf of Wall Street role of hedonistic fraudulent trader Donnie Azoff even though he had campaigned hard to get the job. "Being someone who’s Jewish and playing someone who’s Jewish in such an unflattering way, I’ve definitely thought about how the things that are beautiful about Judaism are not the things portrayed by these guys," he said. "They’re actually the things that hurt Judaism because these characters are all about greed and money, and there’s that old stereotype that all Jews care about is money. So, they’re not exactly what we want as a culture out there.

"I personally regard Donnie as the most unlikeable person I’ve ever played."

A keen surfer, he responded to antisemitism in that world – including surfers putting swastikas on their surfboards – by creating the brand ‘Surf Jews’ with Beastie Boy Mike Diamon and filmmaker Spike Jonze.

"We have all this imagery which is the opposite of a swastika," he said of the concept. "It is funny and silly and not meant to be serious in the slightest."

While seeing a therapist isn’t an innately Jewish thing – few people have made a film about it. Last year he released a documentary with his real-life therapist Phil Stutz revealing how his insecurities – particularly around his weight meant he was ‘intensely f*cked up’.

Earlier this year he released the film You People, which he both wrote and starred in. Playing Ezra, a Jewish broker and podcaster who falls in love with a black fashion designer, the film attempted to get over the stereotypes and tension between the two minorities. But while it did well on Netflix, it was attacked by both black and Jewish communities for its reductive stereotyping with David Baddiel saying it reinforced tropes about Jews being "white, privileged and racist."

Last year Hill filed a petition to remove ‘Feldstein’ from his name – the reason cited was he: "wants to make his professional name his legal name."


A typical bagel and lox with therapy-on-the-side Hollywood Jew.

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