Hollywood Actor Al Pacino Dresses As Chasidic Man & Visits Boro Park Shul

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The Wall Street Journal reports: Al Pacino, preparing for the role of Shylock in the Public Theater’s upcoming production of “The Merchant of Venice,” took his research into Brooklyn this week, visiting a Hasidic synagogue in Borough Park.

The actor made the trip with Barry Edelstein, director of the Public’s Shakespeare Initiative, to observe religious Jews in prayer and learn about the community.

Mr. Pacino, dressed in a dark suit and hat, stood at the back of the synagogue and went unrecognized as he observed the morning prayer, said Mr. Edelstein, who wouldn’t name the synagogue at the request of the friend who took them there.

As worshipers swayed in prayer, known as shuckling, Mr. Edelstein said he saw Mr. Pacino slowly rock back and forth with them, observing their movements.

“It was done with complete respect and a true sense of empathy,” said Mr. Edelstein.

Later, Mr. Pacino joined Mr. Edelstein and a man from Borough Park’s Hasidic community for coffee and cheesecake. Diners recognized the actor and asked for photographs, but no one asked the actor what he was doing in their small neighborhood in southwestern Brooklyn, Mr. Edelstein said. No one they encountered appeared to be offended that Mr. Pacino would be portraying the controversial Shylock, a character who has divided audiences over the play’s perceived anti-Semitism, Mr. Edelstein added, saying the man who showed them around the community was planning to see the production.

(Source: WSJ)


18 COMMENTS

  1. “Recognized the actor”? “Planning on going to the production”? Which part of Boro Park was this? Certainly not one I recognize!

  2. This sure isn’t method acting. How will he learn how a 16th century English Jew acted from a shteibel? He needs better hadracha on this.

  3. Tzippi (#2) opines:

    “This sure isn’t method acting. How will he learn how a 16th century English Jew acted from a shteibel? He needs better hadracha on this”.

    Not “16th century”, Tzipkela: seventeenth century.

    Not “English Jew” either. Shylock was a Venetian Jew.

    It seems that YOU “need better hadracha on this”.

  4. Why is this actor being shown any assistance when he is intending to portray a character that cast Jews in a very unfavorable light and perpetuates a dangerous stereotype of Jews as dishonest and greedy?

  5. Shakespeare may never have met a real Jew at any time in his life. We had been expelled from England in 1290 by Edward I, and were not permitted back in until 1656 by Oliver Cromwell; Shakespeare died in 1616.

    Negative portrayals of Jews in Western literature were very common until late modern times. Two notable nineteenth century exceptions were Sir Walter Scott’s *Ivanhoe* — one of the characters favorably portrayed was supposedly based on Rebecca Gratz — and Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Nabucco” which presents a highly edited (to say the least) depiction of the evil Babylonian emperor known to us as Nebuchadnezzar. These incredibly popular works resulted in the American and Italian public having much more favorable opinions of Jews than that of most European societies. (Scott was the most popular author in much of America in the mid 19th century and Verdi is an Italian national hero.)

  6. # 5, You are talking about one of the most famous actors in the world, take your head out of the sand and you will see that most people in BP HAVE heard of him.

  7. To Chaim ben Yehuda Zev:
    Thanks for the heoros. If any of Mr. Pacino’s handlers are following this you’ve straightened them out. Point is, Shylock wasn’t Chassidish. (Not that anyone was.) Though like many immigrants to England, he may have Anglicized a bit.
    Oh, and BTW, I hope you’re a LOT older than I.

  8. The depiction of a person demanding his pound of flesh as a jew is surely racist. It has served to portray the jews as blood suckers. So if Al Pacino comes to your shul to enhance the credibility of his upcoming act throw the bum out! Don’t invite him to kiddush either. Have you gone insane? Let him degrade the mafia not the people who stood at Har Sinai!

  9. Mods: since there’s no edit option can you change the one awaiting moderation to the following and thanks:

    To Chaim ben Yehuda Zev:
    Thanks for the heoros. If any of Mr. Pacino’s handlers are following this you’ve straightened them out. Point is, Shylock wasn’t Chassidish and predated the movement in any event.
    Oh, and BTW, I hope you’re a LOT older than I.

  10. #17: put your head where you will, the fact is that almost anyone not living in a cave in the 21st century has heard of Al Pacino