Home Culture Arts & Entertainment Nine Canadians you didn’t know were Jewish (or vice versa)

Nine Canadians you didn’t know were Jewish (or vice versa)

(L-R) Howie Mandel, Neve Campbell, Geddy Lee and Paul Shaffer WIKI COMMONS PHOTOS
(L-R) Howie Mandel, Neve Campbell, Geddy Lee and Paul Shaffer WIKI COMMONS PHOTOS

You may not know it, but some of the most famous Jews in the world — including Drake, Seth Rogen, William Shatner and Leonard Cohen — are also well-known Canadians. But there are actually scores more, some of whom you’d be shocked to learn are Canadian, some you’d be shocked to learn are Jewish.

In a bid to honour these yehudi Canucks, here’s a list of some of the most prominent Jews you didn’t know were Canadian…..or vice versa.

Lorne Michaels

Saturday Night Live might be a distinctly New York City show, but its creator was born and raised in Toronto. Michaels (née Lipowitz) began his career working in radio for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before moving to Los Angeles in 1968 to write for Laugh-In.

Geddy Lee

The singer of the legendary prog rock band Rush was born Gary Lee Weinrib to a pair of Polish Holocaust survivors who made it through the Dachau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. Just a few years after having his bar mitzvah in his native Toronto, Lee joined Rush — and the rest is classic rock history.

Frank Gehry

The man deemed by some to be the most important architect of modern times was born Frank Owen Goldberg in Toronto. Gehry’s famously famously crumpled creations include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Louis Vuitton Foundation building in Paris.

(A lot of) the cast of Degrassi: The Next Generation

Aubrey Graham — better known to one and all as the Grammy Award-winning rapper Drake — has become the most famous Jewish member of this popular teen drama show set in Toronto. But several of the show’s other stars over the years are Jewish too, including Lauren Collins (who played cheerleader Paige Michalchuk), Jake Goldsbie (who played computer geek Toby Isaacs), Shane Kippel (who played the bully Gavin “Spinner” Mason), Stacey Farber (who played goth girl Ellie Nash) and Jake Epstein (who played musician Craig Manning).

Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein at Occupy Wall Street in 2011. (Wikimedia Commons)

Naomi Klein at Occupy Wall Street in 2011 WIKI COMMONS PHOTO

Before producing fiery, well-known polemic books and documentaries that critique capitalism and globalization — like The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate — Klein was brought up in Montreal by Jewish “hippie” parents.

Howie Mandel

Nowadays, it’s easy to forget that Mandel, one of today’s most recognizable game show hosts — Deal or No Deal, America’s Got Talent — was also an actor and comedian with roles in shows like St. Elsewhere. Fewer probably know that the son of Jewish immigrants is from Toronto.

Neve Campbell

The face of the Scream horror film franchise (the protagonist — not the white-masked killer) was brought up in Guelph, Ont.. She’s now a practicing Catholic but describes herself as Jewish when anyone asks because of her Sephardic heritage on her mother’s side.

Ophira Eisenberg

Among a certain rarefied crowd, Ophira Eisenberg is a bit of a New York City icon. She hosts the NPR radio affiliate WNYC’s game show Ask Me Another, performs standup comedy and frequently hosts The Moth, a live storytelling show. But alas, the Brooklynite is originally from Calgary.

Paul Shaffer


Shaffer is well-known producer who was David Letterman’s band leader and musical director for all of the 33 years he was on late night television. He was raised in what is now Thunder Bay, Ont., got his musical start playing in venues around Edmonton and went to the University of Toronto.