Academy Award Winning Actress Gwyneth Paltrow has joined the Jewish Genealogy trend, having been profiled for the NBC series “Who Do You Think You Are.” The episode, which will air this weekend, follows Paltrow as she researches her family tree and promises some interesting discoveries.
Gwyneth’s father, TV producer Bruce Paltrow, descended from the Paltrowicz family, an illustrious Polish rabbinic dynasty and his great-grandfather Paltrowicz, was the rabbi of the town of Nowograd, near Lomza, in the Bialystok province. His father, Rabbi Simcha (Simon) Paltrowicz, moved to the USA in 1872 and held a pulpit in Buffolo, NY, for many years. He published this book, Simchas Hegion (Loose translation: “The Joy of Knowledge”), which collects his original insights into the Torah and the Jewish festivals (in Hebrew). Interestingly, it was published in faraway Jerusalem, which indicates a very deep attachment to tradition, though he had traveled so far.
Paltrow’s mother, actress Blythe Danner, is a Quaker of Dutch descent, according to Wikipedia (though I did not look into that).
The shows producers made use of the Jewish Records Index (JRI)-Poland‘s extensive records to help Gwyneth trace her family tree. The JRI-Poland is an incredible resource for Polish Jewish ancestry research, with over 4 million entries. So it’s well worth checking if you have Polish blood, and what Ashkenazi Jew doesn’t have Polish blood somewhere in their family tree?
My own background is Hungarian and my family were typically snooty about that, though recently I discovered that my great-great-great grandfather was from a town near Warsaw. That’s a special discovery for us as my brother now lives with his family in Warsaw, where he works as a rabbi. The Joys of Jewish Genealogy!
Good luck, Gwyneth, in digging up your Jewish roots. It’s a wonderful journey – and let us know if you find any old letters in Yiddish!