Live long and prosper: How Nimoy's Judaism shaped Spock's world

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We're in the midst of the High Holy Days, the period between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and I just came across an apropos video excerpt of a talk by Leonard Nimoy, the actor famous for his role as First Officer Spock in Star Trek, the original series.

In this clip, Nimoy responds to the question, "Is there Judaism in Star Trek?" He begins by listing Jewish values -- education, social justice, compassion for those in need, the dignity of the individual -- that are found in Star Trek. He talks of his childhood as a Jew in overwhelmingly Catholic Boston and how it informed his role as an alienated character, "the other, the outsider," not fully at home among either humans or Vulcans.

His Judaism not only made him feel at home in the series and in the role, but it was the well from which he drew the Vulcan greeting gesture. In the clip, he talks about the impression made on him as a child by the drama of the Priestly Blessing chanted by the kohanim (men of the congregation directly descended from Aaron) on the bimah (platform) of the synagogue:

(Nimoy grew up in the West End of Boston, then an Eastern European Jewish neighborhood, cleared in the 1950s by "urban renewal" for high rises.)

MORE: What I was looking for when I found the above video: From the July 28, 1967, episode of Malibu U, Leonard Nimoy sings "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins":

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 17, 2012 11:19 PM.

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