They’re All Related?

By Nathan Burstein

Published February 17, 2010, issue of February 26, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

On the celebrity family tree, a Jewish film director has been revealed as the missing link among Albert Einstein, Meryl Streep and TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz.

PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

Mike Nichols, the Oscar-winning director of the 1967 film “The Graduate,” learns that he shares connections with a surprising set of “cousins” in “Faces of America,” a new PBS series that traces the background of a dozen prominent participants. Hosted by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., the show uses a combination of genealogical records and DNA testing to make a series of unexpected discoveries, some of them stretching back dozens of generations.

For Nichols, born in Berlin in 1931 as Michael Igor Peschkowsky, those discoveries both confirm old family legends and turn up new information. In a vindication of the filmmaker’s mother, genealogical records show that Nichols’s great-grandfather was indeed a second cousin to Einstein — a claim the filmmaker says he’d long dismissed as family lore.

Reaching further back through the help of their respective genomes, Nichols and Streep, who worked with the director on such projects as “Silkwood” and “Angels in America,” also discover that they share an unidentified relative from within the past 250 years. (Streep, for her part, learns that another of her ancestors helped to found Providence, R.I., early in the 17th century.)

Explaining its DNA research through diagrams and interviews with genetic experts, the show also reveals a common connection between Nichols and Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Oprah Winfrey protégé anointed with his own TV show last fall. Born in Ohio to Muslim immigrants from Turkey, Oz is informed that he descends from “exactly the same paternal haplogroup” as Nichols, the son of Russian-Jewish and German-Jewish parents. “Similarly common among Jews and Muslims,” according to the program, the shared haplogroup — inscribed on the Y chromosome — comes as news to Oz.

“This kind of information, to me, is world changing,” Oz tells Gates in an episode scheduled to air on March 3. “For Jews and Muslims to recognize how interrelated we really are — I have to admit to myself… that the only thing separating us is how we think about things.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.