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Jewish Talent Shines at the 2011 Oscars

In the opening montage of the Academy Award ceremony Sunday night, hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway played with a dreidel, which proved to be an omen that a good night awaited Jewish talent.

Israel-born Natalie Portman, beaming and proudly pregnant, walked off with the best actress trophy for her portrayal of a tortured ballerina in “Black Swan.”

“The King’s Speech” was named best picture and Emile Sherman, scion of a prominent Australian Jewish family, accepted as one of the three producers.

Jewish writers swept the boards, with Britain’s David Seidler of “King’s Speech” winning for original screenplay, and Aaron Sorkin of “The Social Network” for adapted screenplay.

The 73-year old Seidler, like his film’s subject, grew up as a stutterer. His paternal grandparents perished in the Holocaust.

Danish director-writer Susanne Bier, who studied for two years at the Hebrew University and the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, took the best foreign-language film statuette for “In a Better World,” a story of conflicted family relationship. Bier’s forebears fled persecution in Nazi Germany and czarist Russia respectively, and she was raised in an observant Jewish home.

Israeli contenders in various categories were eliminated early on this year, but a short documentary on the work of the Bialik-Rogozin School in south Tel Aviv won in its category.

The film, “Strangers No More” by American filmmakers Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman, chronicles the school’s devoted efforts to educate and integrate students from 48 countries, many the children of foreign workers dozens of who are currently under threat of deportation.

Director-writer Lee Unkrich accepted the award for his animated feature “Toy Story 3,” and in the same movie, veteran composer Randy Newsman added another Oscar for his song “We Belong Together.”

The award for sound mixing went to Lora Hirschberg and two colleagues for their contribution to “Inception.”

The 10 Jewish Oscar winners’ ranks were augmented by an array of Oscar presenters, including Kirk Douglas, Scarlett Johansson, Billy Crystal and Steven Spielberg.

And co-host James Franco added another heimishe note by introducing his beaming Jewish mother and grandmother, both sitting in the audience.

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