Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem, Israel.
Portman is Jewish, from both sides of her family. Some of her ancestors were holocaust victims. Even with this kind of connection, Portman refuses to do Jewish films. She once said:
I’ve always tried to stay away from playing Jews. I get like 20 Holocaust scripts a month, but I hate the genre.
Even so, Judaism is very important to Portman. She speaks Hebrew and she once expressed her desire to pass along her Jewish heritage, saying:
A priority for me is definitely that I’d like to raise my kids Jewish.
And though she holds dual citizenship in both the United States and Israel, she has said that she feels more at home in Israel.
One wonders if Judaism is really more of a cultural feature of Portman and less of an issue of faith. Her own theology seems to border on atheism. When asked if she believes in an afterlife, she said:
I don’t believe in that. I believe this is it.
Portman is a Harvard-educated Hollywood liberal. She was an outspoken critic of George W. Bush and, in 2004, a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. She said of Bush during that election cycle:
If people are for Bush – the president with the most days of vacation that any president–I think if you really love him, give him a long vacation.
Portman is a vegan and an animal rights activist. She has been involved with movements to reduce poverty and particularly active in an organization called the Foundation for International Community Assistance, which encourages and provides micro-loans to third-world entrepreneurs.
Portman has also been a champion of gay rights and the rights for gays to marry. She signed an open letter to President Obama, asking him to support gay marriage.
Portman is often spoken highly of, even by politicians and the intellectual elite. She seems to care about society and politics and manages to raise awareness in her incredibly adorable way without regularly annoying the public as just another celebrity activist.