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Spielberg’s ‘mom’ Michelle Williams to give kids Jewish upbringing

Actress who stars in director’s semi-autobiographical movie ‘The Fabelmans’ says she’s always felt close to Judaism, despite not being of the faith

Michelle Williams and Paul Dano in Steven Spielberg's 'The Fabelmans' (Trailer screenshot)
Michelle Williams and Paul Dano in Steven Spielberg's 'The Fabelmans' (Trailer screenshot)

Actress Michelle Williams, who plays a version of Steven Spielberg’s mother in his new semi-autobiographical movie “The Fabelmans,” says she plans to give her children a Jewish education and has even picked out a synagogue for the family.

Williams, who is not herself Jewish, is married to Jewish theater director Thomas Kail, and the couple has two young kids. Williams told The Wall Street Journal she planned to study Judaism herself in the coming years.

“I can’t teach it to them unless I learn it first,” she said, adding that she’d felt a connection to Judaism ever since growing up surrounded by Jewish families in San Diego.

“I adored being in their homes,” she said. “A lot of it is those early memories of the discourse at the tables and the deep sense of belonging that tradition fosters.

“It has always been something that I’ve gravitated towards, something that felt immediately exciting and deep and very different from the tinsel and cheer. I say this as somebody who also sings Christmas songs to my kid before he goes to bed. I love both.”

“The Fabelmans” weaves together reality and myth as it tells a story that is a simulacrum of Spielberg’s Jewish upbringing and his formative early years as an aspiring filmmaker. It has received critical praise and some Oscar buzz.

Williams, 42, was handpicked by Spielberg as a stand-in for his late mom, Leah Adler.

“She felt more like my mom than anyone I could have imagined,” he said, “and that’s the only consideration in a story more personal to me than any story I’ve ever brought to the movies.”

The actress said she trusted the storied filmmaker. “If he felt like I was the person who could play this part, I wanted to believe. She was and still is a larger-than-life spirit.”

Williams added that she broke down sobbing when she finished filming the part, having grown to love the character.

“I cried so hard they thought something had happened in my personal life,” she said. “I was grieving that I wouldn’t meet this woman again.”

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