In honor Jewish American Heritage Month, we’re recognizing the economic, cultural, political, social, and scientific contributions of influential Jewish immigrants and refugees who’ve helped shape the vibrant and rich tapestry of America.
Today we salute Oscar-winning Israeli American Actress Natalie Portman.
Natalie Portman was born in 1981 in Jerusalem to an American mother and Israeli Father. In 1984, she immigrated to the U.S. with her parents.
She started her studies in America at the Charles E. Smith Jewish School in Washington D.C. before the family resettled on Long Island, New York. There, she continued her studies at the Jewish elementary school Solomon Schechter Day School and took Hebrew and English classes. She completed high school at Syosset High School in 1999.
A Revlon cosmetics representative discovered Portman while she worked in a pizzeria. Ultimately, she decided to pursue acting in lieu of modeling and soon started appearing in local productions.
At 13, Portman made her silver screen debut, and critics lauded her for portraying a hitman’s apprentice in The Professional. One year later, she shared the screen with Al Pacino, playing his character’s daughter in Heat.
These successes led to steady work and higher-profile performances alongside big-name actors, directors, and studios. She starred alongside Matt Dillon and Uma Thurman in Beautiful Girls and with Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s comedy, When Mars Attacks!
In 1997, Portman took to theater, earning critical success on Broadway in her portrayal as the titular character in The Diary of Anne Frank.
In 1999, she limited her acting roles to enroll in Harvard University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2003. She delved into a few parts during her studies, including Queen Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the mother of iconic characters Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. She also joined the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe as Jane Foster in Thor and two of its sequel films.
Natalie Portman later returned to school for a postgraduate degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2006, Columbia University invited her to teach a class on terrorism. In 2015, she returned to her alma mater to give a speech to Harvard graduates.
Portman has won several awards for her Hollywood work, including a Golden Globe and Academy Award for portraying a ballerina in Black Swan.