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February 27: The Death of Spock

Lawrence Bush
February 27, 2017
Leonard Nimoy, who became internationally recognized as Spock, the half-Vulcan ally of humans and other beings on the first incarnation of Star Trek, died at 83 on this date in 2015. Nimoy was so strongly identified with the character in the public mind that his two memoirs were titled I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995). He grew up in a Jewishly active family in Boston and strongly related to his first acting role as Ralphie, a working-class Jewish teenager, in Clifford Odetts’ Awake and Sing! For the Spock role, Nimoy drew upon his Jewish consciousness in several ways, including by basing the Vulcan salute (shown in the photo above) on the Jewish priestly blessing. In retirement, he was one of the most Jewishly-identified men in Hollywood, engaged in projects that included recording Jewish short stories from Eastern Europe for a radio show hosted by the National Yiddish Book Center, for which he funded another project to record Yiddish stories and distribute them to children. “I’m not sure any Vulcan ever spoke a more geshmak (flavorful) Yiddish,” said Aaron Lansky, founder and head of the Center. In 2015 an asteroid was named 4864 Nimoy in the actor’s honor. To watch a few of Spock’s best moments, look below. “The miracle is this: the more we share the more we have.” --Leonard Nimoy

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.