If I had to choose a (white, male) actor to be my rabbi, I think I’d choose Richard Kind. The incredibly prolific TV, movie and theater star just has such a fun benevolent Jewish uncle vibe to him (in fact, he’s played quite a few Jewish uncles in his time).
Turns out that maybe, in another universe, Kind, 66, could have easily been a rabbi. In a recent episode of “Finding Your Roots,” the “Tick, Tick… Boom!,” “Curb,” “Inside Out” and “Mad About You” actor (to name but a few) discovered that he comes from a long line of rabbis.
Host Henry Louis Gates shared that his Eastern European ancestors — Moises Katz and his father, Falk Katz — were both rabbis.
Kind asks Gates if being a rabbi was common in those days in Eastern Europe, and Gates replies that it absolutely was not.
“You were the teacher — rabbi means teacher — you kept the tradition, you were the most literate, you welcomed people into the world and you ushered them out, and you marked every ritual occasion in the life of your [community],” Gates explains. He then asks Kind how that discovery makes him feel, to which he replies “smarter.”
“It’s like the Wizard of Oz giving the tin man a diploma, ‘oh look at who’s so smart,” Kind jokes (we love the reference and we know he meant the scarecrow).
“They were obviously leaders, obviously smart, and then why didn’t Samuel [Kind’s father] hold onto that?” he asks Gates.
It’s something you’ll have to find out by watching the episode, “Chosen,” which airs tonight at 8 PM ET / 7 PM CT. “Chosen” also explores the story of David Duchovny’s Jewish roots and follows the sordid murder of one of Kind’s ancestors.
Kind did almost fall into his family’s next line of business: Both his father and his paternal grandfather were jewelers, and Kind was supposed to take over the family enterprise. But the actor, who grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, caught the acting bug early, taking a bus to New York city on weekends to see discounted matinees and grab a hot dog at Nathan’s as a kid (alone! It was such a different time, as I’m sure Kind, a father of three, would agree.) In fact, Kind’s first pivotal role was Fagin in a fifth-grade production of “Oliver.”
We’re beyond grateful. From “A Serious Man,” to “Spin City,” nothing Kind has ever been in would be quite the same without him.