Why Is Robert Downey Jr. Wearing a Chai Necklace? – Kveller
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Why Is Robert Downey Jr. Wearing a Chai Necklace?

The "Iron Man" actor has strong ties to Judaism — through his father, and his wife.

Robert Downey Jr. attends the Maltin Modern Master Award during the 39th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival on February 09, 2024 in Santa Barbara, California.

via Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images for SBIFF

At the Santa Barbara Film Festival this week, Robert Downey Jr., who stars in the upcoming “The Sympathizer,” was seen wearing a very familiar necklace, at least to Jewish fans — a golden chai, the two Hebrew letters that signify life, and that also stands in gematria for the number 18.

Many Jewish fans of the “Iron Man” actor shared pictures of him, thanking him for being proud of his Jewish heritage. Yes, in case you haven’t googled or guessed it yet, Downey Jr. is part Jewish. The actor has Lithuanian and Hungarian Jewish ancestry on his father’s side (that’s legendary filmmaker Robert Downey Sr.) and he did once call himself a “Jewbu” — a Jewish buddhist.

There’s not much to glean about Downey Jr.’s chaotic and plentiful Instagram presence about his religion except for one thing — he is, in every way, a wife guy. This man is obsessed with his better half, Susan Levin, and she is Jewish. In a recent holiday greeting, you can find a cartoon version of her paddleboarding with her husband in tow, while wearing a Santa hat with a Jewish star. Like I said, chaotic.

The actor married the producer, who changed her named to Susan Downey, under a chuppah, in a Jewish ceremony back in 2005. The two have two children, including daughter Avri, whose name may or may not be Jewish (inspired by Avraham). Downey Jr. also has a son from his marriage with actress Deborah Falconer, Indio Falconer Downey, who he often kvells about.

Santa Barbara wasn’t the first time Downey Jr. wore his chai necklace. He was seen wearing it a little league practice in June of 2022.

The actor, who played the Jewish Lewis Strauss in “Oppenheimer,” also wore it on his visit to MIT’s Bionics Lab later that same year.

It’s possible that he frequently wears the necklace, as he often wears a necklace under his shirt. It’s also possible that it’s a family heirloom, passed down from his father Robert Downey Sr., who passed away in 2021 (the two collaborated on a documentary about his life titled “Sr.” before his passing).

So is Robert Downey Jr. wearing a chai necklace to to make some kind of statement in this moment? I don’t think we can say that. But I do think we can safely say that the father of three is very proud of his connection to Judaism, and that is something to kvell about.

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