Daniel Radcliffe cries reading note from Jewish great-granddad on TV

The 29-year-old actor, learning that a police report stated, “Jews are so frequently responsible for the bringing down of their own business premises.”

July 15, 2019 16:27
2 minute read.
TRANSPORTATION MINISTER Israel Katz (right) and Ambassador Zhan Yongxin of China

Britain's Daniel Radcliffe poses as he arrives for the world premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" at Leicester Square in London November 11, 2010. . (photo credit: DYLAN MARTINEZ/REUTERS)


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Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe was overcome by emotion as he filmed the BBC series, Who Do You Think You Are?, and sobbed as he read aloud the suicide note his Jewish great-grandfather left, according to a report in the UK paper, The Sun.

Radcliffe, who is Jewish on his mother’s side, read the note on the show, which explored how his great-grandfather Samuel Gershon, a 42-year-old Jewish businessman, spent years building up the family jewelry store in London only to lose everything in a robbery in 1936.

Gershon and his father filed an insurance claim, but the antisemitic climate of the times proved prejudice enough for police to allege that the family had faked the robbery. Facing bankruptcy and feeling he had let his family down, Gershon took his own life. After his great-grandfather’s suicide, the insurance company belatedly paid the claim.

Said the 29-year-old Radcliffe, after learning that the police report stated “Jews are so frequently responsible for the bringing down of their own business premises,” while supplying no evidence of a staged robbery, “There’s a lot to dig into in that one sentence. It’s very jarring to see being a Jew to be taken as a piece of evidence in itself. You want to just reach into the past and just go, ‘Whatever you’re going through, you have so much to offer the people who are around you still… you have so much to give to them. And, they still would all have loved you.’”

Radcliffe was close to his maternal grandmother. In a 2016 interview, he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that his grandmother “was an evacuee during the war,” and taken to the countryside away from Nazi bombings in London.

He recalled her stories “about how our family came to the UK and where we came from... We originated in Russia and left because of the pogroms. I don’t know if the story is true, but supposedly my great-great-grandfather was on a ship from Russia bound for America. It stopped off in London, and he thought, ‘Oh, that was quick’ and got off. He went to work in a textile factory and married the owner’s daughter.”

Commenting on his secular upbringing, Radcliffe admitted “I’m going to be a real disappointment to you,” but graciously acknowledged what his Jewish background “means to my mom and her mom.”

In the 2017 fact-based film Jungle, Radcliffe starred as Yossi Ghinsberg, a young Israeli backpacker lost in the Bolivian Jungle.

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