In 1981, Barbara Walters (or Baba Wawa as fellow Member of the Tribe Gilda Radner would say — and play — on Saturday Night Live) sat down for an interview with actress Katharine Hepburn and asked her perhaps the most infamous personality question in pop culture history — and certainly one that the rest of us hope to never hear in a job interview: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Coming back to this question is particularly timely now, as we celebrated the holiday Tu B’Shevat last weekend (ironically, during a snowstorm). The holiday marks “the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle,” according to chabad.org. In other words, it’s a tree’s version of New Year’s.
Due to the snow, it’s hard to imagine planting trees or harvesting fruits in our neck of the woods. So naturally, in honor of the holiday, we decided to envision some of our favorite famous Jews as trees instead.
Mel Brooks: Redwood
After counting the rings, it looks like the 2,000-year-old man was outlived by these monolithic Methusalehs of the forest. Redwoods are some of the longest-living trees in the world. One of the oldest, named General Sherman, is more than 2,500 years old and is located in Sequoia National Park in California. Who knows, maybe another one will bloom come “springtime (for Hitler).”
Jeff Goldblum: Moreton Bay Fig Tree
The dinosaurs may not have been real (unfortunately), but the trees in Steven Spielberg’s prehistoric masterpiece, Jurassic Park, definitely are. So it’s an obvious choice to make Jeff Goldblum, who played Dr. Ian Malcolm in the movies, this tree that apparently actually exists. These trees are almost as enormous as those 3-D dinosaurs in theaters last summer, though Goldblum was not in the new movie and was instead replaced by Chris Pratt’s incredible abs.
Madonna: Palm Tree
Madonna is kind of an MOT, right? She may venture on the side of mysticism, but we’ll allow it for this ranking. Just like our favorite celebrity Kabbalah practitioner, palm trees are surrounded by little rays of light (get it?). We can never really keep up with Madonna’s Jewish trends (is she or isn’t she?), but in the same way that palm trees inhabit multiple terrains from rainforests to deserts, Madonna has seemed to cover all of her Jewish bases over the years.
Joan Rivers: Oak Tree
Joan Rivers was never afraid to speak her mind. Just like the strength of a great oak, she was always strong-willed and outspoken, whether on the red carpet dishing gossip and gowns with celebrities or in her own personal life. She may have received some flak for her outlandish comedic commentary sometimes, but Rivers will be remembered as a foundation for Jewish women who always speak their minds.
Jon Stewart: Whomping Willow
OK, this tree isn’t technically real outside of Harry Potter. But the Whomping Willow takes no prisoners, just as Jon Stewart was unafraid to let the truth fly when taking down politicians (*cough Donald Trump cough*) or anyone else who made the longtime Daily Show host boil with rage. When Harry and Ron crashed into the Willow’s branches, the tree struck back and taught them a lesson they didn’t soon forget. Moral of the story: Don’t mess with the tree, and don’t mess with Stewart. (Also shout-out to Daniel Radcliffe, fellow MOT.)
Seth Rogen: Marijuana Plant
Taking “tree” to a whole new level, Seth Rogen could not and would not classify himself as anything else. Take a look at any one of his movies (or interviews or, really, anything), and you will understand. The actor is notorious for his affection toward the kind bud, and there is no doubt that he would light up in celebration of Tu B’ShePot. Sorry.
Woody Allen: Bonsai Tree
I don’t think these are normally grown in celebration of Tu B’Shevat, but they’re definitely still a noteworthy part of the genus. Although tiny, they are unique in shape and easily recognizable, just like the work of Woody Allen. Professionally speaking, Allen’s creative mind has somehow developed something new and original over his oeuvre, from Take the Money and Run to Annie Hall to Midnight in Paris.
Mark Zuckerberg: The Giving Tree
If a fictional tree falls in the forest and nobody’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? Again, this tree may not be real, but it’s real in my book — literally, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. As the story goes, the tree gives and gives most of itself and self-worth to its friend. Similarly, Zuckerberg announced in December that he will give away 99 percent of his Facebook shares — currently worth about $45 billion — throughout his lifetime as part of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a company he created with wife Priscilla Chan that invests in promoting “human potential and equality.”
Barbra Streisand: Evergreen Tree
The obvious choice. Evergreens, unlike other trees, don’t lose their leaves throughout the year. Similarly, La Streisand’s talent never leaves us cold — one could even say she, like love, is “ageless and ever, evergreen.” An evergreen’s leaves are also mostly unaffected by weather, so don’t rain on her parade — enough is enough!