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He Gave Up Hollywood Glitz for a Faith-Based Life

He Gave Up Hollywood Glitz for a Faith-Based Life

By Christopher South

Ari Blau, left, a Lower Cape May Regional High School graduate, works on a skit with “Late Late Show” host James Corden. Blau produced segments including the popular “Carpool Karaoke” feature.
Provided
Ari Blau, left, a Lower Cape May Regional High School graduate, works on a skit with “Late Late Show” host James Corden. Blau produced segments including the popular “Carpool Karaoke” feature.

When Ari Blau encountered antisemitism as the only Jewish student at Lower Cape May Regional High School, he quickly found out that having a sense of humor would help him cope with the harassment he experienced.

That sense of humor grew into a passion for comedy, leading to a Hollywood career in which he helped write and produce “The Late Late Show with James Corden.”

But all of that would change. A trip to Israel nudged Blau to leave the entertainment world for a life of faith — studying the Torah, teaching, and speaking to young people. He moved to Jerusalem in 2017.

Blau’s education began at Trocki Hebrew Academy in Atlantic County, a K-9 school that had 69 students when it closed last year.

He graduated from LCMRHS in 2008 and enrolled in NYU’s film school. He started shooting comedic videos, mainly harmless pranks. During college, he had opportunities to work for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” while Jon Stewart was the host and NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” Blau produced his own weekly YouTube videos and did stand-up in New York.

After graduating from NYU in 2012, Blau packed his bags and drove from New York to Hollywood to become part of the world of entertainment. After three months, he found work on the “Late Late Show” with Corden, at first doing errands before getting into writing and producing.

Ari Blau, a 2008 graduate of Lower Cape May Regional High School, moved to Jerusalem in 2017 to live a faith-based life.

“I worked so hard to get where I was,” he said.

Blau worked with Corden on his “Carpool Karaoke” segments and produced many episodes; he ended up becoming close with the host. Blau started to work more hands-on with celebrities – meeting them, talking to them, learning what their lives were really like.

At the time, he said, while he had not abandoned his Jewish faith, he was not really engaged in it either. He said he would observe the big holidays but, as he put it, was “not practicing anything traditional.”

However, the more he was around celebrities, he said, the more he found that something was off.

“You would think celebrities were the happiest people in the world, but they are not,” he said.

“You see celebrities and athletes on the screen the way they want to be presented. I saw them backstage, up close and personal. They’re miserable people because they live the most physical-pleasure seeking lives imaginable. When all you do is live a life of physicality, devoid of spirituality, you’ll never be happy. There’s no amount of physical pleasure that will ever satisfy you.”

At age 26, Blau had the opportunity to travel to Israel with the Los Angeles Jewish Experience, an organization that sponsors trips to Israel and Poland for young Jewish professionals. He said that, at the time, he had not decided to leave Hollywood, but was not sure he was on the right path.

He said the trip to Israel was “unbelievable” – 15 days of activities all connected to a Torah theme. He said before they went on the trip the group spent 10 Sunday afternoons discussing relevant topics, including “why are the Jews the most hated people in the world?”

“Just think about it for a second,” Blau said. “The global Jewish population consists of roughly 15 million people. That’s only about 0.2% of the total global population. The fact that Jews have contributed so much to the world and are the most talked about and hated people is the biggest proof that God exists. Each week, we had a different thought-provoking class.”

He said the trip was not like other tourist vacations that might include camel rides and a visit to the Dead Sea but leave the traveler with absolutely no understanding about what it means to be Jewish.

“Everything was meant to connect you to the fact that you were Jewish – what does it mean that you are one of the Chosen People,” Blau said.

In short, he said, that means to shine light and show morals that are true and God-given, and to teach people what is right and wrong.

After returning from his trip, Blau took another look around Hollywood; he left in 2017 and moved to Jerusalem, where he began to study the Torah in a yeshiva.

He has recently started teaching, he said, and travels a lot speaking to young Jews – from the unaffiliated to the ultra-Orthodox – including a wide range of observant and non-observant Jews. He visits a lot of colleges and attends many events.

Blau said he doesn’t tell people at first what he used to do before becoming an observant Jew, which seems crazy to some: not many people walk away from lucrative careers in Hollywood. He will often begin his talks with questions such as “What do you think is the biggest life decision you are going to make?”

The answer nearly always tends to be their college major or their job. He will also ask, “Who are the happiest people in the world?” Normally the answers are celebrities or athletes.

Blau then tells them how he worked in Hollywood for three and a half years and met many celebrities, of whom only one or two seemed happy. Many of them were miserable and didn’t want to do what they were doing.

Even though he found success in comedy, Blau feels his faith now gives him true happiness.

“The biggest life decision you’ll ever make is who you marry. And the happiest person is the one who is happy with what they have,” he tells them.

Blau said God is the only true source of happiness, and that is revealed through the Torah. He said God created each person for a certain purpose in this world, and people have the choice to fulfill that purpose or not. He said hatred of Jews is directly related to the initial giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.

Having the Torah, he said, is used as a way of putting down the Jews for the morals they live by. In a world filled with so much darkness, Torah Jews shine a light, representing what’s right and wrong and true and false, he said. Thus, antisemitism is not random, he believes.

“It’s a tool used against the fact that the Jews are the Chosen People,” he said. “It’s not just you are bad and we are good; it’s a mission. Everyone has a mission, whether they’re Jewish or not. People who hate Jews don’t differentiate between a religious Jew or non-religious one. They know deep down what all Jews are supposed to represent, and therefore their hate spreads across the entire spectrum.”

Blau said the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas primarily targeted non-religious Jews who were attending a music festival and living in neighborhoods near the border of Gaza. Israel, he said, has the right to defend itself against such attacks, but no one has the right to judge others.

“It’s not our job to judge our fellow Jews who are not living by the Torah. We need to try to educate them, teach them, show them what is right,” he said.

Blau considers his 5-year-old daughter something of a philosopher. One day she asked him, “Abba, do the goyim have mitzvahs?” asking if non-Jews had commandments they should follow.

He answered that all people have the seven high laws, or commandments of Noah, which are similar to the Christian’s Ten Commandments. He told his daughter anyone who follows these seven high laws will receive life in the next world.

“Everyone has the opportunity to live a moral, ethical life,” Blau said.

Contact the author, Christopher South, at 609-886-8600 x128 or csouth@cmcherald.com.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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