It’s not every day that a Hollywood star gets guilt-tripped on Twitter for not visiting his Jewish family in Israel, but that’s exactly what happened to William Shatner this week - and it’s all Hebrew Wikipedia’s fault.
Shatner has never shied away from his Jewish roots. In fact, the Jewish Canadian Star Trek icon has been outspoken about his experiences with anti-Semitism, both as during his childhood, growing up in Montreal, and as a student at McGill University.
The actor who plays Captain James T. Kirk has even visited Israel in the past. That’s actually where his Jewish guilt problems began, because, as it turns out, unbeknown to him, Shatner has family here - or at least some people think he does.
This week, Shatner was asked by a blogger on Twitter to comment about anti-Semitism. Like many celebrities, he at first ignored the question (surely, Captain Kirk has more important matters to attend to). But Shatner’s silence was enough to inspire one Israeli to call him out for allegedly turning his back on his Jewish identity. Their proof? Shatner had failed to visit his Jewish family when he was in Israel.
There was just one problem - Shatner was not aware he has any relatives in Israel, and he tweeted as much. As Haaretz correspondent Allison Kaplan Sommer pointed out to him, the claim seemed to have originated in the Hebrew version of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, in the article for Shatner himself, as well as that of Mordechai Shatner, a prominent Zionist politico and a signatory of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
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Mordechai Shatner’s article in Hebrew claimed that he was related to the captain of the USS Enterprise, but failed to supply a source for the claim. The claim, needless to say, has not appeared in the English version of the article.
After the brief kerfuffle was brought to the attention to Asaf Bartov, a prominent Israeli activist involved in various Wiki projects, the claim was deleted from the Hebrew articles of both Shatners, hopefully clearing up any future ambiguity.
“I would be inclined to believe Mr. Shatner about who is and isn't family,” Bartov replied. “That said, I suppose there's a possibility Mr. Shatner could discover a lost (deceased) relative. Are your Galician roots from Sniatyn?"