Aug 2015

Fame Is Relative

My husband Bill and I graduated from the Wexner program in Pittsburgh in 1988. Nearly thirty years, nine children and many grandchildren later, well, let’s just say, I care a lot about G-d and Torah. I will always be grateful to the Wexner Foundation for the pivotal role it played in my life! In response to 2013’s Pew Study detailing Jewish America’s distancing from religious observance, I began to write a weekly blog about my Jewish journey. It’s called and is featured on After attending the 30th Anniversary in Columbus, I wanted to share one of my posts with the ever inspiring Wexner Network.


The woman was sitting on the curb outside the car wash, talking on her cell phone. Elkie was sure we had the right person.

“Maya?” I asked.

“One second,” she said to the person on the phone. She looked up at me, slightly annoyed by the interruption.

“I’m Lieba Rudolph, Billy’s wife,” I announced with a smile.

“I gotta go. I just met someone from my family.” I was happy she was so excited.

With her identity confirmed, our daughter Elkie appeared, trailed by her daughter Leah and our daughter Rivky. The woman indeed was our famous relative, the actress Maya Rudolph. Maya’s father is first cousins with my husband. Their fathers were brothers who both grew up in Pittsburgh.

Of course, none of us could believe the amazing “coincidence” of  our meeting. I mean, what’s the likelihood that Rivky and I would arrive in LA on that day, then go with Elkie to that car wash to get her car cleaned for Pesach, at exactly the time when Maya was there? (To my knowledge, Maya wasn’t cleaning her car for Pesach which makes it even more unlikely she would be there at that moment.) And what is the likelihood we would all be at the car wash exactly when, back in Pittsburgh, much of the extended Rudolph family was gathered for the funeral of one of the two original Rudolph sisters?

As a Chassidic Jew, I strive for a life where G-d is “present” through hashgacha pratis, divine providence, where I recognize His involvement in everything. Not every encounter is meant to be life-changing, but none is accidental either. And some, like this one, are unusual enough to be seen as a sign of His clear presence, which, ideally, strengthens my ability to recognize Him even more, even when His presence is not so obvious.

Thanks to Maya, we had another hashgacha pratis moment last week.

Because Maya’s a successful actress and because Maya also had an African-American mother, (the late singer Minnie Riperton),  she was recently selected to be profiled on the PBS series, “Finding Your Roots.”

Click here to read more.


In 1986, Lieba Rudolph (WHA, Pittsburgh ’86) was living with her husband Bill (also WHA, Pittsburgh ’86), their two kids and a dog. That spring, at a UJA Young Leadership Cabinet Retreat, ​Lieba was moved by the plight of the Soviet Refuseniks, but recognized a painful irony: those people were willing to risk their lives to observe a mitzvah while she, a free American, observed nothing. She had an MBA but she didn’t know an Aleph from a Bais. ​Lieba shares her journey in a weekly blog, hoping to demystify Jewish observance and answer the unasked question — why would anyone normal choose to become religious? Lieba can be reached at