18 Things to Know About Jewish Actress Winona Ryder

The "Stranger Things" star grew up on a 300-acre commune!

If you’ve scrolled through Netflix in the past six years, you’ve probably seen Winona Ryder’s face beaming from “Stranger Things” trailers and posters. (Next to fellow Jewish actors Noah Schnapp and Brett Gelman, of course!)

Though she’s been acting since 1986, Winona’s role as Joyce Byers in the science fiction series has cemented her as a timeless star. It’s also garnered her nominations for a Golden Globe, a Satellite award and multiple Screen Actors Guild awards!

While we wait for Netflix to release more episodes of “Stranger Things” season four on July 1st, let’s learn a little more about the iconic Jewish actress.

Here are 18 things to know about the Winona Ryder.

1. She was born Winona Laura Horowitz in Winona, Minnesota.

2. Winona’s birthday is October 29th, 1971. She proudly shares her birthday with fellow Jewish icon Fanny Brice!

3. Winona grew up in a Jewish family, and she has said her childhood was shaped by generational Holocaust trauma.

“In World War II, my mom’s father died fighting the Nazis in the Pacific and, on my father’s side, family members died in the camps,” she said in a 2020 interview.

4. Growing up, Winona was family friends with the Jewish poet Allen Ginsberg.

Unsurprisingly, she quickly became an avid reader! her favorite book is “The Catcher in the Rye” by Jewish author J. D. Salinger.

Ryder has said of the book’s protagonist, “It’s weird because when you first read that book, it’s so personal and you feel like you’re the only one who feels that way, and then you realize that everyone has had that experience with it. But Holden Caulfield was like my best friend when I was a teenager.”

5. She first gained fame in the 1990s, and used her newfound platform to be outspoken about mental health.

Watch her talk about the topic in this interview:

6. Winona starred in Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice” when she was only 17!

7. As a child, she spent four years on a 300-acre “hippie commune” in Mendocino County with six other families.

8. In 1995, she was nominated for a Grammy for her narration of Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.”

9. She received a a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 6, 2000.

Watch her amazing acceptance speech below!

Mazels, Winona! We’re so proud of you!

10. Winona has been outspoken about experiencing antisemitism as a Jewish actress.

In a 2020 interview, she stated “There are times when people have said, ‘Wait, you’re Jewish? But you’re so pretty!’ There was a movie that I was up for a long time ago, it was a period piece, and the studio head, who was Jewish, said I looked ‘too Jewish’ to be in a blue-blooded family.”

11. Her favorite role has been that of Veronica in “Heathers.” 

Her agent, however, warned her against taking the role: “My agent at the time literally got on her knees and begged me not to do [the movie]. She had her hands together, and she goes, ‘You will never. Work. Again.’

12. In addition to being an accomplished actress, Winona also plays the guitar.

Additionally, her favorite band is The Replacements; she especially loves their song “Sixteen Blue.”

13. Winona is currently the face of Jewish fashion designer Marc Jacobs‘ newest campaign.

We’re a little bit obsessed with the ’90s-inspired photoshoot:

14. She comes from a family of show business professionals!

Her half-sister Sunyata is a makeup artist, her half-brother Jubal is a production assistant and her younger brother Uri is an actor and writer.

15. In 2002, she hosted “Saturday Night Live” and starred in this iconically campy sketch:

16. Winona reportedly turned down the chance to star as Rose in the 1997 film “Titanic.”

That same year, she narrated “Survivors: Testimonies of the Holocaust,” a digital archive produced by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation.

17. She was the inspiration for the song “Winona Ryder,” which was released in 2020 by Picture This.

What a bop!

18. Her next project is “Gone in the Night,” a thriller film set to be released in theaters on July 15, 2022.

You can watch the trailer here:

Ayelet Kaminer

Ayelet Kaminer (They/Any) is a Nice Jewish Dyke from New York City. They’re currently pursuing a degree in Jewish Studies and Political Science at Wellesley College. She’s passionate about Yiddish Erotica, Hebrew grammar, and their cat, Princess. Ayelet is Hey Alma’s intern.

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