Left to right: Lauren Miller Rogen, Seth Rogen, Mark Rogen, Sandy Rogen and Danya Rogen at the ceremony in New York City at which Mark and Seth were honoured with the Generation to Generation Activism Award from the Workmen’s Circle. (photo from Mark Rogen)
Vancouver’s Mark and Sandy Rogen have good reason to be proud of their children and the Jewish values with which they raised them. Some of those values were highlighted as 2019 came to a close, when Mark Rogen and his actor, writer and producer son Seth were honoured on Dec. 2 with the Generation to Generation Activism Award from the Workmen’s Circle in New York.
The award recognizes the Rogens’ work promoting Jewish culture and traditions, while also carrying on the traditions of tikkun olam, repairing the world.
“What made it meaningful for us and for everyone who came was that it was an award about values,” Mark Rogen said in an interview with the Jewish Independent after a game of basketball at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. “It wasn’t about someone giving $2 million to get their name on a hospital. It was about recognizing people living in a positive way.”
Rogen said he and Sandy have always preached that value to their kids, along with the idea that they should always strive to “be a blessing.”
“That’s the way Sandy and I tried to raise Danya and Seth – to try to be a blessing and do what you can,” he explained. “Doing something one-to-one is just as good as doing something internationally. It’s where your heart is and I think Sandy and I are very happy to see that’s how Danya and Seth live their lives. That’s the pride.”
Rogen noted that, when his kids were young, they experienced many blessings. In those years, he said, the family had little money and institutions like Vancouver Talmud Torah, the JCC and Camp Miriam treated his children well, and “didn’t charge us a lot. So, Danya and Seth spent their formative years in the Vancouver Jewish community, and their friends today are from those years. Seth met Evan [Goldberg, his writing partner] at the JCC doing karate, and then they did bar mitzvah classes together.”
Knowing that his children are giving back as adults is important, said Rogen, who worked for the Workmen’s Circle for two years when the family temporarily moved to Los Angeles when Seth filmed Freaks and Geeks. Among other things, Seth and wife Lauren Miller Rogen founded Hilarity for Charity, which raises money for Alzheimer’s care, research and support.
That the recent award was a joint honour made it more meaningful to Seth Rogen. “To be honoured in any capacity is rare and lovely for me, but, to be honoured alongside my father was truly special and memorable,” he told the Independent. “My dad has always been dedicated to helping others and spreading goodness wherever he can. He worked for nonprofits most of my childhood and always strived to make the world a better place. He is someone I always go to for advice and his guidance is consistently geared towards not just what’s good for me, but what’s good for everyone.”
As for the Jewishness he often displays on screen, the actor said he rarely separates that part of himself from his work. “Being Jewish is inseparable from my identity in many ways, so it’s something I’ve always thought was good to acknowledge and integrate into my work,” he explained. “I simply am Jewish and I’m proud of myself and what I’ve done with my life.”
Seth Rogen’s biggest Jewish role, however, might be coming in the soon-to-be-released American Pickle, in which he plays a young man who comes to the United States in 1918 from a European shtetl, then gets trapped and preserved in a pickle barrel for 100 years before being united with his grandson in Brooklyn.
Danya Rogen – who is currently on the board of Vancouver Talmud Torah, on the personnel committee for Habonim Dror Camp Miriam and a regular participant on the JCC softball league team her father captains – joined many family members and friends in New York for the ceremony honouring her father and brother. She remembers her parents raising their awareness of important issues at a very young age.
“My parents, and my dad in particular, taught us to stand up for what we believe in and stand up for others who can’t do it for themselves,” she said. “My parents were also incredibly kind and generous, even when we didn’t have so much ourselves. All of those values have stuck with me my whole life. “I hope to live up to being a blessing and can pass those values on to my own children. I suppose the fact that I have become a social worker isn’t that surprising.”
Kyle Berger is Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver sports coordinator, and a freelance writer living in Richmond.