Amy Heckerling is Jewish, and appears to have a strong Jewish self-identity.
Amy Heckerling is frequently reported to be a convert to the Church of Scientology. It is not entirely clear whether Heckerling is or ever has actually been a member of the Church of Scientology, or what the extent of her participation was.
From: Naomi Pfefferman, "Bronx Gal No 'Loser': Amy Heckerling has forged a successful film career by combining streetwise humor with likable characters", published in The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, 21 July 2000 (http://www.jewishjournal.com/archive/07.21.00/loser.07.21.00.html; viewed 11 November 2005):
Only so much can be written about a Jewish girl from the Bronx, says writer-director Amy Heckerling. Only so many scripts can begin, "Interior. Candy Store - Queens."
That's why the New Yorker didn't bother to draw on her own childhood to create her teen zeitgeist films, considered classics of the genre. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," for example, the first of the mall-generation movies, focuses on a clique of California teenagers and begins with an image of a Southland mall.
"Clueless," the tale of Cher Horowitz, a pampered girl who fancies herself more sophisticated than the new kid she takes under her wing, updates Jane Austen's "Emma" to modern-day Beverly Hills. Now comes "Loser," the story of Paul Tannek (Jason Biggs), an impoverished college frosh from the heartland who is considered, well, a loser until he hooks up with another outcast, Dora Diamond (Mena Suvari).
If you can take the girl out of the Bronx, Heckerling concedes, you can't take the Bronx out of the girl. The director, who pronounces the title of her latest film "Loo-zuh," couldn't resist making Cher (Alicia Silverstone) a Horowitz. The character's African-American best friend, Dionne, who like Cher is "named after great singers of the past who now do infomercials," speaks a word or two of Yiddish. In "Johnny Dangerously," Heckerling's gangster-flick spoof, the movie theater candy counter sells popcorn, Jujubes and whitefish.
And in "Loser," Dora Diamond, Paul's unlikely comrade, is named after a real Jewish teenager who changed everything for Heckerling's favorite writer, the nihilistic existentialist Franz Kafka. "Kafka was, like, 40, and he never left home or had a proper relationship with a woman until the very end of his life," says the director, turning off a Woody Allen film to conduct a Journal interview.
"Then he met Dora Dymant, a Zionist who wanted to go to Israel, and she was the first person who really got him to break away from his parents, to live with a woman and to move past adolescence. She was the teenager who got the great Jewish genius to grow up," the director marvels. "I related to the fact that the person who finally saved him was this Jewish teenaged girl."
Heckerling, the daughter of a CPA, was a very different kind of Jewish teenaged girl, one who was hardly as self-assured as the real-life Dymant or the fictional Cher. She was quiet and confused, artistic and alienated. Growing up among Holocaust survivors in the Bronx didn't help, she suggests. "My mindset was, the world is a place that doesn't like Jews," says Heckerling, whose Yiddish-speaking grandparents lived two floors up from her parents' modest apartment. "Definitely I grew up thinking that the Holocaust could happen again at any time."
...Heckerling didn't want to talk about the status of women directors in Hollywood. She said she doesn't like to think about gender and showbiz. It doesn't bother her.
What does bother her are all the negative images of Jewish women in film: "I can't stand the loud, pushy, whiny stereotype," Heckerling says. "It makes me ill."
Another pet peeve: Too much "too-Jewish" in the casting process. "You can be Jewish, as long as you're not 'Jewy,' " Heckerling complains.
Can a Jewish woman director make a difference? "I try," says Heckerling, adding that she has written scripts featuring well-rounded Jewish female protagonists. "But you've seen what gets produced, and what doesn't."
Heckerling isn't worried about her daughter's Jewish self-image, however. When 14-year-old Mollie was 6, her favorite TV show was "Rhoda," the series about a street-smart Jewish woman from the Bronx. "She used to run around the house with a schmatte on her head, like it was Rhoda's kerchief," Heckerling recalls, with a laugh. "I think she recognized something."