Gulf War sparks a newswoman's love for Judaism


Phila. Jewish Exponent

HOLLYWOOD-- Unabashedly extroverted, Giselle Fernandez of TV's "Access Hollywood" isn't afraid to ask hard questions. Even of herself.

This seasoned newswoman, who has covered major world battles as cohost of NBC's weekend edition of "The Today Show," is currently prepping for her own daily gig: "Access Hollywood." It's a hard-hitting new Monday-to-Friday map of Tinseltown topography: the big production deals, the signings, the scandals.

"I'm a storyteller," says the Mexico City native, who was raised Catholic but now considers herself Jewish. She grew up in California as the "daughter of a Jewish mother -- her maiden name is Eisner -- and a Catholic flamenco dancer." There were no mixed signals from this mixed couple about their daughter's religion.

"I grew up Catholic," Fernandez says. But as an adult covering the Gulf War for CBS' WXIZ-TV, she underwent a transformation.

The war sparked an interest in Judaism. "I felt inspired by the resilience of the Israelis," she recalls. "I wanted to learn more about my heritage."

Fernandez investigated the number of American Jews making aliyah (immigrating to Israel). "When I came back to Miami, I started studying halacha [Jewish law]" with an Orthodox rabbi. Her unorthodox upbringing was no impediment; Fernandez was "adopted" by an observant Miami family.

Shabbat and the holidays are important to the newswoman, who now considers herself Jewish.

She is eager to launch "Access Hollywood."

"Entertainment news is news," says Fernandez. "I think this is the most successful move I've ever made in my career, because I get to have fun. I get to cover an industry that I think right now isn't being covered in a quality, wonderful way."

(c) 1995, San Francisco Jewish Community Publications Inc., dba Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. All rights reserved.

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