Jack Black’s mother, Judith Love Cohen, and his father, Thomas William Black, both worked as aerospace engineers
Jack Black might be a big name in showbiz, but his parents, Judith Love Cohen and Thomas William Black, were successful in their own right.
Both of his parents served as aerospace engineers and worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, while Judith famously helped Apollo 13 return to Earth in 1970 after an oxygen tank ruptured. Jack told Newsweek in 2003 that he “didn't inherit any of their brain power,” describing himself as a “rock scientist” rather than a “rocket scientist.”
His parents divorced when he was 10 years old, and Judith later remarried, but both parents supported Jack in his career. While Judith died in 2016, Thomas still supports Jack and has appeared at movie premieres alongside his son and his grandchildren. Jack told The Guardian in 2011 that he had a “good childhood” and that his parents came to all of his school plays.
In June 2021, Jack celebrated Father’s Day with his dad by posting a photo of them together on Instagram with the caption, “80 years old and still hiking the trails! Here’s to many more…years and trails.”
So, who are Jack Black’s parents? Here’s everything to know about Judith Love Cohen and Thomas William Black.
Thomas and Judith welcomed Jack in 1969
Judith married Thomas in the mid-1960s, and they then had Jack — born Thomas Jacob Black — in 1969. They raised him in Hermosa Beach, California.
According to another of Judith’s sons, Neil, in a memorial tribute on the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s website, Judith was at work troubleshooting problems on the day she went into labor. It was then when she called her boss to let him know that she’d sorted the issue and then delivered Jack.
Thomas and Judith divorced in 1979
Ten years after welcoming Jack, Thomas and Judith got a divorce. After divorcing Thomas, Judith went on to marry David A. Katz, while Thomas moved abroad and started a new family, before moving back to the U.S. to live on an apple orchard in Washington.
In 2011, Jack told The Guardian of his parents’ divorce, “There's something about a divorce in that even if your parents still love you, the fact that they can't live with each other makes you feel there's something wrong with you.”
Thomas and Judith were aerospace engineers
Both of Jack’s parents were aerospace engineers and worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. Judith first studied math, receiving a scholarship to Brooklyn College, but realized that she preferred engineering. After two years, she transferred to the University of Southern California while also working as a junior engineer for North American Aviation.
After graduating, Judith went on to work at Space Technology Laboratories and remained with the company until her retirement in 1990. She worked on the guidance computer for the Minuteman missile and the Abort-Guidance System (AGS) in the Apollo Lunar Module, which helped Apollo 13 return safely after an oxygen tank ruptured, according to Neil.
Judith had three children with her first husband
Judith met her first husband, Bernard Siegel, while she was a freshman at engineering school at Brooklyn College. They had three children together — Neil, Howard and Rachel — before getting a divorce in the mid-1960s.
Neil is a computer scientist and systems engineer, while Howard died from AIDS in 1991. Jack said of his brother’s death, according to The Jewish Chronicle, “Death didn’t happen quickly. We all saw the deterioration. He was only 31. So very young. We were robbed of something precious. It was hardest for my mum when we lost Howard. She’s never really recovered."
Judith began a publishing company with her third husband
Judith retired from engineering in 1990 and went on to begin a publishing company with her third husband, David, which aimed to encourage girls to go into science. They also wrote a series of books called You Can Be a Woman…, which have sold over 100,000 copies.
Their company also published The Women of Apollo, a biography of four of the women involved in the Apollo mission — including Judith herself.
Judith was a ballet dancer
While Judith went into a career in engineering, she had a love for dancing and was a dancer in the Corps de Ballet of the New York Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company by the age of 19, according to Neil.
Judith put dancing on hold due to her engineering career, but then began folk dancing in 1964 and continued it as a hobby for the rest of her life.
Thomas and Judith both supported their son’s career
Jack told The Guardian in 2011, “My parents were very supportive of me and my artistic endeavors. My father and mother came to every school play I ever did. When I was 13, I talked my stepfather into driving me to auditions.”
This support continued into adulthood, too. In December 2019, Jack brought his father and his sons to the premiere of Jumanji: The Next Level in Los Angeles.
Judith died in 2016
Judith died from cancer on July 25, 2016, as her son Neil shared on the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s website. She was 82 years old.
Jack has shared tributes to Judith on social media since her death. In May 2021, he shared a photo of himself and his mom with their arms around each other with the caption, “Miss you Mom” on Instagram.
In a May 2023 post, he shared a screenshot of Judith when she was younger alongside information about her career achievements, writing, “It’s true…my mom was a bad-ass aerospace engineer…and also a loving mother…I miss you mama!”
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