Why Won't the Media Say Elizabeth Taylor Was Jewish?
03/24/2011 - 16:51
Anonymous

America's best newspapers--The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The L.A. Times--all wrote richly detailed obituaries for Elizabeth Taylor, the Hollywood icon who died of heart failure this week, at 79.  But no matter how richly detailed, every single one of these papers didn't say a word about Taylor's conversion to Judaism when she was 27.  Why?

It's a question worth asking, especially since all the obituarites spent so much time on Taylor's outsized, befuddling, and utterly fascinating personal life: her eight marriages, twice to Richard Burton; her weight issues, her drug use; her close friendships with many gay AIDS actors, and her later AIDS-awareness campaigns.  To the papers' credit, they all do a fine job describing the main reason why these personal things matter in the first place--she was a phenomenal actress, a woman whose thespian range defied her utter lack of formal training.  A natural, you'd say.

So to make up for the paucity of Jewish bits in the obits, I'll summarize: she converted in 1959, at 27, shortly before marrying her third husband, Mike Todd. Todd was Jewish, born Avram Goldbogen and the grandson of a Polish rabbi.  But Taylor, despite being raised a Christian scientist, ferociously denied converting to Judaism solely for the sake of marriage. In her autobiography, Elizabeth Takes Off, she wrote that her conversion "had absolutely nothing to do with my past marriage to Mike [Todd] or my upcoming marriage to Eddie Fischer [her fourth husband], both of whom were Jewish." She went on, "It was something I wanted to do for a long time."

Her conversion process was no joke either.  In fact, the books her L.A. rabbi, Max Nussbaum, had her read as part of the conversion I think every Jew should read--A History of Judaism by Abram Leon Sachar; What Is a Jew? by Morris Kertzer; and my personal favorite, Milton Steinberg's Basic Judaism. She never became religous, to be sure, but she expressed her commitment to a Jewish life in other ways. 

She was an ardent supporter of Israel, making a defiant fundraising tour to benefit the Jewish state in the 1970s, at a time when Arab countries were boycotting the state. She reportedly offered herself as a hostage in place of the 100 French citizens on board the flight hijacked in Uganda, in 1976. And she was a longtime supporter of the Kabbalah Center in L.A.

Oh, and she once got into a heated argument with Richard Burton, a Welsh Christian, about the whole Jewish thing too. In the joint Burton-Taylor biography Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, they describe the marrital spat this way: 

Burton had referred to the Welsh as “the Jews of Britain”, a comment on their self-identity as the outsiders of the United Kingdom.

“You’re not Jewish at all,” he told Elizabeth in one of their very public fights, “If there’s any Jew in this family, it’s me!”

“I am Jewish,” she answered, “and you can fuck off!”

Comments

Some media outlets have said she's Jewish.

But in general, the media loooves pointing out certain people are Jewish and then stays mum on others. The current favorite is Jesse Eisenberg, who is "Jewish" because he is uber-nerdy and geeky and annoying. So, Jesse Eisenberg is Jewish but apparently Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Logan Lerman, Mila Kunis, etc. (other Jewish actors in his age group) are not.

Not a joke? Ooh, she read three books--none of them primary texts, let alone sacred ones. And 'never became religious.' How can you convert to a religion without becoming religious? That is either a joke, and an absurdist one too, or it is the definition of insincerity.
If you wanted to know why other Jews don't take Reform conversions seriously, well, that's Exhibit A. But even without such flagrant abuses, why on earth should we?
Reform abandoned centuries of legal precedent to create its own rules...um, not exactly rules...guidelines, maybe. Hey, it's a free country. But why expect the rest of us to follow your decisions?

Have times changed? Jack Benny, who adopted this gentile-sounding name to replace a Jewish-sounding one, had success in a comedy program in the sixties. Jerome Sienfeld's show in the ninties hit number one.

the usa and brit media are in a conspiiracy to get Jews to assimilate. Therefore they dont say anything positive about Jews or Israel.
If you want to see who runs americas media go to google and type in bernstein+cia+media to read an interview with former cia head william colby in a rolling stone article written by carl bernstein

Elizabeth Taylor converted AFTER Michael Todd's death and before her marriage to Eddie Fisher.

And then there was Sammy Davis Jr.--another Nussbaum convert.

Richard Burton actually had a Jewish grandparent in Wales. That is what he meant when he said "If anybody here is Jewish, it is I." Why else would he be so good-looking?

AFP wire service news did say she was Jewish. and a rabbi did officiate at the fune.

Your article needs some proofreading.

1. Elizabeth Taylor converted to Judaism in 1959 after the death of 3rd husband Mike Todd, not before. Todd died in 1958. Her conversion took place shortly before her marriage to 4th husband Eddie Fisher (note, his name is Fisher, not Fischer)

2. Abram Leon Sachar's book is A History of the Jews, not A History of Judaism.

The Eulogizer, JTA's Jewish obituaries blog, mentioned the same thing the other day. I will give you a tip - after an exchange of emails, the NY Times updated its web version with a mention that Taylor was Jewish. And, to answer "Oppie" from SD in a comment above, Taylor was buried in Forest Lawn in LA, where many prominent, Hollywood Jews are buried and a rabbi did in fact conduct the funeral. I won't dignify the other comment from Anonymous, and, in fact, would recommend that you delete it for being in truly bad taste.

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