“Celebrity” Jews by choice

Last Friday on The View, one of my favorite actresses, Drew Barrymore, came out…as Jewish! Well, almost Jewish. The little girl from my favorite childhood movie, E.T., announced her plans to not only raise her young daughter, Olive, in the faith, but to potentially convert to the religion of her spouse's family.  

"I haven't converted yet, Olive will be raised traditionally," she told Joy Behar and the rest of the View ladies.  "And we had a very traditional wedding ceremony with Rabbi Rubenstein and I did the ketubah. We wore the yarmulkes and we were under the chuppah. I'm there. I love it."

She also shared several lovely words about the Jewish faith.

"He's a nice Jewish man from a nice Jewish family," Barrymore said of her husband Will Kopelman.

"It's a beautiful faith and I'm so honored to be around it," she said. "It's so family-oriented and beautiful and I learned so much. The stories are so beautiful and it's incredibly enlightening. I'm really happy."

Welcome to the tribe, Ms. Barrymore.

Barrymore follows in a long tradition of "A" list celebrities who've joined the faith.

There are those who converted for love: Elizabeth Taylor (Eddie Fisher), Ivanka Trump (Jared Kushner), Isla Fisher (Sasha Baron Cohen), Marilyn Monroe (Arthur Miller), Connie Chung (Maury Povich), and Elizabeth Banks (Max Handelman).

(Interestingly, all these converts are women. Is this because Judaism is matrilineal, so men don't feel the need to convert in order to raise Jewish children, or is there something else at play here? Sound off below, just don't call me yenta!)

The two most beautiful women of all time became Jews by choice! And when their marriages failed, both ladies remained in the faith.

Taylorwho spent nine months studying before her conversionbecame a lifelong supporter of Jewish causes. Her purchases of Israeli Bonds caused an Arab boycott of her films. She was also banned from visiting Egypt to promote Cleopatra. Taylor helped raise money for organizations like JNF, advocated for the rights of Soviet Jews and even made public declarations of condemnation and protested against UN General Assembly Resolution 3379.

There are also some famous folks who just weren't aware of their Jewish roots: Tom Arnold, Amar'e Stoudemire.

Ilana Angel, a fellow blogger over at Keeping the Faith, interviewed and wrote a wonderful blog about Arnold and his Jewish story a few years back. His motherwho abandoned him as a childwas Jewish. Born and raised in Iowa as a Methodist, Arnold only embraced his Jewish faith after battling addiction. He officially converted when he married Roseanne Bar and had his bar mitzvah in his 30s. Now expecting with his Jewish wife, Arnold will be able to carry on the Jewish tradition with his baby son due in March.

And then there's my favorite famous convert: Sammy Davis Jr., the "one-eyed Negro Jew."

The story goes, Davis nearly died in a car accident and while recovering in the hospital, he was visited by performer Eddie Cantor who shared with him some of the similarities between black and Jewish culture. Davis intrigued, began studying the Jewish faith only to convert several years later. After his conversion, Davis even refused to work on Yom Kippur.

So whether, converting for love, discovering past roots or just admiring the faith, many in Hollywood have embraced the tribe of the chosen people. Is this yenta missing anyone from her list? Let me know in the comments below!

Reflections from your editor, Cindy Sher, on people living their Jewish lives each day. ... Read More

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