What Was Jewish About Lauren Bacall?
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What Was Jewish About Lauren Bacall?

For one thing, the former Betty Joan Perske dated Issur Danielovitch, who became Kirk Douglas.

1. She dated Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch, when she was about 15, and she also helped him in his career.

2. She was first cousin of former Israeli president Shimon Peres, though they did not meet until adulthood.

3. One of her pre-fame gigs included modelling in a Jewish dress shop.

4. Her maternal grandfather, Max Weinstein, started life in America as a push-cart peddler and then bought a small candy store in the Bronx.

5. For professional reasons, she lied about her background. Warner Brothers implied she was an American aristocrat; she also didn't tell "Bringing Up Baby" director Howard Hawks she was Jewish because he was a known anti-Semite.

6. She didn't raise her children Jewish, because she felt like as a Jew in the post-war years would be hard for them.

7. People would act surprised when they learned she was Jewish. Tired of people telling her she didn't "look" Jewish, she said, "And I'd think, what's with this Jewish thing? Is it terrible to look it? Not to look it? Does it mean you have to look like Shylock?"

8. She once said she felt "totally Jewish and always would," though she did also ask Bogie if that was a problem (he said no).

gabriela@jewishweek.org

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