• Art S.

Birthday of Elizabeth Taylor, 1932

On This Day in Jewish History: February 27, 1932



On this day, 1932, Elizabeth Taylor was born. During an acting career that spanned six decades, she became one of the most famous and glamourous movie stars of the post-war Hollywood era. A convert to Judaism who felt she "had been Jewish her whole life", Taylor would become an ardent supporter of Israel and a proud Zionist. After success as a child star, the prime of her career as an adult ran from 1951 to 1967, during which she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar five times and won twice for performances in "Butterfield 8" and "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Taylor was raised a Christian Scientist but converted to Judaism in 1959 when she wed singer Eddie Fisher at Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas. Their marriage punctuated a scandal that had rocked the show business world. Taylor’s previous husband, producer Mike Todd, had been killed in a plane crash and while supporting his grieving friend, Fisher began an affair with Taylor while married to Debbie Reynolds. As framed by the gossip-hungry press, the all-American marriage of Eddie and Debbie was torpedoed by Taylor. One of Taylor’s biographers quotes her as saying, “I feel as if I have been a Jew all my life.” Despite breaking a glass under her foot with Fisher, she divorced him less than five years later after beginning an affair with Richard Burton. Still, it might say something about the assimilation of Jews into the American mainstream that two of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars—Taylor and Marilyn Monroe—converted to Judaism in the 1950s.

In the 1980s, Taylor garnered attention as an outspoken AIDS activist, work she began in 1984 and to which she devoted countless hours and raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Decades before that activism, Taylor, became an outspoken supporter of Zionism, making public her hefty purchase of Israel Bonds and her efforts to raise money for the Jewish National Fund. In 1980, she co-narrated, with Orson Welles, Holocaust, a feature length documentary awarded the Oscar in 1981. Elizabeth Taylor died in 2011 at the age of 79. Elizabeth Taylor died in 2011 at the age of 79. In 1977, Israel's Ambassador to the US revealed that Taylor had offered herself to be swapped for the Jewish and Israeli hostages being held in Entebbe, Uganda by Palestinian and German terrorists the year before. Much of her support and love for Israel was overlooked in her obituaries, but for a period of her life, she devoted significant time, money, and effort to supporting Israel. Whether it was through fund-raising, her opposition to leftist support for Palestinian terrorism, or criticism of the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism - she was always a voice of support and morality against "popular opinions." Her conversion and open support for Israel led to her films being banned in Egypt "because she has adopted the Jewish faith and supports Israeli causes."

Paul Schindler, the editor-in-chief of America’s premier gay newspaper described her life as the definition of "tikkun olam" - the Jewish mission to "repair the world".

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