Lauren Bacall was Jewish and she hailed from a family where both parents belonged to the Jewish community.
Lauren Bacall, the American actress, achieved fame for her memorable performances in movies such as “Dark Passage,” “The Big Sleep,” “Key Largo,” “Designing Woman,” and “How to Marry a Millionaire” among others.
She started her career as a model for the Walter Thornton Model Agency before transitioning into acting at the age of 20, where she made her film debut as the leading lady in “To Have and Have Not” (1944).
In the later stages of her career, she enjoyed renewed success with notable roles in films such as “Dogville,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Ernest & Celestine,” and “The Forger.”
Recognized as one of the last surviving major stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, she received an Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2009.
Was Lauren Bacall Jewish?
Her upbringing in New York, USA was within a Jewish household led by her parents.
Her Jewish-sounding name wasn’t deemed acceptable in the Hollywood of the 1940s and ’50s. Therefore, she adapted it to a version of her mother’s family name, Weinstein-Bacal.
Before becoming an actress, Bacall worked as a model and shared her Jewish identity with other models, only to be disheartened by their response of “Oh – but you don’t look Jewish at all!” which they intended as a compliment.
In her autobiography “Lauren Bacall by Myself”, she wrote:
Despite her Jewish background, she harbored mixed sentiments. In her book, she also acknowledged feeling “totally Jewish and always would,” while reproving herself for not openly embracing her Jewish identity.
Bacall resisted her husband, Humphrey Bogart’s suggestion to baptize their children due to her Jewish background.
In her memoir, she highlighted her Jewish heritage’s importance for her children amid discrimination. Despite initial hesitation, Bacall and Bogart navigated the interplay between personal beliefs and public perception of Judaism, revealing societal complexities.
During her romance with Bogart, she raised the topic of her Jewish heritage and its significance to him.
Recalling his response later, she described his adamant rejection, emphasizing his focus on her as an individual – her thoughts, feelings, and character – rather than her religious background.
Their son Stephen revealed in a 1995 memoir that his mother was a lapsed Jew, and his father a lapsed Episcopalian, noting that he and his sister, Leslie, were raised Episcopalian “because my mother felt that would make life easier for Leslie and me during those post-World War II years.”
Her Jewish identity was a significant aspect of her upbringing and personal life. Bacall's values, cultural background, and experiences as a Jewish woman profoundly influenced her perspective and career in the entertainment industry.
Her contributions to film and theater, characterized by her talent, grace, and resilience, reflect the rich tapestry of her Jewish identity, making her an enduring figure in both Jewish and cinematic history.
Lauren Bacall Parents, Ethnicity & Religion
Born Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, Lauren was the only child of her mother, Natalie, who worked as a secretary, and her father, William Perske, engaged in sales.
When she was five years old, her parents went through a divorce, and her mother subsequently wed Lee Goldberg. Later on, Lauren adopted the Romanian variation of her mother’s surname, Bacall.
In her family lineage, she acknowledges Hyman Perske as her paternal grandfather, Rebecca Frankel as her paternal grandmother, Maximillian Weinstein-Bacal as her maternal grandfather, and Sophie Josipovici as her maternal grandmother.
Bacall discovered that through her father, she was related to Shimon Peres (born Szymon Perski), the eighth prime minister and ninth president of Israel.
With immigrant roots from Poland and Romania, she has a mixed ethnic background, deriving Romanian heritage from her mother and Polish ancestry from her father. She was of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
Raised in a Jewish family and brought up within the Jewish faith, she identifies with Judaism as her religion.
You Might Be Interested In Is Lex Fridman Jewish? Religion & Ethnicity Explored