(Freda Josephine McDonald)
June 3, 1906 – April 12, 1975
1920s and 30s. People pack Parisian nightclubs to see the "Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", the "Creole Goddess": Josephine Baker. Baker, who often dances practically nude, captivates the minds of many, from Pablo Picasso, to F. Scott Fitzgerald, to Ernest Hemingway.
So you know where this is heading, right? This is where we proclaim Josephine as surprisingly Jewish, and...
Well, not so fast. Although Baker wasn't Jewish herself, it's quite likely that her father was Jewish. Some debate remains on the matter.
But what's even more fascinating is what Baker did later in life. After spending part of World War II spying for the French government, she moved to the south of France. Baker then adopted twelve children of various ethnicity: a Korean, an Algerian, a Finn... This was her way to fight racism. And, yes, a Jew was part of the so-called "Rainbow Tribe". Baker even hired a rabbi to tutor him. So one can say that even though she wasn't Jewish herself, she was a Jewish daughter and a Jewish mother.
So much for the "Creole Goddess"?
Verdict: Barely a Jew.
June 9, 2011