Sarah Jessica Parker’s Jewish identity

SJP has a sister who is Modern Orthodox and her husband Matthew Broderick is a ‘deeply religious’ Jew
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 23: Sarah Jessica Parker attends Highpoint Shopping Centre on October 23, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Carrie Bradshaw is back for “And Just Like That,” a Sex and the City spinoff series featuring Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte as they transition from the friendship they had in their 30s to a more complicated reality of life and friendship in their 50s.

Given the show’s undeniably Jewish essence (despite its slight representation problem) it’s no surprise people are wondering: is Sarah Jessica Parker Jewish?

Parker was interviewed for a 2005 book called ‘Stars of David : Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish‘ by journalist Abigail Pogrebin. In her interview, Parker spilled all the details about her upbringing, Judaism and connection to Israel. 

Let us walk you through some of the highlights. Here’s everything you want to know about the SJP’s Jewish identity:

The basics

Sarah Jessica Parker was born in Nelsonville, Ohio, on March 25, 1965, to Barbara Parker and Stephen Parker.

Sarah Jessica Parker limbers up with unidentified actor prior to her rehearsing her dance steps for the DTV finals in a scene from the film ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, 1985. (Photo by New World Pictures/Getty Images)

Her dad is an Ashkenazi Jew

SJP’s dad, Stephen, is an Ashkenazi Jew from Brooklyn. According to family lore, Parker said in the interview, the surname “Parker” was created by a series of miscommunications. 

“My great-grandfather on my father’s side came over to Ellis Island. His name was Bar-Kahn, which means ‘son of Kohen,’ and the immigration officer thought he said ‘Parken.’ He wrote his N’s like R’s, so ‘Parken’ became ‘Parker.” 

“He was so happy to be in America and to have a business that was fairly thriving, that he never corrected his customers and he became Parker,” she continued. “So there’s also great pride attached to this idea that we’re Kohens, you know the great tribe of Israel.”

Sarah Jessica Parker practices dance moves Lee Montgomery in a scene from the film ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, 1985. (Photo by New World Pictures/Getty Images)

She suspects her mother has some Jewish lineage as well

Parker’s mother, Barbara is of German and English descent, but Parker believes her mother has Jewish lineage as well, although she admits that it is hard to trace. 

“According to Matthew (her husband, who is Jewish) Hitler would have been perfectly happy to call me a Jew because there was enough Jewish blood in me that I was not desirable,” she said. “I have, frankly, always just considered myself a Jew. Maybe I feel Jewish because my mother is very skeptical of organized religion in general and being a Jew felt more cultural to me. I was always responding to things that were Jewish.”

Side note: Traditionally Jewish lineage is passed down through the mother.

Bradshaw’s connection to New York is very Jewish

Bradshaw grew up in Ohio, then moved to Cincinnati, and eventually to New York City, but her connection to New York has always been tied to her Jewish identity, she said.

“My father was raised on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn,” she explained. “He was on the Brighton Beach line. It’s a very Jewish community. And every year on our summer visits, the people we spent time with were Jews.”

She wasn’t raised religious at all, and her Judaism was more tied to culture.

Whenever we came to New York on Sundays we always went to Chinatown. To us that was a very Jewish thing.”

She loves MahJong

The most Jewish non-Jewish game ever is SJP’s favorite.

She was gifted a vintage mahjong set and here’s what she had to say about it on Instagram:

“I can’t explain how/why these gorgeous old tiles bring me so much joy, but oh how they do,” her caption said. “I’m giddy with delight and I’m lost in imagining the sets previous owner and all the games played in its long past… Fellow player, you understand.”

She’s married to Matthew Broderick

Parker married Ferris Bueller’s Day Off star Matthew Broderick (who is also Jewish by way of his Ashkenazi mother) in 1997. Together, they have 3 children: James, 19, and twins Loretta and Tabitha, 12.

NEW YORK-AUGUST 15: Actors Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker arrive at the Roseland Ballroom for the Broadway musical Hairspray opening night after party August 15, 2002, in New York City. The musical is based on the 1988 film of the same name. (Photo by Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images)

Broderick identifies strongly with Judaism, Parker said.

“Matthew not only identifies as a Jew. I mean, he really is,” Parker said.

“He knows more about the Bible and Jewish story. He really sees things through the eyes of a Jew and it’s fascinating to me. His perspective in life has very much to do with Hitler and the persecution of Jews.”

She has grappled with how to raise her children Jewish

At the time of the interview, Parker was pregnant with her eldest and talked about raising her kids Jewish.

“We happen to live next to a temple and I think it’s really nice, and I wonder, ‘What should we do?'” said Parker. “Should this child of ours have more religious education than we had?’ I would like our child to have choices and know more than I’ve ever known about his or her religion. But Matthew doesn’t know what he wants for this child and it’s important to me that he feels comfortable.”

Marion Loretta Elwell Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, andTabitha Hodge Broderick attend New York City Ballet 2018 Spring Gala at Lincoln Center on May 3, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

She has felt intimidated by going to synagogue, but feels ‘deeply religious’ 

In the interview, Parker admits how little she knows about Judaism as a religion.

“I said to Matthew, ‘If we went to this temple next door, where would we begin? We’re so behind.’ In temple, it seems like you have to know what you’re doing. And it intimidates people; it certainly intimidates me,” she said.

“And I keep saying, `I’m not a religious person,’ but I know that’s not true; I know that I believe that there’s somebody who watches over us and he or she takes care or not, or teaches us. I really do — strangely enough–kind of cling to that.”

Parker hung a Mezuzah in the nursery

“A dear friend of mine named Bettianne, who is Jewish, gave me a beautiful mezuzah; she got it at West Side Judaica,” Parker said. “It has three little children on it and they’re playing, sledding… So Bettianne and I put it up ourselves on the door to the baby’s bedroom. And I love it. I walk up the steps every day and I see it in our new house on the door to the baby’s bedroom and I feel like it’s yet one more person keeping an eye on the baby.”

Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker and James Wilkie Broderick attends HBO Max’s “And Just Like That” New York Premiere at Museum of Modern Art on December 08, 2021 in New York City. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage)

Parker’s sister is Modern Orthodox

Parker is one of eight total children from her parents’ marriage and her mother’s second marriage. 

One of her sisters is Modern Orthodox, Parker said.

“My sister is Modern Orthodox. She didn’t shave her head–you don’t have to. She’s one of my best friends. And I’ve learned more from her about the actual practice and ritual of being a Jew than I’ve ever known before,” she said.

She has visited Israel and feels a strong connection

Parker said the conflict in Israel makes her and Broderick both feel more Jewish. 

“It makes you identify. I feel much more strongly about the situation there and I feel foolish about it too because I don’t know the history. But I do know that I feel defensive [about it].”

“When you think of Rabin and all these remarkable people who have died, it makes you really much more of a Jew.”

Parker has trouble hearing people question Israel’s conduct, she said at the time. 

“To me it’s like trying to have a logical argument with a pro-lifer. I can’t have the conversation because there’s no logic that applies. If you don’t understand why Israel has to defend itself.… The extremists want the Jews gone. So why should the Jews feel safe?”

In 2019, Parker, Broderick and their children went on a family trip to Israel, visiting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

After her visit to the Western Wall, an Israeli celebrity news site shared an image of Sarah praying at the wall and wrote, “We hope you didn’t forget to put a note in.”

Parked commented on the post, writing, “Grateful to be in such a glorious city. I thank all in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem who have shown such lovely hospitality. It’s a thrill to be here. X”

On her Jewish identity

When asked whether she spends a lot of time with Jewish friends, Parker said, “If Matthew and I are with friends who are Jewish, you just feel something you can’t describe–like trying to describe a color; you can’t. It’s just commonality — like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re with our people.’” 

“But I have a lot of non-Jewish friends,” she added. “Many of them seem to think of being Jewish as slightly exotic.”

Sarah Jessica Parker attends Highpoint Shopping Centre on October 23, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

She also commented on Jewish representation in SATC

We’ve written about the Jewish stereotypes in Sex and the City, and Parker herself noted that many of the representations of Jews on SATC left much to be desired.

HBO’s Sex and the City, Season 1 Episode 6 (Photo: Screenshot)

“We live in a city full of Jews. The fact that we haven’t dealt with it more and also didn’t do better fleshed-out Jewish characters bothered me,” Parker said. “And I still worry that Harry Goldenblatt is too clichéd. That’s the problem with being a man on our show. It takes time for dimension to come.”

“We have this great actor, Evan Handler, and he’s really sexy and he’s smart and I’m excited about the potential of that. But I think we have to be careful that he doesn’t become the false cliché of the loud, boorish Jewish lawyer who’s aggressive; that he is dignified and interesting and smart and sexy and witty and flawed and all the things that make any guy interesting. I’m excited about it, but I hope we do it well.”

Charlotte York Goldenblatt at her wedding to Harry Goldenblatt [Photo: HBO]

The last season of SATC aired in 2004, and the book with this interview was published in 2005. It’s unclear when exactly Parker made these comments, but it seems like it was before season 6. 

“If I watch a television show about somebody and there’s a Jew on there — I don’t mean fiction, I mean reality — and there’s a guy on there named Goldfarb and he’s a jackass, I’m like, ‘You’re bad for the Jews.’ It’s one more excuse for bigots to say, ‘Look at the Jews.’ And I’m very protective that way. I’m very ashamed of stereotyping and one person doing a great disservice to millions.”

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