Posted by: Morton A. Klein
March 23, 2011
ZOA Mourns Elizabeth Taylor, Ardent Zionist
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ZOA president Max Nussbaum converted Taylor to Judaism
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) mourns the passing of legendary American actress and ardent Zionist, Elizabeth Taylor, who has passed away, aged 79. Ms. Taylor, who enjoyed a long and hugely successful career in Hollywood, was converted to Judaism in 1959 by the Rabbi Max Nussbaum, who served as National President of the ZOA from 1964 to 1966. Ms. Taylor was a recipient of the ZOAs Distinguished Louis D. Brandeis Award.
Among Elizabeth Taylors outstanding work on behalf of Israel and Jewish causes was her participating in raising $840,000 for Israel in a 1967 London gala and purchasing personally $100,000 in Israel Bonds in 1959. The same year, she cancelled a visit to Moscow after the Soviet Union lashed out at Israel after the June 1967 Six Day War. In 1975, she was one of 60 prominent women to sign a statement to then-U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, condemning the U.N. General Assemblys infamous Zionism-is-Racism resolution. Taylor offered herself as a hostage when 104 hostages aboard an Air France airbus were hijacked by PLO terrorists and held at Ugandas Entebbe Airport, from which they rescued in a spectacular Israeli commando mission on July 4, 1976, Americas 200th birthday. Taylor frequently visited Israel and met with its leadership, including Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1983. In 1987, she signed a petition seeking the release from Soviet incarceration of leading refusenik, Ida Nudel.
Elizabeth Taylors pro-Israel activism led to the banning of her films in several Arab countries. After purchasing $100,000 in Israel Bonds in 1959, the United Arab Republic (now Egypt) banned her all her movies. Gen. Essam Elmasri, head of the Cairo regional bureau of the Israel Boycott Office, said that Miss Taylor would not be allowed to come to Egypt because she has adopted the Jewish faith and supports Israeli causes. Her movie, Cleopatra, was not permitted to be filmed in Egypt, but in 1964, Egypt dropped her from its blacklist when it decided that Cleopatra, which mentions Egypt 122 times, would be provide good publicity for Egypt (Ami Eden, In the JTA Archive: Liz Taylor says trade me for Entebbe hostages, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 23, 2011).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, Elizabeth Taylor was not only a wonderful actress but a wonderful Zionist. In the days of vicious Arab boycotts stronger than those today, she could have taken a self-interested line, as have many Jewish actors today, and failed to speak up or support Israel or, worse, engaged in anti-Israel slanders and other activities that harm Israel and aid its enemies, but she didnt. The ZOA is proud of its connection to Elizabeth Taylor and expresses heartfelt condolences to her family and friends at her passing. Her rabbi was Rabbi Max Nussbaum, of Temple Israel, Hollywood, who was also a past National President of ZOA. Members of Temple Israel included Al Jolson, Sammy Davis Junior, Eddie Fisher, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel and Leonard Nimoy, among numerous other Hollywood celebrities.