Black Celebrities You Didn't Know Were Jewish

Lauren London, Boris Kodjoe, Tracee Ellis Ross and more.

As the lights of Hanukkah illuminate our spirits, it's a time for celebration and recognizing the diverse tapestry of Jewish heritage. From December 7 to December 15, Hanukkah holds a special place in the Jewish calendar, commemorating the miraculous triumph of light over darkness and resilience in the face of adversity.

In this illumination season, we shed light on a captivating aspect of Jewish identity – the presence of Hebrew roots within the Black community. These stars, whether through practice or lineage, shine a light on the vibrant tapestry of Jewish heritage, inspiring unity and celebration during this joyous season.

  1. Lenny Kravitz, Lisa Bonet and Zoe Kravitz

    Coincidentally, the actress famous for playing Denise Huxtable and her rock star ex-hubby both claim Jewish roots, making the same true for their beautifully talented daughter.

    Lenny comes from a Russian-Jewish background on his father's side while Lisa's Jewish lineage is on her mom's.

  2. Drake

    The rapper grew up with his Jewish mom in Toronto. He even attended a Jewish day school and had bar mitzvah!

  3. Sammy Davis Jr.

    The legendary American entertainer converted to Judaism after a near-death car accident in 1954.

  4. Rashida Jones

    The actress may be the daughter of the great Quincy Jones, but her mom Peggy Lipton was raised Jewish and attended Hebrew school.

  5. Tracee Ellis Ross

    The "Black-ish" star was born Tracee Joy Silberstein, the last name coming from her father, Robert Ellis Silberstein.

  6. Lauren London

    Lauren's mother is Black and her father is Ashkenazi Jewish. She once said, “I’m a little half-Black, half-Jewish girl who was odd and awkward.”

  7. Boris Kodjoe

    This multi-ethnic actor, truly the product of international love (he was born in Vienna to a German-Jewish mother and Ghanaian father), had a great-grandmother who died in the Holocaust and a grandmother who survived it. Way back in 2007, he said, "My grandmother’s part Jewish, which makes my mother and myself Jewish, by blood. But we weren’t raised in the Jewish faith."

  8. Goapele

    The songbird’s mom is an Israeli Jew, but didn’t grow up very religious. Early on in her career, she explained, "I'm South African and Jewish. There are certain practices and traditions that I grew up with, but I wasn't raised very religiously. It's more of a cultural kind of thing and just about my family history that I identify with."

  9. Sean Paul

    This Jamaican dance hall star can credit a wide gene pool that crosses many ethnicities for his unique look. He is Sephardic Jewish, by way of Portugal, from his father's side and Afro-Carribean, English and Chinese on his mother's side.

  10. Maya Rudolph

    Maya Rudolph is the daughter of African American soul singer Minnie Riperton and Ashkenazi Jewish songwriter Richard Rudolph, who gave her the middle name Khabira. After her mother died just shy of Rudolph's seventh birthday, she was raised by her father in Los Angeles.

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