Was Rosa Ponselle Jewish?
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Was Rosa Ponselle Jewish?

Of course not. But there were rumors that she was.

Ponselle (1897-1981), America’s greatest female opera singer, was born Rose Ponzillo, in Meriden, Conn., and became a star of the Metropolitan Opera after singing in vaudeville.

She was singing in the Met’s “La Juive,” an 1835 opera by Halevy and Scribe, playing Rachel, the “Jewish” daughter of the goldsmith, Eleazer. (She’s really the Christian daughter of someone who later became a cardinal.)

Ponselle, asked whether she had done any research into what Jewish women were like, answered:

“Rachel doesn’t take that kind of preparation. Let’s face it, it’s a good role as far as it goes, but it’s not Norma [a role that Ponselle excelled in]. For the Jewish aspects, I knew about Jewish religion and customs from Edith [Prilik, her secretary], and also from my manager, Libbie Miller. Both of them were Jewish.

“And by the way, a lot of people at that time thought I was Jewish too. I mean, my secretary was Jewish, my manager was Jewish, and people used to say to them, ‘Come on, what is Ponselle trying to hide? She’s Jewish, so what doesn’t she admit it?'”

It’s interesting that there are so many rumors that famous non-Jewish people were secretly Jewish ““ like Cary Grant and Charlie Chaplin.

Perhaps one reason is that so many of them were.

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