Dorothy Parker and Anti-Semitism

Definition of Anti-Semitism: Discrimination against, prejudice or hostility toward Jews.

Dorothy Parker’s fans know about her best-selling books, poems and short stories. They are also keenly aware that Dorothy co-founded the Algonquin Round Table in the 1920’s. In the 1930’s she was nominated for an Academy Award for her screenplay to A Star Is Born. Also in the 30’s, Dorothy Parker co-founded the Anti-Nazi League and Screen Writers Guild. Tragically she was victimized by the McCarthy hearings and found herself, along with friends Lillian Hellman and Dashielle Hammett, a victim of the Hollywood Blacklist commie scare of the 1950’s.

During WWII, Dorothy Parker passionately protested the persecution of Jews in Europe. Her passion for boldly speaking out for human rights made her a hero on both coasts and half way around the world.

Few of Dorothy’s fans knew that her maiden name was Dorothy Rothschild. Dorothy’s mother, Annie Eliza Martson Rothschild was of Scottish descent, and died at the age of 44, when Dorothy was 5 years old. Dorothy’s father, Jacob Henry Rothschild was of German Jewish descent, Dorothy Parker lived in an era when anti-Semitism was at its height. She therefore was very sensitive to unwanted discrimination that accompanied awareness of her Jewish name, Rothschild. Therefore, she retained the surname of her first husband, Edwin Pond Parker II, after their divorce, and enjoyed writing under then name Dorothy Parker.

In the Jewish religion, a child of mixed parents is considered to be Jewish only if their mother is Jewish. In the Jewish religion, when one’s father alone is Jewish, then the child is not considered to be Jewish. The reasoning for this is that people knew a child came from his or her mother – however, in those days it could not be proven who the actual father was… So, someone with a gentile mother and Jewish father had the distinction of carrying a Jewish surname, yet was not considered to be Jewish by other Jews because the mother was not Jewish.

Such prejudice from several fronts would affect Dorothy Parker, who hid the fact that her father was Jewish from friends and fans. Remarkably in 1936 Dorothy helped to found the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League. The League’s membership grew to over 4,000 members, raising much needed funds for persecuted Jews overseas. Some accused the Anti-Nazi League of being a cover for the Communist party – which could possibly have been the underpinnings of Dorothy’s eventual persecution by the anti-Communist McCarthy hearings in Hollywood.

In 1949 Dorothy Parker wrote the screenplay to the movie, The Fan – based on Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windemere’s Fan. The film’s director was Otto Preminger whose more noteworthy film, Exodus, is credited for putting an end to the Hollywood blacklist in 1960 when he openly credited Blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo on the film. Exodus was a “Zionist epic” that depicted the true-life story of a boat of refugees being refused entry into the United States because they were Jews.

Having grown up surrounded by Anti-Semitism, Dorothy Parker was particularly sensitive to the discrimination of blacks. When Dorothy Parker passed away of a heart attack in 1967 at the age of 73, she bequeathed the rights to her writings to Martin Luther King, Jr. – who in turn left them to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1988, the NAACP dedicated a memorial garden in Dorothy Parker’s memory. She is heralded for her efforts to maintain “the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish Peoples.”

Source by Terrie Frankel

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