The Secret Jewish History of Cher

9 Reasons Why the Entertainer Is Honorary Member of Tribe

Sonny Days Ahead: Legendary entertainer Cher is hitting the road for the first time in eight years.
Getty Images
Sonny Days Ahead: Legendary entertainer Cher is hitting the road for the first time in eight years.

By Seth Rogovoy

Published January 06, 2014, issue of January 10, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

In the beginning, there was Cher. And the Lord saw that Cher was good, and so He made Madonna. And Britney. And Gaga. And Miley. And then, exhausted, spent, and depressed about twerking, He went back to the drawing board and breathed new life into Cher… again.

We’re on the verge of yet another Cher comeback — these happen roughly once per decade. Last fall, she released her first album in 11 years, “Closer to the Truth,” and this year she hits the road for “Dressed to Kill,” her first United States arena tour in eight years. It begins in March and is scheduled to run through July, but will in all likelihood continue well into the rest of the year and span other continents.

Cher has always been a master of invention and reinvention. Her career spans the worlds of pop music, TV and film; she’s been a star as one-half of the famous duo Sonny and Cher (both on the pop charts and on TV), and one of the most successful solo female recording artists of the past five decades (she’s the only artist to have a No. 1 hit in every decade since the 1960s). But more than that, Cher is that rare creature — a celebrity whose fame transcends her artistic and commercial accomplishments (and failures) and in some way becomes her greatest pop culture achievement.

While Cher is of mixed ethnicity, with a mother of Irish, English and German descent and an Armenian father (she was born Cherilyn Sarkisian), she is probably most often thought to be Native American. She’s part Cherokee on her mother’s side, and she played up that heritage in costume and in song quite a bit in the 1970s.

While Cher has no Jewish background, many of the key people in her life — friends, boyfriends and collaborators — have been Jews. Her somewhat exotic ancestry, her distinctive looks, and her assertive independence have on occasion resulted in her taking on roles both in her work and in life that are expressive of her affinity with Jewish people and Jewish causes.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.