Whoopi Goldberg: I'm Jewish and I talk to God

She's black, she played a nun and her dad was a preacher. But Whoopi insists: I'm a real Goldberg


By Jessica Elgot, May 12, 2011
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The real deal: Woopie in Sister  Act

The real deal: Woopie in Sister Act

She may be well known as a singing nun in Sister Act, but actress Whoopi Goldberg has claimed she feels just as Jewish as she does black.

Speaking this week at a charity event in London, the Oscar-winning actress said: "I just know I am Jewish. I practise nothing. I don't go to temple, but I do remember the holidays. Religion is a lot of work, it's exhausting. So I keep it simple, I have a pretty good relationship with God. We talk.'"

She added: "When people heard the name 'Whoopi Goldberg', and then I turned up, I was not what they were expecting.

"People would ask me in a roundabout way, 'So are you?' And I would say 'What?' And they'd say 'What does your name mean?' And I would say 'Do you mean Whoopi?' And they'd say 'No, the other name.' And then they would say 'Come on, are you Jewish?' And I always say 'Would you ask me that if I was white? I bet not.'" The name is wonderful for starting conversations."

She refused to be drawn on the exact origins of the name, but added: "My mother did not name me Whoopi, but Goldberg is my name, it's part of my family, part of my heritage. Just like being black." One story suggests that her mother, Emma Johnson, thought that the family's original surname was "not Jewish enough" for her daughter to become a star.

Whoopi's father, Robert, was a clergyman who left the family in New York when the former Caryn Johnson was a baby.

Ms Goldberg, who is currently producing the musical version of Sister Act on Broadway, was in London to work with charity Film Without Borders, run by TV producer Jill Samuels. It supports young filmmakers from countries of conflict, including Israel and the Palestinian territories.

She visited Israel "many moons ago" and planted a tree there. "I feel a real connection there, but also with Palestine as well. We are one people, we really are."

Ms Goldberg was interviewed by three young Israeli, Palestinian and Rwandan filmmakers. They included former IDF Navy Seal Omri Bezalel. All the students used the interviews to make short films called "Things I learnt from Whoopi."

After filming, Prince Edward hosted a reception for the charity and Ms Goldberg at Windsor Castle on Monday night.

The finished films will be shown at the BFI UK Film Council tent at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18. Filmmakers trained by Film Without Borders will later return to their countries to teach their new skills to other up-and-coming film directors.

    Last updated: 2:39pm, May 12 2011