By Gabe Friedman/(JTA) – Is Meghan Markle, an American actress and the girlfriend of the British royal Prince Harry, a member of the tribe? Stories in publications across the United States and United Kingdom have prompted the question. An article in the British tabloid Daily Express claims that Markle’s father is Jewish; Vanity Fair, Elle UK, Tablet and many others have cited the story.
The story also says that a spokesperson for Westminster Abbey, the historic London church where British royals get married, confirmed Markle’s Jewish background. “The spokesman also confirmed that Meghan’s Jewish background would not prevent her from having an ‘interfaith’ marriage there,” Camilla Tominey writes in the May 14 article.
The claim, however, is utterly false. Duncan Jeffery, Westminster Abbey’s head of communications, told JTA last week that the church never said that Markle was Jewish. It only confirmed that Markle could be married at the church despite a previous divorce. A source with knowledge of the situation also confirmed that Markle is not Jewish. Markle, who is best known for her role on the USA Network drama “Suits,” was married to Jewish producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013. As Tominey notes, the pair had a Jewish wedding in Jamaica (complete with a “Jewish chair dance,” meaning the hora). Markle’s father is Irish and her mother is African-American. She wrote an essay for Elle magazine in 2015 about her identity (it was subsequently published in Elle UK, one of the publications that has misstated her Jewish identity). The essay did not mention any Jewish ancestry or hint at a past conversion to Judaism.
Tominey’s article is correct in explaining that there is no “legal barrier that keeps a royal for marrying someone from the Jewish, Buddhist or Muslim faith, or even an atheist.”