She isn’t a Jew, but she’s played one on TV.
Four-time Emmy winner Valerie Harper is sharing sad news in this week’s People magazine, announcing she’s got terminal brain cancer and an estimated three months to live.
First famous as Mary Tyler Moore’s Jewish sidekick on the former’s eponymous TV show, Harper’s character later earned her own self-titled spin-off, “Rhoda,” which ran for five seasons. The character’s Jewish background had been front-and-center on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” setting the plot in motion on several episodes. Though it faded when she became a protagonist, the character remains one of the most prominent and identifiable Jewish figures to serve at the center of a primetime American TV series.
An accomplished dancer and stage actress, Harper later starred in a film version of “Golda’s Balcony,” the long-running off-Broadway play, in which she portrayed Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir at the end of her life. Harper, now 73, brought the movie to Israel for the 2007 Eilat Film Festival, where she called “the creation of this state one of the crowning achievements of the 20th century.”
Warm, humble and down-to-earth, Harper also recalled her first visit to Israel, in 1976, at the height of her television fame. Though she didn’t meet Meir, she remembered sharing tea with Abba Eban, Israel’s widely admired ambassador to the US and UN.
Moore on Wednesday told People that she sends “love and positive thoughts to [Harper] and her family during this difficult time.”
So do we.