Marianne Williamson

Williamson in 2010, photo by

Birth Name: Marianne Deborah Williamson

Place of Birth: Houston, Harris, Texas, U.S.

Date of Birth: July 8, 1952

Ethnicity: Ashkenazi Jewish

Marianne Williamson is an American writer, spiritual leader, speaker, politician, activist, and self-help author. She wrote A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, and was Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual advisor. Marianne has founded charitable organizations Center for Living, which provides services for the ill, and Project Angel Food, which provides free meals; and co-founded the Peace Alliance, which seeks global conflict resolution. She is a board member of non-profit group RESULTS, which works to find long-term solutions to poverty.

She was a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States in 2020 and 2024.

Marianne is the daughter of Sophie Ann (Kaplan) and Samuel Williamson, an immigration lawyer. She has a daughter. Marianne was raised attending a Conservative Jewish synagogue. Her father was born in Michigan, to Russian Jewish parents. Her mother was born in Texas, also to Jewish parents from the Russian Empire, who were of Belarusian Jewish and Ukrainian Jewish descent. Marianne is the first Jewish woman to run for a major party’s presidential nomination.

She was spiritual leader of the Church of Today, a Unity Church in Warren, Michigan. The Unity Church grew from the New Thought Christianity movement.

Marianne’s paternal grandfather was named Solomon Williamson. Solomon was born in Russia. The family’s original surname is reported as Vishnevetsky.

Marianne’s paternal grandmother was named Minnie/Mildred Nichamin (the daughter of Izel/Isaac Nechamen and Bryna). Izel was born in Belarus, the son of Schaime/Solomon Nechamen, who was born in Kiev.

Marianne’s maternal grandfather was Henry Kaplan (the son of Yankel/Matusov Kaplan and Rachel Alpert). Henry was born in Kapyl, Kapyl District, Minsk Region, Belarus. Rachel was born in Russia, the daughter of Jack Alpert.

Marianne’s maternal grandmother was Rose Taitz/Deutser (the daughter of Isaac Taitz/Tayts/Deutser and Mary Dora Trisik). Rose was born in Nikopol’, Dnipro, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine. Isaac was the son of Khaim/Chaim Tayts. Mary was the daughter of Khaim/Chaim-Ber Trishek/Trisik, who was born in Telsiai, Lithuania, and of Sora/Shura Riva Matusov, who was born in Kražiai, Šiauliai County, Lithuania.

Two people of Jewish heritage have been nominated for President of the United States by a major party. Barry Goldwater, nominated by the Republican Party in 1964, was the first (Goldwater was born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, and was raised an Episcopalian). John Kerry, nominated by the Democratic Party in 2004, was the second (Kerry’s paternal grandparents were born Jewish, though Kerry’s father and Kerry himself were raised Catholic).

Joe Lieberman, who was Jewish, was nominated for Vice President of the United States by the Democratic Party in 2000.

Five people of Jewish heritage have won a major party’s Presidential caucus and/or primary:
*Barry Goldwater (1964, the year he was nominated; Republican; won 7 states; Goldwater also sought the 1960 Republican nomination)
*John Kerry (2004, the year he was nominated; Democratic; won 51 contests)
*Wesley Clark (who sought the 2004 Democratic nomination; won 1 state, Oklahoma; Clark was born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, and is a practicing Catholic)
*Bernie Sanders (who sought the Democratic nomination in 2016 and 2020; in 2016, he won 23 contests; in 2020, he won 9 contests)
*Michael Bloomberg (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination; won 1 territory, American Samoa)

Of the five, Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg are Jewish by religion, and Sanders is the first person of Jewish religion to have won a caucus and/or primary for a major American political party’s Presidential nomination (the 2016 New Hampshire primary).

Other people of significant Jewish heritage who have mounted plausible or semi-plausible campaigns for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States are:
*Milton Shapp (who sought the 1976 Democratic nomination)
*Larry Agran (who sought the 1992 Democratic nomination)
*Arlen Specter (who sought the 1996 Republican nomination)
*Joe Lieberman (who sought the 2004 Democratic nomination)
*John H. Cox (who sought the 2008 Republican nomination)
*Fred Karger (who sought the 2012 Republican nomination)
*Michael Bennet (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination)
*Tom Steyer (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination)
*Dean Phillips (who sought the 2024 Democratic nomination)

Shapp, Agran, Specter, Lieberman, Karger, and Phillips were/are all Jewish by religion. Bennet and Steyer were raised in mixed-faith households, Bennet with a Jewish mother and Steyer with a Jewish father. Shapp was the first person of Jewish religion to mount a prominent campaign for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States.

Kirsten Gillibrand, a Catholic with a Jewish great-grandfather, also sought the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Sources: Interview with Marianne Williamson about being Jewish –

Genealogy of Marianne Williamson –

Marianne’s father on the 1920 U.S. Census –

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