When actress and producer Julianna Margulies first contemplated writing a book, she figured she'd write what she knows--an acting handbook about set etiquette. So, she penned the first nine chapters, and sent them to her agent, who politely told her that acting manuals don't sell. But, she told Margulies, she was intrigued by her personal anecdotes weaved in between the etiquette sections.
So, Margulies pivoted and wrote a revealing memoir, in part about her unconventional upbringing, being shuttled between her divorced, rootless parents across Western Europe and the States, she called her 2021 book
Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life
, the title referencing the nickname her mom bestowed on her as a little girl because of her sunny disposition.
In the book, she explains that her nomadic origin story taught her to adapt to all kinds of roles--and ultimately led her to acting. "What else could I do?" she writes. "I was always trying to be another person as a child, whether it was changing my accent, speaking in a different language, living the high life, or just getting by. I was constantly changing who I was or trying to become someone I thought I was supposed to be."
The actress and newly published author--of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage--will discuss her memoir and her award-winning TV career, when she headlines the JUF Women's Philanthropy Spring Event 2022 on Wednesday, May 25.
Spring Event--back in person for the first time since 2019--will take place in a tent at a new venue: the Chicago History Museum. "Our venue, the newly renovated gardens at the museum, is gorgeous," said Amy Lowenstein, Spring Event Chair, Women's Board. "Our Women's Philanthropy events are our touchstones, and we have missed coming together in person as a community. We are excited to be back in a big way this year!"
At a time of big challenges at home and abroad, Spring Event will offer this devoted group of women a chance to stand up and be counted. "Giving a women's gift to JUF enables me to truly live Jewish values for myself, my daughters, and my community," said Robyn Tavel, 2022 Campaign Vice President, Women's Board. "JUF answers the call of
every single day here in Chicagoland, in Israel, in Ukraine, and elsewhere around the world."
Jacqueline Lotzof, 2022 Campaign Vice President, Young Women's Board, echoed the importance of giving as a woman. "I'm excited to celebrate the profound impact of Women's Philanthropy," she said. "I'm proud to be part of this group of dedicated and dynamic women who support JUF, and I can't wait to connect with these inspiring women--in person--at Spring Event."
Befitting this celebration of strong women, Margulies will headline the event, joining in a conversation with moderator Jennifer Wintroub Stoller, Spring Event Chair, Young Women's Board. "Margulies has always portrayed a fierce woman in her TV roles," she said. "She seems to be a likeable and relatable star. Our community will be amazed when they hear her background and Jewish story."
Currently, Margulies appears as veteran news anchor Laura Peterson alongside fellow powerhouse stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in the sophomore season of Apple TV+'s
The Morning Show
Margulies first earned fame almost 30 years ago for her starring role as Carol Hathaway opposite George Clooney on NBC's long-running hit medical drama
, set in the Windy City.
A decade later, Margulies traded in her scrubs for lawsuits in the Chicago-set CBS legal drama
The Good Wife
, which she both starred in and produced. Margulies played Alicia Florrick, an attorney who returns to legal practice after her husband resigns as Illinois State's Attorney due to a sex scandal.
In contrast with her on-screen persona, Margulies has, thankfully, had better marriage success off screen. She and husband, Keith Lieberthal, who is Jewish, have been married for almost 15 years, and have a son who recently celebrated his bar mitzvah.
In advance of her appearance in Chicago, Margulies sat down for an email interview with
Jewish Chicago: The JUF Magazine.
You have said that you weren't raised Jewishly, but adapted Jewish traditions later in life. Which ones?
Julianna Margulies: My husband and I try to do Shabbat on Friday nights with our son--we love the tradition of saying goodbye to the work week and bringing in the weekend together. We fast on Yom Kippur, and [also] make it a tradition to have a Seder and invite as many people as we can.
Q. Mazel tov on your son's bar mitzvah! Did you celebrate virtually or in person?
A. He turned 13 during the COVID lockdown and we had been to so many bar and bat mitzvahs on Zoom that he told us he would rather wait until he could do it in person. We celebrated five months later with all of his closest friends and relatives. We were outside on a rooftop in New York City and it was just perfect. He did a great job reading the Torah.
Q. How does being Jewish inform your worldview?
A. I was [recently] shocked to find out only 19 out of 50 states in America teach about the Holocaust. It moved me to get more active…Being Jewish makes me feel obligated to protect the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and to shed light on what it means to truly hate. I'm not a very religious person, but I belong to the Jewish people and that gives me a tremendous sense of responsibility.
Q. Tell us about your relationship with Chicago, considering both
The Good Wife
were set here.
Isn't that nuts? Two shows both based in Chicago? I love this city and one of the things I always do when I come back here is go to whatever Steppenwolf production is playing.
Q. I'm sure it's like picking a favorite child, but who has been your favorite character to play?
Each of those characters resonated with me because of the age I was when I played them. I miss Alicia--I loved how she answered or chose not to answer questions and I loved her resolve. Laura is a character I am still exploring... And Carol will always be so deeply imbedded in my heart, and I owe her my career.
Q. How did becoming a mother change you?
The day he was born I no longer came first in my life. It's humbling and scary at times because you never know if you are doing the right thing, doing too much, too little. I'm a Jewish mother so I'm always worried about something.
Q. What's the biggest lesson your childhood has taught you about being a parent yourself?
Oh boy, it's taught me so much, and I'm still learning…I want for Kieran to always feel like he has a community around him. I want for him to have stability in his home. I think the reason I waited so long to get married and have a child was that I didn't want to make the same mistakes my parents made. I want for his life to feel safe.
Q. What will you carry with you from COVID times?
I always knew how lucky I was, but during the pandemic I must have said that a thousand times a day. We hunkered down in our house in upstate New York, and we had food on the table and a roof over our heads. I have an incredible husband who I am madly in love with and a son who actually enjoyed going to Zoom school. I felt so grateful to have my family around me and not to be scared and alone. I kept telling myself I would never forget that slowing down is important when the world started back up again, and I have to remind myself of that every day now.
The JUF Women's Philanthropy Spring Event featuring Julianna Margulies will take place in-person on Wednesday, May 25 from 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. The luncheon costs $85 and women who make an individual gift of $365 or more to the 2022 JUF Annual Campaign are invited to attend. Register at