Did you know that Sandra Lee, New York’s unofficial First Lady and queen bee of the Semi-Homemade housekeeping empire, is Jewish? If not, don’t feel bad: We didn’t, either, and neither, apparently, did the city’s other daily online magazine of Jewish life and culture, which has written about Lee’s Christmas gifts to the daughters of her boyfriend, Governor Andrew Cuomo, but not about her conversion to Judaism a decade ago, before she married homebuilding mogul Bruce Karatz—himself the former president of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, one of the largest Reform congregations in Los Angeles.
It’s perfectly understandable that Lee—raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist and, later, a Jehovah’s Witness—doesn’t talk about it much. She and Karatz were in the midst of their divorce when she and Cuomo met, in 2005, and Karatz subsequently married Lilly Tartikoff, the widow of former NBC president Brandon Tartikoff. And while Lee’s unfortunate Kwanzaa cake is the one people love to hate, she also has an angel-food Hanukkah cake that brought forth a torrent of ire from food bloggers.
Thankfully, New York’s Benjamin Wells is on the case. In his profile—which you really ought to read, from beginning to end—he casts the conversion as part of Lee’s dramatic jump up the class ladder, from oldest sister maximizing her family’s food-stamp allowance to Real Housewife of Bel Air, driving around in a Mercedes SL600 and hanging out with Arianna Huffington while launching her TV show and a line of companion books from her garage. “She has changed names and religions and coasts,” Wells writes. “She has scaled steep socioeconomic heights and done so by eking wealth from her woes.”