Sunday, November 05, 2017

Was Elvis Jewish?

According to a book by Elaine Dundy, ELVIS AND GLADYS, he was. I always suspected. The obsession with karate, the white jumpsuits, his love of the traditional Jewish meal of peanut butter and banana sandwiches – he might as well have been Larry David with sideburns.

The book claims that Elvis’ grandmother on his mother’s side was Jewish. So his mother, Gladys, was Jewish, and thus, following the birth line according to Jewish law, so was the King.

This now explains all the Cadillacs.

And why he was “Crying in the Chapel.”

Elvis’ middle name was Aron, which the book suggests was just a misspelling of Aaron, the brother of Moses in the Bible. Jews are usually better at spelling so I question that claim.

Elvis had uncles named Sidney and Jerome. That alone does not make them Jewish, but if they annoyed young Elvis at Thanksgiving and told endless stories about going to high school with Milton Berle then you can confirm it.

Gladys was proud of her Jewish ancestry, the book attests. The fact that this was not mentioned in any of the five hundred other books about Elvis must mean her pride did not extend to two separate sets of dishes.

When she died, Elvis put a Star of David on her tombstone to honor her Jewish heritage.
Apparently, his parents told him to downplay his Jewish ancestry because of all the anti-Semitism. (In the South? Really?) I imagine his record company probably felt the same way, although it was okay for the public to think he was black.

The book says at one point he lived in an apartment below a rabbi and he would confer with him on occasion. Religious ethical questions like should he sleep with Delores Hart?


Elvis wore a piece of jewelry called a “Chai” which contained Hebrew words and the Star of David. Here too, this was not a convincing argument for his Jewishness because everyone who wore a gaudy jumpsuit in the ‘70s wore a Chai. It was just part of the look.

A stronger argument would be that he had no chemistry with Mary Tyler Moore who played a nun in his movie CHANGE OF HABIT. And the tagline for that classic was “When the King of Rock meets the Queen of Comedy romance rules.” Well, it didn’t. ‘Nuff said.

Jewish numerology is very significant. There is a Jewish holiday called Lag BaOmer. Literally, the name of the holiday means the "33rd day of the Omer." Elvis made 33 movies. That’s both eerie and conclusive.

By the way, ELVIS AND GLADYS is not the only book to contend the King was Jewish. (Note: ELVIS AND GLADYS is not to be confused with PETE AND GLADYS, a sitcom from the ‘60s starring gentiles.) There’s a book called SCHMELVIS: IN SEARCH OF ELVIS PRESLEY'S JEWISH ROOTS by Jonathan Goldstein & Max Wallace. But unlike Dundy’s book and this post, they don’t take the subject seriously.

So was Elvis actually Jewish? Throughout history Jewish scholars have argued over everything else, why not this too? I’d like to think he was, if for no other reason than Nixon would be spinning in his grave for befriending him.

32 comments :

Paul Duca said...

This was brought up on JLTV (during a commercial break on THE DANNY KAYE SHOW)

Mr. Hollywood said...

I have onlyh one word for this: OY!!!

Buttermilk Sky said...

As for the names...my great-grandfather was named Elijah, and his father was Mordecai. They were Quakers. Old Testament names were popular in the 19th century. (Abraham Lincoln?)

As for the jewelry...Louis Armstrong wore a Star of David in memory of a Jewish family in New Orleans who befriended him as a boy.

But I just found out (on FINDING YOUR ROOTS) that Scarlett Johansen is Jewish, so who knows?

Mike Barer said...

Shalom, Baby!

Todd Everett said...

According to Albert Goldman's biography of him (a dubious source, admittedly), Elvis wasn't circumcised. Too bad there aren't any women around who could confirm that.

Anonymous said...

My friend who knew Elvis says that he read about different religions. She quotes him about the Star of David that Elvis often wore. Elvis said "I wouldn't want to not get to Heaven on a technicality."
Jim Sevin

Peter said...

Unless I'm reading too much into it, does this mean you had uncles who would annoy you at Thanksgiving by telling you they went to school with Milton Berle?

Whilst on the subject, I went to see The Shining on Halloween, which was released to selected cinemas here in the UK just for Halloween. It's one of my all time favourites, must have seen it about ten times. Anyway, one thing that's always intrigued me when I watch it is a shot inside the kitchen pantry where there are several large cans of Heinz Kosher Dill Pickle Relish. Why would dill pickles need to be kosher?

Little shiksa, don't you do what your big shiksa done. said...

Well, that puts a very different spin on "In the Ghetto."

You mean the movie could have been "Kvetchin' Cousins"?

What Elvis really wanted was a bigga bigga bigga hunk of lox.

Justin Murphy said...

Hank Williams might have been Jewish also -- look at his birth name HIRAM KING Williams. And if you ask me, he looks VERY Jewish in this photo.

https://i.pinimg.com/236x/7e/46/03/7e46033444217e65516b9c73a2974148--honky-tonk-fame.jpg

Diane D. said...

I'm going to have to research antisemitism in the south. I lived in the Deep South for the first 14 years of my life and I never heard one word said about Jews. It was a small town and perhaps it was because there were no Jews in Hayti Missouri. I was brought to Indiana to live with my father at 14, and discovered to my shock, that he was anti Semitic, and that many people were! I kept trying to find out why. My father could not explain it. He acted as if it were self-evident. He acted as if I should be ashamed that I didn't understand it. He considered himself a Christian, but he never attended church, and being extremely ignorant, I doubt he knew anything about Jesus and the Jews. I learned of the Holocaust that same year and nothing, before or since, of course, has ever affected me in such a horrifying and significant way. In a way, I never got over it. I feel as if my whole life has had this huge question mark standing in the way.

Wow, all of that from your comment about anti-semitism in the south in the 50s---in an otherwise very funny post about Jewish Elvis! But I think I will submit it. Please feel free not to post it.

Stu Shostak said...

Cara Williams (star of "Pete and Gladys") is Jewish...real name: Bernice Kamiat. The creator of the show (Parke Levy) was Jewish. So were two of the series' writers - Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf. So everything you said about Elvis is obviously true too. In fact, everyone and everything in the whole world is Jewish. Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

Pete and Gladys:
A spinoff of December Bride where the character of Gladys was never seen.
Shades of Frasier and Maris 35 years later.

Mike said...

No. Wiki: In her book Elvis and Gladys, Elaine Dundy claims that Presley's great-great-grandmother Nancy Burdine Tackett was Jewish. Read that book again.

Neil Diamond, once described as the jewish Elvis.
Moses Gunn, the famous jewish actor.

Do you know what this means? Someone's going to have to tell Mark Evanier that he's not jewish.
"But Mike, I come from a long line of musical theatre people."
Or straight.

Dr Loser said...

Aw, c'mon. Peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwich? No Rabbi would touch that. And I mean touch, not consecrate.

I go with the Ten Stones on this one, as a rule: Jew, or not Jew?

You'll be pleased to know that they considered Natalie Wood. (Two out of ten if that helps.) And Paula Abdul, who scores 10 out of 10, but is nevertheless (as she should be) "disappointing."

It's an endlessly fascinating site, I'm tellin' ya. J J Putz, who coulda guessed?

Dr Loser said...

And, fer shame, fer shame, Ken! No "In The Ghetto" reference?

sanford said...

Scarlett is only half Jewish, but I guess being that her mother was Jewish that makes it so. I don't think it is on all the versions of Adam Sandler's Hannukah song, but Scarlett is mentioned in at least one of them

Mike Bloodworth said...

Another possibility is that one of Elvis' ancestors had an obviously Jewish name, but changed the pronunciation to anglicize it, making it sound less Jewish. I'm sure that happens all the time. Right, Le-veen?...On sorry..La-VINE.

VP81955 said...

So it's Scarlett who's our generation's Goldie Hawn?

Robby Brown said...

Interesting story, It makes sense. But I wonder why Elvis wasn’t circumcised.

Robby Brown said...

It definitely makes sense, but I wonder why Elvis wasn’t circumcised.

Doug said...

So, if Elvis was the Jewish Elvis; what does that make Neil Diamond?

Barry Traylor said...

Good Grief! Who cares.

Roger Owen Green said...

So the reference of Pete and Gladys also has that MASH connection too (Harry Morgan, of course)

thirteen said...

First Cary Grant, and now this.

Kosmo13 said...

I always thought he was singing: "Return to yenta--address unknown..."

Andrew said...

I wonder if he suffered any cognitive dissonance when he sang all those gospel songs.

To add to Diane's comment, I'm from the South, and moved to a Midwestern state. I have encountered far more racism and antisemitism up here over the years. I think the South gets a bad rap, as if the rest of the country is so pure in the matter.

VincentS said...

As some one who recently found out he's probably part Jewish, I am honored!

Cowboy Surfer said...

Ken, I have no idea what you're talking about...Now can someone get the King a cheeseburger.

MikeN said...

Diane, I think you nailed it. There have to be Jews before you can have anti-Semitism. Look at all the trouble Muslim countries in North Africa and elsewhere have to go to to maintain their hatred of Jews and Israel. 100 years ago Egypt had a Jew in the cabinet. Now just being a Jew in Egypt is extremely difficult.

Mike Doran said...

In The Delta Force, the Arab hijackers take over the plane for Israel, with Martin Balsam, Joey Bishop, Shelley Winters, Lainie Kazan, et al/, on board.
The boss hijacker demands that all Jewish men come forward, and here comes George Kennedy in his hero-priest mode.
When the BH tells him "Only the Jews!", Father Kennedy replies "I'm a Jew - just like Jesus Christ!"
So the Jackers let him stay ...

... anyway, the audience cheered ...

Tim Dunleavy said...

This post sums up why Elvis' middle name was Aron (or Aaron).
https://www.elvis.com.au/presley/article-aron-or-aaron.shtml
Incidentally, according to Peter Guralnick's Elvis biography LAST TRAIN TO MEMPHIS, the family pronounced it "Ay-ron," because that's how Mr. Kennedy pronounced it.

Mike Barer said...

If Elvis is Jewish, instead of the Jewish Elvis, I guess Neil Diamond would just Neil Diamond.