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Are You Jewish Tonight?
October 2, 2006 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Elvis: King of the Rock 'n' Roll Jews? Unlike George Allen, Elvis proudly embraced his Jewish heritage. Through his mother's side of the family, Elvis could trace his lineage back to his Jewish great-grandmother, Martha Tackett, which makes Elvis Jewish by matrilineal descent. A former shabbos goy who did chores on the Sabbath for a rabbi in Memphis, Elvis had his biggest-selling success with a #1 hit by a Jewish songwriting team. Known to wear a Hebrew Chai pendant and to donate to Jewish charities in Memphis, Elvis also put the Star of David on his Mom's gravestone.
posted by jonp72 (49 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Nancy Tackett, nee Burdine, who is believed to have been Jewish."

Emphasis here is on 'believed to have been.'

And I wouldn't put much stock in him wearing a pendant or donating to charities -- Elvis was strictly catholic when it came to appropriating religious symbols and giving money away.
posted by docgonzo at 5:05 PM on October 2, 2006


I say, macaca.
posted by orthogonality at 5:08 PM on October 2, 2006


Even if the claim to matrilineal descent is weak, it's clear from the links that Elvis himself believed he had some Jewish heritage.
posted by jonp72 at 5:12 PM on October 2, 2006


Sasquatch is also Jewish.
posted by horsewithnoname at 5:23 PM on October 2, 2006


well, since my bubbe left me
I found a new place to kvell
down at the end of that shtetl street
the Tsuris Hotel....
posted by jonmc at 5:28 PM on October 2, 2006 [7 favorites]


Did anybody else flash on this song?
posted by pax digita at 5:30 PM on October 2, 2006


no, but damn, it's nice to see that band remembered.
posted by jonmc at 5:32 PM on October 2, 2006


funny, he didn't look Jewish...but he was ok anway...some of my favorite entertainers are Jewish
posted by Postroad at 5:36 PM on October 2, 2006


Jewish? I always thought Elvis was Welsh...though I guess they ain't mutually exclusive.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:47 PM on October 2, 2006


I remember hearing an interview on the radio, it might have been This American Life, where Elvis was described as being a goy who would help Jews avoid working on the Sabbath by doing the little things, like flicking light switches, that were proscribed by the commandment to do no work. Does this mean he broke the Sabbath himself?
posted by lekvar at 5:50 PM on October 2, 2006


A Jewish client of mine alleges that Elvis was shabbos goy for a family my client knew in Memphis.
posted by ijoshua at 5:51 PM on October 2, 2006


lekvar, kismet!
posted by ijoshua at 5:52 PM on October 2, 2006




Previously.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:55 PM on October 2, 2006



are fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches kosher?

As long as they are not cooked in lard!
posted by lee at 5:57 PM on October 2, 2006


I was trying to remember what the term was, thanks for reminding me, ijoshua.
posted by lekvar at 5:58 PM on October 2, 2006


are fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches kosher?

As long as they are not cooked in lard!


If I recall correctly, The King usually added bacon as well, so, no.

(at this place I've had the 'Elvis' avec bacon. Tasty, but it roosts in your colon like it's taking up permanent residence)
posted by jonmc at 6:05 PM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Unlike George Allen

ZING! That's so clever, the way you worked that in there.
posted by dhammond at 6:28 PM on October 2, 2006


So this makes Neil Diamond the extra-Jewish Elvis?
posted by piratebowling at 6:32 PM on October 2, 2006




people in show biz think a lot of strange things ... hell, jim morrison thought he was a poet
posted by pyramid termite at 6:45 PM on October 2, 2006


Elvis loved burnt bacon sandwiches with lots of mustard. According to Red, anyway.
posted by ColdChef at 6:57 PM on October 2, 2006


I thought that in order to be Jewish, your mother had to be Jewish. (Seriously.) That's why Senator Allen is always asked about his "Jewish ANCESTRY" rather than whether he himself is Jewish.

Elvis probably wouldn't care about this distinction, though. He
had a ring created in the 60s that symbolized all faith's coming together.
posted by destinyland at 7:13 PM on October 2, 2006


Jewish? I always thought Elvis was Welsh

To the people of Pembrokeshire, he is. While I was living in Haverfordwest some guy opened an Elvis-themed pub. Doesn't appear to be there anymore (or doesn't have a website).
posted by dw at 7:17 PM on October 2, 2006


Somebody did a whole documentary about trying to find out if he really was.
posted by djfiander at 7:20 PM on October 2, 2006


I thought that in order to be Jewish, your mother had to be Jewish.

Yeah, that's the standard. But the ancestor believed to be Jewish is his mother's mother's mother. If that lady was Jewish, so was her daughter, and her daughter, and that daughter's son (Elvis).
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:21 PM on October 2, 2006


The wikipedia entry on Pentacostalism, posted yesterday in an unrelated FPP, claims that Elvis was raised in the faith.
posted by Brian B. at 7:27 PM on October 2, 2006


A+++ WOULD CLICK AGAIN
posted by mwhybark at 7:31 PM on October 2, 2006


In Reform Judaism, either parent will make you a Jew.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:42 PM on October 2, 2006


As long as they are not cooked in lard!
What the hell else would they be fried in? Canola oil? Don't think so.
posted by longsleeves at 8:08 PM on October 2, 2006


I think all Jesus-related/mentioning religions are distilled Judaism. Catholisism is reformed Judaism, Islam is reformed Catholicism, and between Henry VIII and the reformation we get what is known as simply Christianity today.
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:12 PM on October 2, 2006


He could well have been raised Pentecostal, but that would not necessarily counteract his matrilineal Jewish heritage. I believe he'd've needed religious instruction (and perhaps circumcision) before he'd count as a full-fledged Jew, and I'm pretty certain he'd've had to accept that Jesus was not the Jewish messiah, but I think it'd be more like "restoration" than "conversion". I like the Wikipedia article "Who is a Jew?", though of course neither it nor I can claim halakhic authority. There's also the soc.culture.judaism FAQ section on "matrilineal descent", and while pedantically Googling I found a Chabad Lubavitch article on the subject.

And actually, Catholicism is a pagan Mystery religion, as is Mormonism; Protestantism and especially Islam are closer to Judaism.
posted by davy at 8:19 PM on October 2, 2006


> > I thought that in order to be Jewish, your mother had to be Jewish.

> Yeah, that's the standard. But the ancestor believed to be Jewish is his mother's mother's mother. If that lady was Jewish, so was her daughter, and her daughter, and that daughter's son (Elvis).
Actually, it's almost the other way round: You have to be Jewish enough to accept the Jewish criterion of Jewishness, in order to draw any such conclusion from maternal ancestry.
posted by jam_pony at 9:22 PM on October 2, 2006


Krauthammer's Law: Everyone is Jewish until proven otherwise. . . For all its tongue-in-cheek irony, Krauthammer's Law works because when I say "everyone," I don't mean everyone you know personally. Depending on the history and ethnicity of your neighborhood and social circles, there may be no one you know who is Jewish. But if "everyone" means anyone that you've heard of in public life, the law works for two reasons. Ever since the Jews were allowed out of the ghetto and into European society at the dawning of the Enlightenment, they have peopled the arts and sciences, politics, and history in astonishing disproportion to their numbers.

There are 13 million Jews in the world, one-fifth of 1 percent of the world's population. Yet 20 percent of Nobel Prize winners are Jewish, a staggering hundredfold surplus of renown and genius. This is similarly true for a myriad of other "everyones" -- the household names in music, literature, mathematics, physics, finance, industry, design, comedy, film and, as the doors opened, even politics.
Everyone's Jewish - Charles Krauthammer
posted by dgaicun at 9:56 PM on October 2, 2006


And actually, Catholicism is a pagan Mystery religion

no, it's a form of christianity that appropriated the symbols of pagan mystery schools for the public, while combining greek philosophy with christian theology for the intellectuals
posted by pyramid termite at 10:02 PM on October 2, 2006


What I want to know is if one can quit being Jewish. If daddy's a rabbi and mom's (of course?) Jewish and you were bar mitzvahed etc., can you become an ex-Jew? Even Spinoza wasn't booted clean out of the Tribe. The aforementioned FAQ says "A Jew cannot become a non-Jew." Is that definitive? Someone could eat bacon and praise Jesus and never practice Judaism and still be Jewish?
posted by davy at 11:00 PM on October 2, 2006


davy, you can leave (be an ex-Jew) according to your own rules. You can't control what others consider you to be.

If you still care whether the Tribe considers you Jewish or not, have you really left? And conversely, if you really abandon it then it's your own classification that matters, and that of people whose values you share.

This turns out to be a variation of my earlier comment. It's like the couple who supposedly break up, but still fight: they wouldn't if they didn't still care.
posted by jam_pony at 11:52 PM on October 2, 2006


who fucken cares? what does his religion have to do with anything?
posted by sharpener at 12:04 AM on October 3, 2006


If you still care whether the Tribe considers you Jewish or not, have you really left?

If a religion is a belief that you have never held and that you don't want people to ascribe to you, you are not made a part of that religion by stating otherwise. Religion by personal belief is insanity, but religion by inheritance is insanity squared. Go back far enough and who isn't a Jew?

Elvis (an anagram of "Levi's" -- "of Levi" -- and anagrams are also Jewish) has left the synagogue.
posted by pracowity at 1:09 AM on October 3, 2006


Huh. Never heard of a hillbilly Jew before. I didn't think that was kosher. The world is stranger than I thought.
posted by Goofyy at 5:42 AM on October 3, 2006


Never heard of a hillbilly Jew before

How about Kinky Friedman?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:40 AM on October 3, 2006


Jews Who Rock | [az]
posted by Jeremy at 7:35 AM on October 3, 2006


unborked: Jews Who Rock

[ isuck at the internets ]
posted by Jeremy at 7:37 AM on October 3, 2006


I think all Jesus-related/mentioning religions are distilled Judaism. Catholisism is reformed Judaism, Islam is reformed Catholicism, and between Henry VIII and the reformation we get what is known as simply Christianity today.

Uh, no. That would be Protestantism. Catholicism is Christianity, too.
posted by dame at 7:46 AM on October 3, 2006


Fuzzy Monster: Kinky's bio in no way describes a hillbilly (being born in Chicago and getting a BA at UT Austin quite rules it out). But I never heard of him, either.

But the snark isn't directed at hillbillies or Jews. Rather at Elvis, whom I always snark. I got me some hillbilly ancestry, I do.
posted by Goofyy at 8:04 AM on October 3, 2006


Goofyy: but look at Kinky's photo on that wikipedia page! Hillbilly City!

It's true that KF is a 'Professional Hillbilly'. He's got a shtick and he's sticking to it.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:36 AM on October 3, 2006


Metafilter: who fucken cares
posted by radiosig at 9:03 AM on October 3, 2006


Elvis' take on his Jewish star jewelry and charitable involvement with the Memphis JCC was that "I don't want to get left out of heaven on a technicality."
posted by LilBucner at 9:28 AM on October 3, 2006


davy--the belief that jews remain jews is quite prevalent. Ive heard plenty of rabbis discuss the poor misguided jews that might convert and be "confused", but overwhelmingly the opinion of most jews is that being jewish is something one is born into ethnically, and that the religious responsibilities associated with being jewish are necessary but not analagous to being "jewish". This ethnic character of judaism also plays into its general aversion to forms of prosylatizing. For many chabad hasids, being jewish is fundamentally connected to being decended from the individuals who personally witnessed moses recieving the torah at mt. sinai...to most jews (especially chabad), even if one takes on other beliefs, it is impossible to fully abdicate's one's jewish heritage.
posted by Kifer85 at 8:05 PM on October 3, 2006


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