Elvis Presley: Philo-Semite and Jew

Jan. 13 2021

While it is hardly a secret that the so-called “King of Rock-and-Roll” had a very close relationship with an Orthodox Jewish family as a teenager, and that Jews penned the majority of his songs, it is less well known that he was himself of Jewish ancestry. He was, in fact, Jewish by halakhic standards. In a new book, Roselle Kline Chartock provides documentation for this claim, which Seth Rogovoy sums up in his review:

While he was still a boy, Presley’s mother, Gladys, told young Elvis about his Jewish great-great-grandmother. Nancy Burdine, an immigrant from Lithuania, settled in Memphis in the 19th century and raised a family, including sons named Sidney and Jerome and a daughter named Martha. Martha had a daughter, Octavia, who gave birth to Gladys.

At the same time that Gladys told Elvis of his Jewish lineage, she also warned him to keep it to himself, because “some people don’t like Jews.” Among those to whom Gladys was referring was her husband (Elvis’s father, Vernon), as well as members of the extended Presley clan, all of whom were Jew-haters. When Gladys died in 1958, at the young age of forty-six, when Elvis was only twenty-three, Vernon Presley oversaw the design of her gravestone, including the image of a cross on an upper corner. A few years later, Elvis had a Star of David added to the opposite corner of her grave marker to balance out the cross and to acknowledge his mother’s Jewish heritage.

Chartock also documents a host of Presley’s other Jewish connections, ranging from the Jewish tailor who designed his flamboyant stage outfits to the member of his entourage whom he called his “Jewish mother.” But, as Rogovoy notes, Chartock also digs deeper:

The Presleys were churchgoers, and Elvis’s sincere belief in Christian teachings seems also to have predisposed him to be fond of Jews. Chartock quotes Larry Geller—one of the Jewish members of [Elvis’s Memphis entourage and his “spiritual advisor”]— paraphrasing Presley thusly:

“Man, it used to confuse the hell outta me as a kid. In church all they talked about was how great all the Jews were, Abraham, Moses, Ezekiel, and all those other prophets. They were all Jewish. But outside of church, they would talk about ‘those damn Jews.’ They would put them down. I just couldn’t understand it.”

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Read more at Forward

More about: American Jewish History, Anti-Semitism, Philo-Semitism, Popular music

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy