Elvis Presley’s Jewish Roots Highlighted on his 35th Yahrtzheit

August 16, 2012 8:43 pm 39 comments

Elvis Presley. Photo: wiki commons.

On the 35th anniversary of his death Thursday, Tablet magazine highlighted something about Elvis Presley that even his die-hard fans probably don’t know: he’s Jewish!

According to Talmudic law, whereby one is considered a Jew by matrilineal descent, then Elvis Aron Presley is indeed a member of the tribe by virtue of his mother.

Tablet points out that when Elvis’ eligibility to be nominated to the Jewish American Hall of Fame was highlighted along with other Jewish celebrities, the organization cited historian and biographer Elaine Dundy’s book “Elvis and Gladys” as evidence of the rock legend’s Jewish heritage:

“…Nancy Burdine was married to Abner Tackett (Elvis’ great great maternal grandmother). Nancy was of particular interest to Gladys for her Jewish heritage, often remembering Nancy’s sons for their Jewish names Sidney and Jerome. Nancy and Abner had a daughter Martha who married White Mansell. The daughter which they named Octavia, nick-named Doll, who was Elvis’ maternal grandmother.

“…Doll and Robert had nine children. Gladys Love was the fifth daughter born followed by 3 more brothers and one sister. After his mother died, Elvis personally sought to design his beloved mother’s gravesite which included a Star of David on Gladys Love Presley’s tombstone. The decision was made by him in honor of his Jewish heritage. Something his mother was proud of and acknowledged to Elvis at a very early age.”

Elvis reportedly paid tribute to his heritage on several occasions; donning a “Chai” necklace during a 1972 concert in Salt Lake City, Utah, and  having a Star of David engraved on his mother’s headstone following her passing in 1959. Elvis also has his fair share of Jewish impersonators, including one Orthodox Jew named Dan Hartal, who goes by the moniker “Schmelvis.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Elvis had actually been nominated to the Jewish American Hall of Fame.

39 Comments

  • I KNOW ELVIS JEWISH FOR A VERY LONG TIME YOU SEE

    IAM ALSO JEWISH AND I DO KNOW WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE

    JEWISH IT WASNT EASY BEING JEWISH

  • Why do so many people have their “panties in a twist” over Elvis’ Jewish identification. I did not know this and find it interesting to learn about the influence’s in his early childhood with his mother. In fact, Gladys, by all accounts was a typical “Jewish mom” who gave Elvis a lot of love and attention, which explains why many of his friends said he was never the same after she passed.

  • The film Schmelvis came out in 2002. think this is a bit late

  • If the world is descended from Adam and Eve, what does it matter? Would that not make us all at least a little Jewish?

  • CrooningForLeftovers

    GEFILT~ELVISH !!!!

  • CrooningForLeftovers

    Elvis wore a Star of David for the reason he stated:

    “I don’t want to miss out on Heaven on a technicality!”

  • Whether or not Elvis was Jewish is a function of the current cultural climate not his genes. More important than his affiliation (and he did have some significant affiliation with the Memphis Jewish community) was his effect on the generation of American Jews coming of age after the second world war. To understand this influence please read Elvis Presley and The American Spirit by Howard T. Senzel, available on Amazon. This is a serious work of cultural history and richly rewarding.

  • Elvis wasn’t Jewish. Not religiously, not culturally, and not ethnically. There was an auction for some blood and semen stained sheets of his a while back, and they decided to analyze some of his DNA taken from those sheets. It turned out that he belonged to a specific Native-American mitochondrial haplogroup. In order for this to be the case, he had to be a direct, maternal descendant of a Native-American woman, which contradicts the story of his maternal Jewish lineage.

    There is the possibility that a maternal ancestor of his could have married a Jewish man and converted, but, given the location and time period, I sincerely doubt it. It is said that the rumor was started by a third cousin of his. nuttin’ but some good ol’ American country folklore.

    • Gladys Love Presley was not only a jew but had the star of David as a tombstone. Elvis had a rather large star of David necklace too. Lets face it, all the flashy jewels & rhinestone clothes should’ ve tipped you off in the first place.

  • Shirley Hiller

    Hey Dacon9
    You wish Elvis was not Jewish but to your dismay and my delight he damn well was. Rest in peace dear Elvis. Shalom.

  • I dont think it matters what you are whether its jewish or catholic, what matters is that you do good in this lifetime, and help people. And always try to be uplifting to other people. If elvis was jewish i think thats pretty cool, there is nothing wrong with that. People should be kind to one another and stop the ignorance of prejudice and hate, intead be kind to others. That is just my point of view and im puertorican. now does that matter no. I believe there are good people in every culture and race. What matters is who you are as an individual. Not where you come from.

  • ELVIS and ELVIS’S MOTHER Were NOT Jewish! Get over it!!!

  • Present primer Stoltenberg, who passionately dislike Israel and the Jews, will be shocked over this news, and throw away all Elvis records from his collection……

  • This is a great article! I love your input.

  • Alex Kaganovsky

    Take it or leave it, prase him or despice him, but Elvis is Jewish. By the way, there is Magen David on his mother’s tombstone

  • Hi Elvis fans, I also believe Elvis gave a lot to Jewish charities – that should indicate something? __if not his good nature that he had.-R.I.P. Elvis.

    • Elvis Presley gave most of what he earned away; this was certainly not limited to
      Jewish charities. He gave mostly to individuals in need, people whom he did not
      even know. This included, but was not limited to, more than 200 automobiles !!!

  • TYPO: TO MY COMMENT BELOW:
    we spend more time applauding what they dont say and do then reacting to what they do and that is a negative.
    LOL
    I MEANT THE EXACT OPPOSITE:
    we spend more time applauding what they say
    then to what they don’t say but do,
    which is show the bottom of their feet to the ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER.Rememeber when pres obama said his uncle is a rabbi in israel? he didnt say he is a black hebrew which is not jewish but an adopted cult label

    • Where are you getting your facts from? Or, did you get that from someone else who doesn’t have their facts straight? You should check out the facts for yourself or at least ask a reliable source.

  • It wasnt until after many years of searching my family that I discoverd that my Mothers entire family were Jews in Holland.My great Grandmother was widowed with my Grandmother as a child and married a Catholic man and they gave my Grandmother his name. But her Mother and Father were Jews as were both of their parents. And my Fathers first descendants to arrive in America were Jews.I was raised Baptist all of my life but had already converted my religion to Judaism as a young man in my 30s. It was actually 8-10 yrs. after that that I found the information about my Mothers side. Ofcours my Fathers family was much easier to trace because there were written records and birth certificates.Not to mention that my family was riddled with Ephriams and Moshes.But I had no idea about my Mothers Jewish family background.And they all lived in the southeastern Ky. And Tennesee area. Just thought it was such a coincidence.

  • It wasnt until after many years of searching my family that I discoverd that my Mothers entire family were Jews in Holland.My great Grandmother was widowed with my Grandmother as a child and married a Catholic man and they gave my Grandmother his name. But her Mother and Father were Jews as were both of their parents. And my Fathers first descendants to arrive in America were Jews.I was raised Baptist all of my life but had already converted my religion to Judaism as a young man in my 30s. It was actually 8-10 yrs. after that that I found the information about my Mothers side. Ofcours my Fathers family was much easier to trace because there were written records and birth certificates.Not to mention that my family was riddled with Ephriams and Moshes.But I had no idea about my Mothers Jewish family background.And they all lived in the southeastern Ky. And Tennesee area. Just thought it was such a coincidence.

  • Well I believe the information in this article is correct. I do not know why anyone would be so adamant about the heritage of someone he presumably never met,and certainly not related to, unless Dacon was in some way offended that Elvis is Jewish?

    Great Story! Thanks for sharing it. I have a new respect for Elvis.

    • ANI,YES I AM OFFENDED.
      To praise natalie portman or sammy david jr or elvis serves no purpose, no example of character improvement or their personal lifestyle.
      This is how we vote for our american presidents,purely on charisma, stage appeal not on substance.
      We have many REAL JEWS TODAY THAT DESERVE THE SPOTLIGHT but are thrown aside.
      sammy davis jr had a reformed conversion=not jewish.
      portman had a child not married and now married to a goy and so what he wore a yamalka
      elvis 4 generations back they say had a jewish grandmother since then all went to church and no tracking of the marriges of that 4th generation daughters.
      and the 5,000 african from 5000 years ago that had jewish traders forget their siddur with one of the tribesman and that makes them jewish while they have crosses and stars on their gravestone like elvis.

      I failed to mention president obamas ‘jewish’ uncle in Israel that is a black hebrew’ = NOT JEWISH, just a radical.

      THATS WHAT YOU WANT TO PRAISE AND CELEBRATE?

      we spend more time applauding what they dont say and do then reacting to what they do and that is a negative.

      ani. I LOVE ELVIS, I STUDIED GUITAR AND STUDIED KARATE because of him
      BUT I ALSO STUDIED TORAH WITH A RABBI AND ALWAYS REMEMBERED AND KNOW THAT
      I AM A JEW AND I EVEN HAVE PICTURES OF MY GRANDPARENTS GRAVESTONES IN ‘HEBREW’ IN A JEWISH CEMETARY
      and heard stories of my great grandparents in israel and middle east receiving and serving visiting rabbis to their town.

      MY JUDAISM B’H IS NOT FORCED
      find some one else to PRAISE
      while admiring THE CELEBRATY NOT MAKING THEM JEWISH.

      TORAH SAYS SEPARATE NOT INTERGRATE.
      YES THE TORAH DOES SAY THAT

  • heres more:
    Why itas important tomake people into jews when we have real jewish HEROS, SO MANY:

    The family attended an Assembly of God church where he found his initial musical inspiration.[6]

    Presley’s ancestry was primarily a Western European mix: On his mother’s side, he was Scots-Irish, with some French Norman; one of Gladys’s great-great-grandmothers was Cherokee.[7]b His father’s forebears were of Scottish[8] or German
    ..iN AMNOTHER AUTOBIOGRAPHY HIS MOTHER ALSO WAS PART ITALIAN..IS that why he loved operas?
    Elvis never admitted matzah ball soup was his favorite, dsidnt anyone hear that because if you did then it is sure proof elvis was jewish. google his grave the angels all around gladys will protect them because those angels also were jewish.

  • I HAVE GOOD WORD THAT SPIDEMAN MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER ALSO WAS JEWISH,along with all the africans the russians the chinese and 30 other lost tribes of israel.
    You didnt know? thats right we have a total of 31 lost tribes recently discovered. Who knows how many more we will find. At least rate I dont see any need for Mashiach looking for any. Israeli rabbis and elvis maternal grandmother are returned and getting assistance in Tel Aviv

  • NO DACON9 You are wrong!! Both Elvis’s “maternal grandmother” AND his mother were BOTH JEWISH!! that makes Elvis himself “JEWISH”!! PERIOD!! The “up-stairs” Rabbi neighbor had nothing to do with it!!1!

  • I happen to have known the Rebbitzen who lived downstairs of Elvis. She was very fond of him and mentioned that he loved to come downstairs and listen for hours to Cantorials. She never said he was Jewish but did indicate that he was their “Shabbos Goy”

    • hilda it was downstairs and as far as listening in…It was president obamas jewish uncle the militant ‘israelite ‘rabbi’ the only ‘true’ jews that was doing the singing of jewish fold songs.
      such as ‘we shall overcome’, ‘go down moses’,blue suede shoes, and last but least…’pennies from heaven’

      I am glad to be of assistance.call me anytime

    • Was that Malka Dubrovner?

    • Elvis-a shabbos goy-true and sad–shame on the rebbitzen–she must have known. One thing though Elvis would never have denied his Jewish ancestry—unlike Richard Starkey-who denied his.

  • I am Director of the Jewish-American Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Tablet has misquoted our web site. As of 2012, Elvis Presley has not been nominated to the Jewish-American Hall of Fame. However on our website http://www.amuseum.org/jahf we indicate that he is eligible to be nominated since he is considered a Jew by matrilineal descent.

  • GLADYS WAS PART ITALIAN CATHOLIC FAMILY.
    Not one publication ever mentioned any connections which certainly make headlines.
    The only connection to judaism was a rabbi that lived upstairs or next door from elvis when he was a child and the chai necklace was given to elvis as a gift i believe from a jewish comedian who opened his shows.
    I am a diehard fan of elvis. It would thrill me to say he is jewish but he isnt.These connections are forced with no proofs.

    Elvis also thought he was ‘JC’ healing people after the fame got to him. Does that qualify Elvis for sainthood?

    I think the ”rabbis”’ that went to visit the poop in rome bearing gifts instead of receiving ‘gifts’ from the holocaust should investigate.

    The africans have crosses with a star on their gravestone,maybe that qualifies them as proof they were resurrected or proof the traders left some chai necklaces 500 years ago on their trading expeditions.

    • Dacon9,

      I have sympathy for you, I hope you are young enough to have time to wake up and see what is really important.

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