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Amy Winehouse Was Proud to be Jewish

July 11, 2013 1:34 am 10 comments

The late singer Amy Winehouse. Photo: wiki commons.

I was a bit puzzled as I read Anshel Pfeffer’s article in Haaretz about the Jewish Museum’s new exhibition celebrating the life of Amy Winehouse. I often enjoy Pfeffer’s writing, but this was just bizarre.

Headlined Remembering Amy Winehouse as the Jew she was not, his article takes issue with the exhibition’s description of her as “simply a little Jewish kid from North London with a big talent who, more than anything, just wanted to be true to her heritage”.

Yet that description comes from the mouth of Amy’s brother, Alex. It takes some chutzpah to try and contradict a presumably still-grieving man’s description of his own sister. Particularly when, as far as the reader can tell from his article, Pfeffer did not know Amy at all during her life.

He argues that the exhibition’s presentation of Amy’s Jewish side is “contrived”. Yet it is his article which seems just that: it is as if a stranger has shown up to a wake and begun to loftily heckle those who knew the deceased.

I researched Amy’s relationship with her Jewish identity when I was writing my biography of her. When she passed away, I wrote a short article for the Jewish Chronicle on just that aspect of her life. It is true, she was no Talmud-toting Stamford Hill frummer – but how many Haaretz writers and readers can say they are? Like several aspects of Amy’s life her relationship with her Jewish identity was complex, but she was Jewish and was proud to be Jewish.

Pfeffer’s piece would grate less if it was not riddled with mistakes. In paragraph one he writes, correctly, that she died at 27 years of age. Yet later in the article he says that she died at 30. Similarly, he claims that she died on June 23, 2011, but she actually passed away on July 23.

The online version of the article closes with a video of Amy at her worst: intoxicated, confused and deeply unhappy on-stage in Belgrade, in one of her final concerts. There are so many ways to remember Amy, I find it a shame when people – and there are many such people, Pfeffer is far from alone – choose the most tragic and salacious moments to illustrate a talent that was so immense and a character who was so gentle.

If you want to remember Amy the way those who knew and loved her best remember her, why not pop along to the exhibition, which runs until September 15. Find out more about the Amy Winehouse Foundation here.

Visit Chas’s blog here.

10 Comments

  • Big fan of hers. I am Jewish by religion (Conservadox) and heritage. She was amazing. And still is.

  • Judah Soledad

    Kudos to the commenter pointing out that Ms. Winehouse’s failings or foibles are common to us all. It is straight from the good Jewish book that proclaims, “We have ALL sinned, each of us has gone our own way” (emphasis mine). Thanks be to G-d for providing the only way out, by His kipporah (scapegoat) in the form of messiah Y’shua! No matter one’s ethnicity or religious heritage, you are welcomed with open arms by the LORD. All it takes is 1 baby step of faith to hobble into Abba’s arms.

  • Samuel Ramos

    I don’t see what relevance, Amy Winehouse’s Religion or Ethnic background has to her tragic decline and death. Her trials and tribulations are common to us all! The slings and arrows that mortal flesh is heir to, are what binds our human condition. It is sad that such a talented young woman passed away.

  • I AM EMBARRASED THAT SHE IS JEWISH.
    Nothing for Jews to be proud of.
    living a filthy drugged life and what other perversions…is not TORAH LIVING,NOT FAMILY LIVING, NOT THE WAY YOU WOULD WANT YOUR OWN CHILDREN TO LIVE unless you too ARE a pervert
    AND LOW LIFE EXAMPLE FOR THE STUPID PEOPLE FOLLOWING THIS LIFESTYLE.
    IS THIS ALL YOU CAN WRITE ABOUT????

    • YOU SHOULD NOT BE EMBARRASSED. HER PARENTS SHOULD BE BECAUSE THEY CREMATED HER BODY.

      YOUR EMBARRASSMENT IS MISPLACED AND YOU SHOULD FEEL SORROW FOR HER BECAUSE THERE WAS NO ONE TO HELP HER AS SHE “FELL”.

      AS FAR AS THE AUTHOR WRITING ABOUT HER … IT SELLS NEWSPAPERS.

      • Both of your statements are ridiculous.

        We should uphold Amy’s legacy as a brilliant musician and a proud Jew, and not decry her because of her issues or her family because of their personal wishes.

        Not many artists today proudly display their Jewishness; Amy was one of few. She did speak publicly about being Jewish, and always respectfully and with warmth. I would not want my children to follow in her footsteps regarding drug use, but her connection to Judaism and her public embracement of her heritage is something every Jew should admire.

        Amy was a good person with a good heart who had a drug problem. Many tried to help her, sadly, unsuccessfully. I knew Amy; I can tell you this firsthand.

        I’m sure neither one of these commenters have any shortcomings or vices (yeah, right!) and always follow hallachic law to the letter (also yeah, right!)

  • Shalom-Hillel

    Haaretz usually has the most negative outlook on all things Jewish, to the point of misinforming its readers. Amy was a great talent. Are they upset that she remained a conscious Jewish woman and might inspire others by example?

  • 1954775{Youtube}

    I read Anshel Pfeffers article last night and part of me agrees part of me doesn’t,of course Amy was Jewish but lets face it she didn’t stick to the ways of Jewish teachings generally speaking.
    Anyway what’s far more important is that more should be done to get demos,alternate versions,alternate takes and studio rehearsals to surface -where are the Amy Frank and B2B recording sessions? What about the 4 songs she did live with the New Youth Jazz Orchestra- 3 of them are called Nobody knows you when you’re down and out{which is an old song,}Whos blues? and Another Always which were written by the NYJO -I don’t know the 4th song.These songs exist 100% they were on a Mini disc left in a loft.

  • Adam The Shog

    Pfeffer’s poorly researched and pejorative article is merely indicative of all the other stuff he writes in Haaretz.

  • You have pointed out what I noticed. Also, he claimed Amy had older siblings Riva and Alex. I don’t know id it is a Jewish custom to refer to Amy’s brothers wife as a sibling but his article was as you say, contrived. Bravo for your article and I’d like to say to Amy, RIP beautiful. You are loved so deeply in every corner of the world.

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