Actor Jon Voight Reveals Close Connection to Jewish Culture, Says He Feels ‘Responsibility’ to Combat Antisemitism
Actor Jon Voight opened up on Sunday about his close connection to Jewish culture, stemming from his father’s childhood, and why he feels it is his duty to fight antisemitism.
The veteran actor, and father of Angelina Jolie, said on the Fox News program “Life, Liberty & Levin” that his strong relationship with the Jewish people, and his exposure to antisemitism, began through his father, who used to work at a Jewish country club in Scarsdale, NY. The club was started by German Jews who came to the US and wanted to play golf but “weren’t allowed in the clubs,” Voight said.
“They didn’t complain,” the actor, 79, explained to the show’s host, Mark Levin. “They went around raising the money to buy land and they built the club, and because of their ingenuity and because of their flexibility and vision, my dad had this job. So I knew at a very early age the insanity of antisemitism.”
Voight, who was raised Catholic, added that he remembered seeing in the 1940s a magazine photo of a young boy behind barbed wire and it resonated with him. He told Levin, “I identified with that boy. I said, ‘That could be me. What are they doing to these people?’ And for — that stayed with me all my life, so I’ve felt a real responsibility in a certain sense to stand up against antisemitism. And in that journey, I’ve gotten very close to the Jewish people.”
Voight further explained that his father came from a very poor family and caddied at the country club starting at the age of eight. His father would tell the golfers at the club that it was his birthday, even when it wasn’t, so they would give him “a little extra money” as a gift at the end of the day. Even after he was caught in his lie once by a club member, he was never booted from the country club.
Voight said about the Jewish members at the club, “They didn’t care. They understood what he was doing, they even admired his chutzpah for a little kid, you know, and they kind of embraced this young man and they taught him many things…They taught him how to behave at the table. Different things. Manners, things like that.”
The actor also said about his father, who later became the head professional at the country club, “It occurred to me when I was 14, I said, you know something? I’ve compared him to his siblings — two sisters and a brother — they were nothing like him. He was so superior in every way, not to demean them. They were very nice people, but they just didn’t have the same qualities he had and the grace that he had. And I said to myself, you know something? My dad was raised in the Jewish culture. That’s who he is.”
Voight also discussed his interest in Jewish history, the “extraordinary” Jewish friends he has had throughout his life, praised Jewish literature and said “the great Einsteins of the Jewish people across the years were rabbis.”
He spoke to Levin about the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov — considered the founder of Hasidic Judaism — and also his support for the Chabad movement. Voight said about the Chabad friends he has made, “They’re a fun group, really lots of fun, and they help people, and I’ve danced on their telethon. Danced the Hasidic dance with these guys and it became quite a deal.”