August 16, 2012, - 4:45 pm

Yes, Elvis Was Jewish: On the 35th Anniversary of “The King’s” Death

By Debbie Schlussel

I’m not that into Elvis, but today is the 35th anniversary of the death of Elvis Aron Presley, back in 1977. Yes, the guy had a lot of talent and sang some good songs. But, ultimately, he was a bloated drug addict who left a daughter without a dad after dying on a toilet from years of drug abuse and overeating. Still, in his professional life, he’s a an American icon and his legend, we are told, is the epitome of cool. As a proud Jewish-American, my main interest in Elvis, aside from his place in American pop culture, is that he symbolizes the Jewish heritage of America, our contribution to America even before it gained independence, and the fact that many gentile Americans today descend from Jews who were here on American soil long ago. Yes, as I’ve noted on this site before, Elvis was Jewish. Judaism is determined by matrilineal descent, and Elvis’ great-grandmother, Martha Tackett, was Jewish, as was her daughter, and her daughter’s daughter, who was Elvis mother, Gladys Love Smith.



Elvis Wearing Jewish “Chai” (“Life”) Necklace)

Elvis Presley in 1972 Wearing Jewish Star/Star of David

Elvis’ Mother’s Original Tombstone w/ Jewish Star/Star of David

No, Elvis didn’t publicly self-identify as a Jew . . . well, not exactly. But he knew he was Jewish. It’s just that his parents told him to keep it quiet. It wouldn’t be good for business. But his Jewish identity is indicated by several stark cues in his life. He regularly wore a “Chai” necklace. Chai is the Hebrew word for life and is good luck because the Hebrew letters stand for the number 18, which is a Jewish good luck number. And when he first buried his mother, he had a Jewish Star (Star of David) put on her gravestone. He also donated lots of money to Jewish charities and carried a yarmulke–the Jewish religious skullcap. Not that this is any indication of being Jewish, but Elvis also got a nose job (for the record, neither I nor anyone in my immediate family has had one, despite rumors to the contrary) and regularly hung out with his rabbi neighbor when he was growing up in Memphis. While he was outwardly a practicing Christian, “The King” was clearly proud of his heritage in Judaism.

I’m reposting, below, an excerpt of a Jewish Week article on Elvis’ Jewish heritage, which was reposted on Jeff Swope’s my space page. The original, to which I used to link, is no longer online.

Elvis Presley has Jewish Heritage through direct descent from the Jewess Martha Tacket.

Elvis’s mother, Gladys Love Smith’s mother was named Octavia “Doll” Marsell by her mother who was a Jewess named Martha Tacket who lived from 1852-1887.

Under Jewish law, a person is of Jewish descent if his mother is Jewish. All Jews come through the lineage of their mothers.

All mothers in Elvis Presley’s birth line run uninterrupted from the Jewish grandmother, Ms. Tacket, and then through all of his descending mothers and grandmothers. Therefore, Elvis himself is legally Jewish under the Jewish law of succession through mothers.

This information is found in the book entitled “Elvis and Gladys (Southern Icons Series),” by historian and biographer named Elaine Dundy.

Dundy writes in her book, “… Nancy Burdine was married to Abner Tacket. 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 (Tacket), who married White Mansell. The daughter which they named Octavia nicknamed Doll who was Elvis’ maternal grandmother.”

After Elvis’ mother, Gladys, died, the King designed her tombstone with a Star of David on it to honor her Jewish ancestry, which was something Gladys was proud of.

After a break in on August 29, 1977 to steal both Elvis’ and Gladys’ bodies, they were buried in Graceland where their security could be guaranteed.

Elvis learned the Hebrew alphabet and wore a piece of jewelry called a “Chai” which contained Hebrew words and the Star of David during 1977, the last year of his life. When asked why he wore both a Christian Cross and the Star of David, Elvis said he didn’t want to miss out on Heaven thru a technicality.

Elvis was told by his parents not to mention his Jewish ancestry as many persons hated Jews. At one point in his life, Elvis lived in an apartment below a Jewish Rabbi with whom he would meet and confer on occasion.

Elvis gave money each year to Memphis charities. One year, Memphis Jewish Welfare sent a delegation to Elvis. He wrote them a check for $150,000. Elvis also donated a room to the old Memphis Jewish Community Center.

It’s unfortunate that few big Elvis fans know that when they are mourning Elvis Aron Presley, they are also mourning an American who was proud to be a Jew.

Shalom to The King.

If Elvis were alive today, would he go public about his Jewish roots? I think he would. What do you think? I believe Lisa Marie and Priscilla know about it. But they probably don’t care.

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78 Responses

Unfortunately, his morals would make an alley cat blush.

Drugs, toilet, with an unpaid whore… he died.

As Goes... on August 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm

One is not Jewish because someone in our ancestry is Jewish , Judaism is a religion and Elvis claimed to be a Christian and recorded many Christian Hyms , so he had Hebrew Blood in him ,but so does 20% of people in the US and 15% in the UK and almost 30 % in Spain.

alex on August 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm


    Judaism is both a race and a religion.


    As Goes... on August 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Debbie, I hate to rule against you, again, but Elvis was NOT Jewish. I looked into this matrilineal ancestor claim, some time back, and, while it is still repeated online, it isn’t true (I don’t know if Elvis Presley believed it, himself). This is a fairy tale that originated in the 1980s, when a biographer (Dundy) interviewed a third cousin of Elvis, who told her about this alleged ancestor.

In short, this third cousin also claimed to be ten years or so older than he was, apparently could not read and write, and also at another point claimed that another relative of his married this same Jewish woman.

Genealogical research by the Tackett family shows that, not only is there no evidence that Martha Tackett was Jewish, she probably was not even Elvis’ matrilineal ancestor, but a cousin or step-daughter of the Mansells (I don’t remember the exact connection).

Some of this is mentioned here:

Jweish actress Camryn Manheim played his mother in a mini-series a few years back – but that’s the closest Elvis came to being Jewish.

D: Wrong. Elvis’ Jewish ancestry has been well-documented in books, documentaries, articles, and genealogy. It has nothing to do with his third cousin or the cousin’s biography. Nate Bloom–a fixture of left-wing Jewish newspapers which are unreliable enough–is NOT a reliable source. He’s gotten a lot of things wrong and made incorrect corrections, including this one. You cannot trust the “” site. And, more important, you cannot explain away the Star of David HE, ELVIS HIMSELF, put on his mother’s original tombstone. Did he put that there for his health? Nate Bloom doesn’t address that b/c he can’t dismiss it, and it’s a stubborn fact. DS

dee on August 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm



    What’s wrong with you?

    As Goes... on August 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

*Jewish actress Camryn Manheim

dee on August 16, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Oh gosh, I remember the day when he died. Not sure why since I am not a fan and I was still in single digits. Just didn’t get Elvis. I do love his later songs like “Burning Love” and “Suspicious Minds” but that’s about it. I’m more of a Jim Morrison girl (I have a theory that one is either a Jim Morrison fan OR Elvis fan…very few are both…but I have met some…it’s just a fun thing to think.)

I do love his 68 Comeback though. Black leather is so cool if you can swing it and at the time he sure could.

RIP Elvis!

Skunky on August 16, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Oh, please! Elvis had a beautiful voice that he totally wasted on garbage and his personal life was a disgrace. A lot of Evangelical Christians claim some Jewish ancestor back someplace and are “proud” of it but because that ancestor or another converted, they are no longer considered Jews. They also wear “chai” Magen Davids and kippot. So he gave small, for him, donations to a couple of Jewish charities, big deal. Did he ever come to Israel or when Israel won the Six Day War, did he realize he could finally be proud of being a Jew for real and stop hiding it both because he was a Superstar and so was Israel in the eyes of the world? Nothing in the article about it and I don’t remember anything.
Stop being so hungry for goyish approval that you stretch credulity with idiocy like this. To be perfectly honest, I’m embarrassed to be “related” to someone like Elvis. I guess if you were slamming him instead of praising you’d comment that his ancestors were Sephardic Jews.

I: Gene Simmons hadn’t been to Israel until his 60s. Does that mean he’s not Jewish? Plenty of Jews have never been there. DS

Italkit on August 16, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Christians don’t claim him, frankly, because of the horrible lifestyle. PBS pushed a lot of him singing Christian songs, but we judge his state at death. And, that was NOT GOOD!

    Only God knows how he was handled at the moment of ascension.

    As Goes... on August 16, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Debbie, the difference is that Gene never denied being Jewish and was RAISED Jewish. He never, to my knowledge, recorded hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross.” Elvis was a Christian and you need to explore the “Hebrew Roots” movement in the Evangelical Christian world. It’s not based on blood but on the idea that Jesus was Jewish and he’s their “older brother” by “adoption” Furthermore it’s based on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans where he talks about Gentiles being “grafted into” the Olive tree that is Israel (people not place). My point about Elvis and Israel was that there was a ground swell of pride once Israel won the Six Day War and people were no longer ashamed to admit to being Jewish so if Elvis was hiding it previously, there was no reason for him to continue to do so.

    Italkit on August 17, 2012 at 2:04 am

All the claims of Elvis’ Jewish ancestry seem to originate with the third cousin and Dundy’s biography. Where has Elvis’ Jewish ancestry been documented? If it has, what were Martha Tackett’s parents names? How do people know she is Jewish? When you’re talking about someone born in the 19th century, how can you make a claim about their ethnicity without knowing such basic facts?

As for what Elvis wore, a lot of singers/actors wear religious symbols of all sorts. Think Madonna and others. I wouldn’t take much meaning in that. But the question is – how do you know Martha Tackett was Jewish and where is this documented? The Tackett family researcher I spoke to (a Tackett relative) certainly said he had no evidence that she was (or that she was even Elvis’ ancestor).

dee on August 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm

p.s. Elvis served as a “shabbos goy” for an Orthodox rabbi (his neighbor) during his childhood – would the rabbi let him do that if he thought he was Jewish?

The tree you have here doesn’t list Martha’s parents. That confused me a little but now I see and remember – her parents are listed everywhere as Abner Tackett and Nancy Burdine. The “Elvis is Jewish” claims say that Abner was not Jewish but Nancy was. None of the sites/books/etc. seem to know why they claim that Nancy was Jewish or who her parents were (Burdine is not a Jewish last name).

I think it would have been an interesting story, if true, and that is one of the reasons I researched it. But I can find no proof that Nancy Burdine was Jewish, and, according to that Tackett researcher, she wasn’t even the ancestor, despite being incorrectly listed as such on many websites.

D: The rabbi probably didn’t know. I can give you the names of plenty of Jewish people who did not have Jewish names who were Jewish in America around the time of Burdine. Can you find any proof that my great-grandparents were Jews? I can’t either. But I know they were. Back in those days, people knew by word of mouth, family history. DS

dee on August 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm


    You have posted several long comments, but so far NOTHING HAS STUCK!

    As Goes... on August 16, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    My father was Jewish and my ancestors on his side trace back to Romania. There are many non-Jewish Americans who do have Jewish ancestors.

    My surname tells the entire story.

    NormanF on August 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      Norman, WRONG! As usual, it’s the Ashkenazi bias that blinds people to reality. A majority of Southwestern Hispanics as well as Puerto Ricans and Cubans have provable Jewish Ancestry and they are coming back. This is what happened to Guma Aguiar, z”l and why he became such an ardent Zionist. People with names ending in “ez” are often descended from Conversos. I don’t use the “m” word it’s like the “n” word. so Gomez, Martinez, Perez are all Sephardic names originally.

      Italkit on August 17, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Well, that’s very enlightening about you Debbie because if you did want to make aliyah, you’d need to show written proof that your matrilineal ancestors were Jews. My husband whose Mother was on a Kindertransport, had a ketuba from a Conservative synagogue and who himself had a bar mitzvah, had to go before a Beit Din (religious court) for us to be eligible. I had to do the same because I had less documentation but we are both here as 100% kosher certified. When the former Soviet Union opened and so many people came to Israel, we took their word for it that they were Jews with disastrous results. Now the government is a lot more careful.

    Italkit on August 17, 2012 at 2:10 am

I don’t know what I’m supposed to be sticking to. But I think it boils down to one thing: Who were Nancy Burdine’s parents? And how do people know she was Jewish?

D: How do people know my great-grandparents were Jewish? Why would Elvis put a Jewish star on his mother’s tombstone? DS

dee on August 16, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Elvis’ conversion to Christianity doesn’t matter – you can’t really leave it behind. Neither could the legendary Bob Dylan and yes, he is Jewish.

Its clear he was a Jew and had he been living today, his being Jewish wouldn’t have affected his musical career as much as it did in his time.

He’s an American icon and while his later life was sad, his musical talent was sheer genius – one of a kind. There will never be another Elvis.

NormanF on August 16, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Both Presley and Dylan are racially Jewish and I believe both claim to have converted to Christian religion.


    Elvis? Not so much. Love Bobby D’s hair and nose :))) but I digress. I think I will play me some Nashville Skyline

    As goes... on August 16, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I loved Elvis whatever he was, and damn the earth that Colonel Parker is buried in, because Parker could have helped Elvis get clean and sober.

The only Grammys Elvis ever won were for his Baptist songs, and I have listened to them and they were incredible.

Jonathan E. Grant on August 16, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Don’t blame Parker

    Haven’t you heard of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY?

    Elvis chose to become a doper and chose to remain one.

    As goes... on August 16, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Oh puh-leeze! What utter c-r-a-p. Elvis is as Jewish as the Pope. Schlussel, you don’t speak for the Jews, and therefore you have no moral authority to claim who is and is not a Jew. You are always claiming someone is definitely a Jew if their great-great-great-grandmother was a Jew but yet they do not observe any Jewish laws, but someone who only had a Jewish father, and observes Jewish laws, can’t possibly be a Jew! You are an embarrassment to Judaism, you turn away those that are not halachically pure, and embrace those that are 1/10000 Jewish. You lack an understanding of the world that comes with maturity and experience.

FK: Uh, actually, that’s Jewish law. And your false attacks on my maturity and experience don’t change that. There is no such thing in Judaism as a “pure Jew,” unless you are talking about who can marry a priest. But thanks for the unhinged attack. Welcome to Judaism (which, by the way, doesn’t condone this type of attack on me and views it as the real embarrassment). DS

FrenchKiss on August 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm


    Haven’t you heard of non practicing Jew?

    As goes... on August 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Elvis did have a beautiful voice. During his younger days he was the King of Rock and Roll. Cool story DS. The Star of David on his mother’s tombstone speaks volumes. That’s something not normally done on some whim. Not on a tombstone. Of course, Madonna or someone of her ilk might do it. Hers will likely be a satanic pentagram. Sorry, that’s just how feel about her corrupting influence.

lookaroundu on August 16, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Great article Debbie. I had no idea that Elvis was jewish, not shocked though, because it seems that G-d has really blessed the jewish people with talent, brains, ect ect. I believe the world has been truly blessed through the jewish people, although there are a few knuckleheads out there. I am not jewish, but have always had a love for the jewish people and Israel. As a christian I feel it is important to know more about our roots. We have a menorah in our home, and I had bought a mezuzah but have not hung it on the door post as yet. Did not know if it would offend my jewish neighbor or not being that we are not jewish. I do not know how jews feel about gentiles emulating some of their customs, so thought better safe than sorry. I love jewish customs, I find them beautiful and give a true meaning and closeness to G-d.

John on August 16, 2012 at 7:36 pm


    You said, “the world has been truly blessed through the jewish people”, scripture is referring to Jesus, but you are right that an abundance of blessings have come through the Jewish people.

    We believe credit belongs to the custom of the Jewish people BLESSING THEIR CHILDREN W AARONIC BLESSING IN NUMBERS 6.

    As goes... on August 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    You hit the nail on the head in that you mention recognizing the roots of Christianity. Jesus was a follower of the Jewish sage Hillel and to his dying day was a Torah-observant Jew. I think that the Founding Fathers and the Pilgrims were also very cognizant of the roots of their faith.

    Not Ovenready on August 16, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      Not, Pilgrims, yes, althought they were Replacement theologians, FF’s not so much. Don’t you know that Thomas Jefferson, as most of them were, was a Unitarian Universalist? Don’t you know that he “edited” the Bible leaving out all references to a Trinity or even Jesus? The FF’s were Deists, NOT Christians. If anything, they took their inspiration from the TaNaKh and the parts of the Greek Testament that were in accord.

      Italkit on August 17, 2012 at 2:23 am

      Jesus was a Rabbi!

      He kept the laws.

      He was observant until His death at the Cross.

      He will return wearing his Tallit, too. He wore it every day of his life.

      As Goes... on August 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    John, please feel free to express your affinity to Jewishness. In any religion, there are purists that will object, but pay them no heed. If your Jewish neighbor is insulted, then that is his or her problem to deal with. Let Elvis be your guide!

    KayakAngler on November 29, 2014 at 7:54 pm

V.P. Biden was bit by a wolf as a child

and has worn a chai around his neck ever since.

Does that offer an explanation for his behavior?

Colonel Biteme on August 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm


    As goes... on August 16, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    I would just like to know where I can find an accurate family tree that has records to prove the data on Elvis lines maternal and paternal.

    My granny was a Tackett 2 on January 12, 2014 at 1:56 pm

His drug abuse and general lifestyle led to his premature death. However, unlike the celebrities of today, he was never anti-American. His background would also be of interest to his fans. He was a transitional performer in the 1950’s as the Big Band Era came to a close.

Worry on August 16, 2012 at 7:55 pm



    This is his single best accomplishment. Thank you.

    As goes... on August 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Some well known shady characters have been known to wear that thing around their neck. Here’s one that sports both a Chai and a Star of David. Click on this link and freeze the frame at 0:41.

Irving on August 16, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Hey Irving,

    Having THE STAR OF DAVID on one’s tombstone if you weren’t Jewish is like dying w a lie on your lips

    The STAR was there in acknowledgement of her Jewish heritage. I don’t consult Hollywood or entertainers for TRUTH.

    That’s just dum.

    As goes... on August 16, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I had no idea about Elvis being Jewish, Very interesting and entertaining article, Debbie.

Oh, and while I’m a little too young to have been a fan growing up, some of his hits you can’t keep yourself from tapping your toes of singing along to when you’re in the car. He was pretty cool.

DS_ROCKS! on August 16, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Read an interesting book…”Elvis Schmelvis” sometime back and after reading, remain pretty much convinced Debbie is right about this.

#1 Vato on August 16, 2012 at 8:47 pm

To As Goes = If I remember my scripture correctly, all of the sins that you accuse Elvis of were committed by the Patriarchs of the early Bible. Just a little F.Y.I.
Debbie, my family is a good southern family. When I was about 18, I dated a Jewish a-hole..ahem! guy. My grandmother told me then that we had “Jew in our blood” but we didn’t talk about things like that. On my Mama’s side, my grandmother told me that my grandaddy’s mama was 1/2 Indian…”but we don’t talk about that” either. It’s a shame that there is so much wrapped up in one’s blood line and we put stock in stuff that does not matter one hill of beans. If our Father would accept a gentile (Abraham) as one of his own, I think it doesn’t matter what is in the blood but whether or not we love the Lord our God with all of our heart. It’s interesting to know that Elvis “Aaron” Presley was courageous enough to admit his diverse lineage; especially if you’ve ever traveled to his birth place in B.F. Mississippi. But what really matters is whether or not we are gonna quit with living by tradition or actually practice the precepts that our Father laid before us. Love ya’ll!!

Kristy on August 16, 2012 at 8:54 pm


    Accusing Elvis ? BAHAHAHA

    Res ipsa loquitur. The FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.


    Sin is sin regardless.

    Perhaps, you should spend a little more time in your scripture. After all BIBLE is BASIC INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE LEAVING EARTH.

    As goes... on August 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Doggone it! I forgot to mention that I am related to Bing Crosby!

Kristy on August 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Will you spank me like Uncle Bing? I’ve been a naughty boy again

    #1 Vato on August 16, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Please notice that one of your sources– quoted directly and in full–is identical to what is found on the anti-semitic website Who is a Jew. That website has a lot of wrong information about Jews, who is Jewish, and why. It’s real agenda is to paint anyone they don’t like as bad, evil, or corrupt because they are Jewish. That website is by no means a reliable source of evidence. Also, biographies by unknown librarians are not to be taken as gospel. In fact, in Last Train to Memphis by Guralnick, a reliable biographer, explains that Elvis was in fact a Shabbas Goy for the orthodox family that lived upstairs (not a rabbi as claimed here.) As a Shabbas goy he certainl would not have considered himself to be Jewish–nor would the orthodox family have allowed him to turn off the lights if he were Jewish. Knowing a Jewish family or wearing a Chai are not real indications that he was Jewish.

Dan M on August 16, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Dan M,

    What is wrong w you? Star of David on mother’s marker is family history. You’re nuts.

    As goes... on August 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm


    Thank you. Before going off to bed tonight I did a very quick Google research on this item. Guess what? The only sites that I could find were ones with overly Anti-Semitic content on them.

    Debbie, where did you get this information? Was it from a credible website that writes about and/or provides information for Jews or just a website written by someone out there.

    BTW, as one poster mentioned, many people wear Chai’s and Star of Davids who aren’t Jewish. One day read about Wade Boggs who played Baseball for the Boston Red Sox. Yes, it was cool that he made a Chai in the batter’s box, but he was not Jewish in any way. I also knew a few students at the High School where I went years ago who wore Jewish looking Jewerly, they just thought it looked nice.

    A Reader on August 16, 2012 at 11:58 pm

      I see the nonReader is back.

      Sheesh. You still haven’t learned anything.


      As Goes... on August 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm

        As Goes,

        What haven’t I learned yet? Besides the fact that I know that Elvis was not Jewish. His name is not listed on any sites mentioning musicians who were Jewish except one, that mentions him as a House Goy.

        If Elvis really was Jewish why didn’t he mention it? Yes, I have heard of non – practicing Jews as I believe you mentioned, but many still identify themselves as being Jewish in one way or another.

        Sorry, if anybody on this board did any real research they would learn that Elvis was not Jewish.

        A Reader on August 18, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Dylan bounced between Judaism and Christianity over the years, and much of his music contains suble Biblical references. I remember reading he took his son to Israel, celebrating his Bar Mitzvah at the Wall.

Lots of musicians in the 60’s were Jews. Bloomfield and Cooper played with Muddy Waters, while guitarist Randy California of the jazz-rock group Spirit earlier played with Hendrix. For a kick, listen to Spirit’s “Jewish”, California’s rendition of the Hebrew song “Hinei Mah Tov”, where he gets most of the words wrong!

Raymond in DC on August 16, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Raymond, For the record, it’s Al “Kooper”, not Cooper. Also, from the same genre of music, “10 Wheel Drive” was headed by Genya Raven, a.k.a. Goldie Zelkowitz, and “Gypsy’s” lead singer was Enrico Rosenbaum.

    Neils60 on August 17, 2012 at 2:15 am

Did not know this. I always liked his earlier stuff.

samurai on August 16, 2012 at 11:36 pm


I’ve always made a distinction between those who are “of Jewish ancestry” and those who are Jewish. Elvis was the former.

I fully understand the criteria by which you state that Elvis was Jewish. However, in my opinion, just because Halacha makes someone Jewish doesn’t mean they are a Jew.

I’m not much of a student on the life and times of Elvis Presley. Therefore, my next statement may be one in which you disagree.

While Elvis’ end was tragic and self-destructive, I like to remember the younger Elvis who sang beautiful Gospel songs. To me, Elvis was a Christian and until he became a mess, he acknowledged Gd as a Christian. I’d rather recognize Elvis as a Christian of Jewish ancestry than to make a definitive statement that he was Jewish even though Halacha would recognize him as such.

Norman Finkelstein is of Jewish ancestry too. Halacha backs Finkelstein’s claim to be jewish. He uses this as a license to incite others to hate Jews. I do not regard Norman Finkelstein as a Jew but merely as being of Jewish ancestry. Same with Elvis.

I’m not comparing two. I’m only trying to make my point. In my opinion, there is a difference between calling someone a Jew based on Halacha and recognizing them as a Jew based on the life they live (or lived).


There is NO Santa Claus (aka TINSC)

There is No Santa Claus on August 17, 2012 at 12:44 am

    He acknowledged his mother as Jewish.

    And conversion is irrelevant – a Jew can never really leave the “tribe” and he does not have to reconvert to Judaism if he returns to it.

    Many Jews who converted to Christianity did so to gain acceptance by the dominant culture. But everyone still saw them as Jewish.

    It underscores the national component of Judaism. That never changes for someone born Jewish.

    NormanF on August 17, 2012 at 3:19 am

      Wrong again, Norm. If a Jew does convert to Christianity and is BAPTIZED, he is no longer “in the tribe” as you call it and if he wants to return, He has to go thru a process including a beit din and the mikva. It’s not a full out conversion but it’s not easy and he will forever be suspect.

      Italkit on August 17, 2012 at 6:49 am

Debbie, Darling, you’re being silly. I appreciate your zeal for the Jewish people but the picture of the tombstone finally loaded and along with the Magen David there’s a CROSS and a quote from Jesus; “not my will but thine be done.” That’s what he said from the cross. NO JEW would use that quote.
He put the Magen David there to acknowledge the Jewish roots of his faith and his mother’s. C’mon on! As I said earlier, stop being so hungry for Goyish approval that you publish nonsense. It makes all of us look bad. At least find a positive role model to brag on.

Italkit on August 17, 2012 at 2:37 am

Debbie, Darling, you’re being silly. I appreciate your zeal for the Jewish people but the picture of the tombstone finally loaded and along with the Magen David there’s a CROSS and a quote from Jesus; “not my will but thine be done.” That’s what he said from the cross. NO JEW would use that quote.
He put the Magen David there to acknowledge the Jewish roots of his faith and his mother’s. C’mon on! As I said earlier, stop being so hungry for Goyish approval that you publish nonsense. It makes all of us look bad. At least find a positive role model to brag on.

BTW, when someone refers to a woman as “THE Jewess” [emphasis mine] as in “the Jewess, Martha Tackett” it’s almost always derogatory.

Italkit on August 17, 2012 at 2:41 am

Sorry for the duplication. Computer is being weird. Must be Elvis’ ghost.

Italkit on August 17, 2012 at 2:42 am

Why would he acknowledged his mother as Jewish and put a Magen David on her tomb?

A Jew may deny they’re a Jew but sooner or later, your past catches up with you!

NormanF on August 17, 2012 at 3:22 am

    Norman, RIF I said, (twice thanks to the computer burping), that there is also a cross and a quote of what Jesus said in Gethsemane, I was wrong about it being from the cross. I don’t know a living Jew, other than a J4J who would put both those things on one tombstone. The cross is considered an idol and we are not permitted to own or display them. And why would an alleged quote from Jesus, right before he was arrested, be used by a Jew? What I said is that he was acknowledging her “Hebrew Roots.” which is a REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY movement.

    Italkit on August 17, 2012 at 7:20 am

I remember when Elvis died. I was under the age of ten back in 1977 but I still remember that day like it was yesterday. My family especially my Dad were heavy fans and loved his gospel recordings. His voice was pure gold and he could sing not only gospel but country and rock as well. Sadly his life was cut short due to drugs but like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston after him if you choose that route it will eventually catch up to you. I still listen to his songs but my favorites are “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Suspicious Minds”.

Ken b on August 17, 2012 at 10:49 am

I am reminded of the time my father visited relatives in TN. They went to visit Graceland and there was a very long line filing past his tomb. When my father was in front of it he said ” so what another dead junky, I do not see the biog deal.” A woman standing near by snapped and said “you don’t know all the good he has done.” My father being a retired police officer said ” so what, he was still a junky.”

The woman walked off in a huff and my relatives were cringing at first. Yet they knew that was just my father being who he was and telling it like it is.

Glen Benjamin on August 17, 2012 at 11:30 am

If we can have a President that appears to be Christian but is really a Muslim, then Elvis can be Jewish.

Good reporting and investigative work as usual.

Panhandle on August 17, 2012 at 11:35 am

elvis,jim reeves,bobby darin all had great voices and material so what has happened?what do we have today but rap crap and half assed rock?

BRUCE on August 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Elvis was circumcised? So in matriineal thinking if you believe in the Jewish Bible – Eve was Jewish AND THEREFORE everyone on earth right now is Jewish!

Very logical thinking!

B: Eve was NOT Jewish. Abraham was the first Jew. Try consulting a Bible more often, instead of attacking the logic of Judaism. DS

bob on August 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Yelp, I remember when Elvis died. I was in the Navy and stationed in Memphis (NTTC Milligton). I got to work and none of my civilan employees was there. Someone said “the King died”. I asked “King of what?” and they said “Elvis”. I had some of my sailors start calling and ordering the civilans into work or I was docking them without pay. No unscheduled time off allowed. We had work to do. The United States Navy waits for no man…or “King”.

Paul on August 17, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I saw Elvis perform 7 times, including two Vegas shows. I vividly recall how he mentioned “Jesus Christ” during interludes. I have never ever met a Jew who showed respect or love for Jesus…just sayin’

Myra Smithens on August 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm


I am one of the children of the neighbor rabbi you referred to in your article (actually, we lived upstairs in the same 2 family house, so my and 3 of my siblings’ birth certificates have Elvis’ address on them!). Elvis may have been Jewish, but: 1. In all the conversations that my mother had with Gladys, it was never mentioned, and 2. if my father knew, or even suspected Elvis was Jewish, he would not have let him serve as “Shabbos goy”, which he did on occasion. So, Elvis and his family definitely hid it. Good article.

harold fruchter on August 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm

So Elvis was not perfect. Why don’t we focus on what he did right: Elvis loved his parents, family and his country. He gave a lot $$ to charity. It makes me fonder of him that he had Jewish lineage, as well, and that he honored that heritage for himself and his mom.

patriot woman on August 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Much ado about nothing. There is nothing at all in Elvis’ ancestry to even suggest he was Jewish. Abner Tackett married Celia Butler and they had Elvis’ ancestor Martha (Tackett) Mansell/Mancell. It was Abner, Jr., who married Nancy Burdine. Jerome and Sidney are not Jewish names. They are American names that Jewish families often chose in place of their Jewish names once in the US to assimilate. Protestant families also used those names. Why was there a Star of David on his mother’s original tombstone along with a cross? Only Elvis knows why. He designed it. And now we have one of Elvis’ relatives and a biographer looking for fame and fortune by coming up with tall tales to explain why, and everyone believes it, no questions asked.

Richard on March 26, 2013 at 10:29 am

18 is lucky because of chai, not the other way around

giv on June 14, 2013 at 12:23 am

You guys are all hilarious. Born Jewish,part Jewish, a 5th jewish. Sounds like a religion desperate for numbers.

You are what you practice.

Mike dania on November 8, 2013 at 11:22 am

A whole lot of this and what has been published in books is speculation. A lot of it is not logically sound either. Based on simple associations resulting from very basic (not necessarily true) thinking.

eg. He wore a chai and embezzled his mother’s grave stone so he’s a Jew. But the truth is you don’t have any HARD evidence. Ancestry gets murky. Especially when you go back like that. There is no admission anywhere. Hell you’d like him to be Jewish. *That’s* why he’s Jewish.

And no, he doesn’t symbolize Jewish success in the US. Maybe you’d like him to, but he doesn’t. He *maybe* is *slightly* Jewish. And I don’t even thing you can confidently say that. You don’t know he practiced the religion, or stuck to any of the customs. You don’t know if he faced any oppression due to his “Jewishness.” But there ARE things he said to justify wearing those symbols. There is a church he attended.

Of course, I could care less. I don’t care what religious symbols he donned, or what his bloody great great great ancestor was. Or about how he lived. Or about how “Jewish” descent works.

You’re a pretty sick (repulsive) person, Debbie Schlussel. Either you’re lying or your cognition is limited for such analysis. People who seek the truth (people who are also honest) hesitate to state things they can’t support. Properly support. In a linear fashion. For you, if a=b and b=c then d, not instead, very reasonably a=c.

hmm on November 12, 2013 at 8:18 am

Sorry, but Elvis was not jewish. From his fathers side, he stems from good old Germany. His german family’s name was “Presler”. From his mothers side, he is half-native indian, so a real american. That explains the look of his face. The daughter, Lisa-Marie, looks like her father and also very indian. Elvis never went to a synagogue for worship. He was a baptist 100%. He believed in god and didn’t read the Thora. He was the best singer of all times and very inteligent. Finaly, it was his divorce that destroyed him. Priscilla was a bitch. As simple as that!

Clearmind on December 11, 2013 at 5:53 am

Elvis was cool. He was a king of rock ‘n roll. He reinterpreted traditional black music and made something catchy and unique. He had a great voice, and was an excellent performer. He was a movie star even though he was a very bad actor. He was a drug addict with a weight problem. He went to President Nixon offering to spy on the Beatles. He sang traditional Christian hymns beautifully, and he served in the military and was honorably discharged. The point is he was a mix of things, thus he was a quintessential American. So I’m not surprised if there was a little Jewishness in his mix as well.

Now the facts:
– Elvis was very close to his mother, Gladys, who died when he was 23
– Elvis allegedly designed his mother’s memorial monument and gravestone
– The monument was a large Christian cross featuring Jesus with outstretched arms
– the gravestone had a Star of David engraved in the upper left corner and a cross engraved in the upper right corner
– on his birth certificate, Elvis’ middle name is spelled Aron, however, on his gravestone it is spelled Aaron, the same spelling as is used for the brother of Moses
– Elvis said that his father misspelled his middle name on his birth certificate but in 1966 he instructed his father to make sure his name was spelled with 2 A’s on all legal documents, which would account for the biblical spelling on his gravestone which was commissioned by his father (source: Elvis and the Memphis Mafia by A. Nash)
– in 1972 there is a photograph of Elvis wearing a Star of David necklace
– in 1977 there are photographs of Elvis wearing a necklace consisting of 2 Hebrew letters that translate to the word “life”; when asked why he wore this he responded, “I don’t want to miss out on going to heaven on a technicality.”

The most likely explanation for the above facts is that Elvis was raised as a Christian and he never abandoned the Christian faith. However, he also had an affinity for Jewishness. It is possible that he developed this affinity simply by reading the Bible and realizing that Jesus and all his disciples were Jewish. This is a path that many modern day evangelicals have traveled. Perhaps Elvis was a trendsetter in religion as well as in music?

However, this does not explain the Star of David engraved on his mother’s tombstone. Obviously Gladys Presley also had an affinity towards Jewishness, and the Star represented a special connection between her and her son.

So what was this connection? It is possible that she, as a Christian, also appreciated the fact that Jesus and all his disciples were Jewish, and that she impressed this fact upon her son. However, it is also possible that Gladys did have Jewish heritage in her lineage, and that she was proud of it, and she passed that pride to her son.

Would this latter possibility mean that Elvis was actually Jewish? Technically, according to Jewish law, it could be. However, in the United States the wife typically adopts the religion of her husband, or at least agrees to have the children brought up in that faith. So I have little doubt that religiously speaking, Elvis practiced Christianity. However, I also have little doubt that Elvis and his mom had a special connection to Judaism, regardless of whether that connection was biological, spiritual, or cultural.

KayakAngler on November 29, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Thanks Debbie! I really enjoyed your post. Also the King’s grandson also wears the Star of David. I have seen his little twin pictured online with it.

Esperanza on August 16, 2015 at 9:35 am

Joshua, the Son of Jehovah-G-d(God) in the Old Testament. Y’shua also, the Son of G-d(God) in the New Testament.
Evangelical Christians love the Holy Land. Israelis as secular citizens(in some cases who may not practice a religion of the Jewish tradition) are citizens of the state of Israel. They aware that evangelical Christians LOVE Y’srael. Because Jesus Christ is the only Sovereign Lord and God through His Father in Communion with the Holy Spirit

Elvis Aaron Presley, served his country, and did receive an Honorable discharge from the U.S. Army in the mid-1950s’. He was a very, country kind of person being poor and from MS.
Even if it violates rubrics on either side of both Faiths. If he wanted to put a Star of David and a Christian Cross, along with the saying, “Thy Will, Alone Be Done” on his Grandmother’s tombstone God Bless, Elvis for doing so.Elvis did this because he deeply loved his Mother; and out of love for his Mother (and Grandmother) it happened. Was Elvis a Redeemed Christian, Saved-Christian, Sanctified and found Innocent before God, Almighty. Only God knows this alone, not man.yosel, joe dipaola

yosel, joe dipaola on May 18, 2016 at 4:14 pm

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