The Museum of Family
Great Artists Series
HIS FATHER MOSHE REUBEN
The Family of Al
photo above, Jolson
|As to Al's
relationship with his father, this was often a clash of the "old"
versus the "new" world. Moshe Reuben thought that participating in
popular theatre, as Asa or Al did, was not a "respectable"
profession. He himself at a early stage in his life wished to be an
All his life, Al
had been chagrined by what he felt was his father's stubborn refusal
to give him wholehearted praise. Nonetheless, Al had admired the man
he described as "a scholarly old gentleman"-- an admiration that
turned into reverence after Moshe's passing. In the years that
followed, Al would subtly turn back to what he termed "the ways of
our fathers." In the years
that followed, he did not work on Yom Kippur.
Jolson recorded "Kol Nidre," "Hatikvah" (the Israeli
national anthem), and even adopted the melody from "Hindustan"
a new song titled "Israel." It was as if his father's death had
brought Al to a peace with his religion--and his God.
donated all the royalties from the recordings of "Israel" and
"Hatikvah" to the state of Israel and, in his will, left much of his
fortune to various Jewish charities.
SISTER ETTA, AND THEIR FATHER
above and on the far right were taken in Yonkers, New York at the home of
Al's sister Etta during a family reunion in 1931.
After Al's mother Naomi died, Moshe Reuben remarried in March 1896.
This time he married the daughter of a second cousin, who at
the time was still living in Seredzius. Their father's new wife was
of the "old world," a fact that did not sit well with both young Asa
or his brother Hirsch, who did not want to be reminded of the past
that had ended with the death of his mother.
Most likely due to the
loss of their mother, compounded by the fact that their father
remarried (a woman only nine years older than his sister Rose), and also
because of the fact that in Asa's eyes no one could ever
take the place of his mother, the children in their own way, rebelled. Etta
had an argument with her father's new wife and asked her Uncle Chayim in Yonkers, New York for a job in his dry-good store.
began associating with the wrong crowd and got into trouble.
Eventually Asa would run away from home, finding a myriad of odd
jobs in order to get by.
Yoelson had been among the first rabbis to settle permanently in
Washington, D.C. One of the founders of the Hebrew Relief
served Washington Jewry for over half a century. His good-humored
wisdom and deep respect for the beliefs of others had won the Jewish
community many friends.
Herbert G. Goldman, in his biographical book about Jolson, "Jolson:
The Legend Comes to Life" (recommended reading):
"On December 23, 1945,
around the time of his eighty-eighth birthday, Rabbi Moshe Reuben
Yoelson died in Washington, D.C. In accordance with Jewish law, the
funeral was held within twelve hours. Al was unable to attend..."
Moshe was buried in
Talmud Torah Cemetery, a couple of yards from his first wife Naomi.
The family had the following line inscribed upon his tombstone:
THE CROWN HAS BEEN
LIFTED FROM OUR HEADS
Such was the esteem
in which the "scholarly old gentleman" was held.
This exhibition was made
possible in part with the cooperation of the
International Al Jolson Society.
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