There is much to
be said about Jolson's Judaism. It was, in many ways, so much a
part of his identity. Though he was never an observant Jew, he would
assault--verbally or otherwise--anyone who made an anti-Semitic
Jolson was, as his biographer Herb Goldman wrote, the first
Jewish-American entertainer who did not hide his roots. There are many
references to Yiddish and Jewish tradition in his films and radio
Yiddish was a second language to him, of course. The greatest
influence on his Jewishness was his father, Moshe Reuben Yoelson.
Moshe was a rabbi, a cantor and a mohel.
It should also be noted that Jolson
recorded the songs "Israel" and "Hatikvah" with Decca Records in
May 1948 and donated
all the royalties " to the
United Jewish Appeal.
Two days after
recording the songs, he sent a master copy to Israel's new president, Chaim
Weizmann (who at the time was visiting President Truman at the
White House.) The story made the front page of "Variety."
Jolson also did
radio shows for the United Jewish Appeal in 1947 and 1948 and paid for a
two-page ad in "Variety," urging funds for Jews in Europe.