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Life Arts    H3'ed 12/16/17

Surprising Connections: 'Alice's Restaurant,' Judaism, and Donald Trump

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Woody Guthrie--This Land Is Your Land
Woody Guthrie--This Land Is Your Land
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On Thanksgiving Day this year, I was consumed with nostalgia as I watched the PBS replay of the 50th anniversary concert celebrating Arlo Guthrie's eighteen-minute hilarious musical monologue , "Alice's Restaurant Massacree." The song recounts the quirky events that inspired the 1969 film Alice's Restaurant.

The film centers around a group of counter-culture teenage and "20-something" dropouts searching for meaningful identities. The "family," as they were called, found their way to the home of Alice and her husband, Ray Brock, in a deconsecrated church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Then Alice opened her famous restaurant in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, just a few miles up the road; it helped feed "the family."

Ten years ago, when Alice--then an artist living in Cape Cod---returned to the Berkshires for an exhibit of her artworks, I wrote an article about her Alice's Restaurant reminiscences and her reflections on her life afterwards.

The PBS Special prompted me to again interview Alice Brock and publish an updated article from a 2017 perspective.

I was curious, and I was also seeking a diversion from the relentless Donald Trump news coverage.

But not so fast.

In doing research for the article, I stumbled on two surprising findings: first, a Jewish connection to the Alice's Restaurant story, and then, to my astonishment, a Trump connection.

I knew that both Arlo Guthrie and Alice Brock are Jewish---their mothers were Jewish and both were born in Brooklyn N.Y.

Alice's Jewish mother later financed the purchase of the deconsecrated church in Great Barrington Massachusetts where Alice, her husband and "the family" lived. She also financed the famous restaurant in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Although Alice grew up on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn close to a prominent Synagogue (the Brooklyn Jewish Center), her family was secular. She told me that her only Jewish experiences throughout childhood were eating Jewish foods on several of the holidays,

For Arlo, it was different. He did have a Jewish upbringing, including a bar mitzvah.

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin reports that Arlo's bar mitzvah, at the Howard Beach Jewish center in Queens, was officiated by Rabbi Meir Kahane , the firebrand leader of the Jewish Defense League. Kahane was assassinated in 1990 at New York City's Marriott East Side Hotel by El Sayyid Nosair, who was linked to Osama bin Laden.

Also noteworthy, as I write this article during Hanukkah 2017, Arlo's father, famed song writer, singer and social activist, Woody Guthrie, who was not Jewish, wrote several spirited Hanukkah songs, including Honeyky Hanuka (Hanukkah) , Hanukkah Dance , and Nefesh Mountain | Hanukkah's Flame.

And the Trump connection?

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Bernard Starr, PhD, is a psychologist and Professor Emeritus at CUNY, Brooklyn College. He is a past president of The Brooklyn Psychological Association and past president of The Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy. At Brooklyn (more...)
 

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