The Secret Jewish History of Cher

9 Reasons Why the Entertainer Is Honorary Member of Tribe

Sonny Days Ahead: Legendary entertainer Cher is hitting the road for the first time in eight years.
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Sonny Days Ahead: Legendary entertainer Cher is hitting the road for the first time in eight years.

By Seth Rogovoy

Published January 06, 2014, issue of January 10, 2014.
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1) As is well known, in the 20th century the Armenian people and the Jews shared a tragic history, both victims of attempted genocide. And rounding out the Jewish, Christian and Muslim quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City is the Armenian Quarter, where there has been a continuous Armenian presence dating back to well before there were even such things as Christians and Muslims, to say nothing of quarters named after them.

2) Most Native American peoples came to this continent via the Beringian land bridge from Siberia. Recent DNA evidence suggests that many of those very early immigrants originally hailed from the Middle East and Europe. Given the many Native American traditions, rituals, beliefs and legends that mirror those of Judaism, some speculate that some or all of these peoples were actually descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

3). Much of the iconography of Cher’s solo hits of the 1970s was inspired by her Armenian and Cherokee heritage, as well as her tough upbringing, perhaps nowhere more successfully than in the hit song, “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” — her first solo No. 1 hit record — a portrayal of life lived in the social margins. Gypsies, of course, have long been cultural and historical cousins to Jews, living lives in parallel, and sharing exile and diaspora, musical and professional affinities, and common enemies among Nazis and other European right-wing nationalists.

4) From her beginnings as a backup vocalist working for Jewish pop impresario Phil Spector (on hit songs including the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”), Cher has enjoyed great success singing the works of such great Jewish songwriters as Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and her most important hitmaker of the last three decades, Diane Warren. She’s recorded more songs by Warren and Dylan than any other songwriter.

5) Among Cher’s many boyfriends, a few great loves of her life stand out — Jewish music mogul David Geffen (before he came out as gay); Chaim Witz, the Israeli-born rock bassist and vocalist better known as Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss; and Robert Camilletti, 18 years her junior, who, although not Jewish, was known as “the bagel boy” for his stint working in a bagel bakery. While dating Simmons, Cher got her first up close and personal experience of anti-Semitism when the two were apartment hunting and a realtor confided to her that she couldn’t show them certain luxury apartments because they were in buildings where the co-op boards would have turned down Simmons for being Jewish. Cher also famously attended a seder at Simmons’s mother’s house on Long Island, during which she had to stand the entire time because she’d just had her tukhes surgically nipped and tucked.


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