The Corner

Something Else You May Not Have Known About Woody Guthrie

I also enjoyed Lee Habeeb’s article about Woody Guthrie. As long as we’re on the topic of Woody Guthrie trivia, I would like to add a few more points.

Marjorie Guthrie, Woody’s second wife and mother to Arlo and Nora Guthrie, was the daughter of acclaimed Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt. Though Woody was not Jewish, he felt a connection with Yiddish culture, and his mother-in-law told him that he had a Jewish soul. According to Aaron Lansky’s book Outwitting History, Guthrie tried to convince Greenblatt, whose poems were typically about nature, to write more politically aware poems. “Enough flowers and butterflies,” he would say to her. “What about the working masses?”

Another interesting fact from Outwitting History. Marjorie Guthrie wanted Arlo and Nora to learn Hebrew, so she asked a local Orthodox synagogue to send a young rabbi to tutor her children. A rabbi came and taught the uninterested children Hebrew and Torah. That rabbi’s name was Meir Kahane, the founder of the  Jewish Defense League, which the FBI has called a right-wing terrorist organization. 

Woody Guthrie: A Marxist-Leninist, with a “Jewish soul,” whose children were tutored by an extremist rabbi.


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