|Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds with Jennie Grossinger|
We remember Eddie as a giant (although he was short) of the pop music world after he was discovered by Eddie Cantor at Grossinger's in the Catskills where he was working as a bus boy.
Fisher was born in Philadelphia in 1928 and was the fourth of seven children. He was the son of Russian-born Jewish immigrants, Gitte Winokur and Joseph Tisch. His father's surname was changed to Fisher by the time of the 1940 census.
He was not an observant Jew, but returned many times to sing at Grossinger's, and that's where he and Debbie Reynolds were married.
As Benjamin Ivry wrote in The Forward,
David E. Kaufman, a Jewish studies professor at Hofstra University, pointed out in “Jewhooing the Sixties: American Celebrity and Jewish Identity.” how during his marriage to Reynolds and earlier, Fisher had been uninvolved with his Jewish heritage.
After leaving Reynolds and his children, Fisher informed movie magazine reporters that he had suddenly discovered his roots. This mechaya was supposedly the result of Fisher’s reading Leon Uris’s 1958 novel “Exodus” and befriending Rabbi Max Nussbaum, the Hollywood religious leader who would perform the wedding ceremony for Taylor and Fisher, also presiding over Liz’s conversion.
Witnessing her ex-husband’s belated realization of his roots must have ultimately struck an absurd note in Reynold’s sensibility, as she raised her children. The fact that Fisher showed no interest in Judaism while they were together may have made Reynolds' own approach to Jewish culture all the more celebratory in later years.
Her late daughter Carrie Fisher had perhaps the closest identification with Judaism in the family, and Reynolds good-humoredly assimilated a certain amount of everyday Jewish culture. Last year, after Carrie tweeted: “From her perch high above Canter's Deli in Hollywood, your half Jewish Princess ponders the world between her bagels,” her mother retweeted the message, adding: “My daughter Carrie is beautiful as she looks down at one of LA’s favorite delis. The whitefish is strong in this one.”Fisher, who is hardly known by today's young pop music lovers, had many top hits, including Oh My Papa, I'm Walking Behind You, Wish You Were Here, I'm Yours and I Need You Now.
There aren't many traces of Fisher singing Jewish songs, but we found two that we'll share with you. In 1961 he recorded the title song from the Broadway musical Milk and Honey starring Molly Picon. The musical is about a busload of lonely American widows hoping to catch husbands while touring Israel and is set against the backdrop of the country's struggle for recognition as an independent nation.
In 1966 he sang Hava Nagila with The Young Americans on the Hollywood Palace TV show.
Fisher died in 2010 at the age of 82. We hope you enjoy the videos below.
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Eddie Fisher Sings Milk and Honey
Eddie Fisher Sings Hava Nagila