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HomeUncategorizedAlanis Morissette Discovers 'Unfathomable' Jewish Lineage on 'Finding Your Roots'

Alanis Morissette Discovers ‘Unfathomable’ Jewish Lineage on ‘Finding Your Roots’


Alanis Morissette uncovered a significant family secret before her appearance on “Finding Your Roots”: Morissette discovered in her late 20s that her mother is Jewish.

Morissette discussed her mother and grandmother’s choice to keep their Jewish heritage hidden on “Finding Your Roots,” revealing, “There was a terror in their bones, and they wanted to protect us from antisemitism, keeping us unaware.”

During her segment on the PBS series aired on Jan. 2, Morissette delved deeper into her mother’s family in Hungary and what is now Ukraine. She also learned about the fate of her two great uncles, Gyorgy and Sandor Feuerstein, who disappeared during the Holocaust. Her grandfather, Imre Feuerstein, managed to escape the same fate.

Morissette’s relatives believed that the two men were conscripted into a work battalion during WWII. At the time, there was no certainty about their fate, but there are now archival records from the Red Cross showing that Imre Feuerstein inquired a few years after the war in the hope that his brother, Gyorgy, might still be alive.

The “Finding Your Roots” team discovered through records at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, that both Gyorgy and Sandor Feuerstein died in the forced labor army sent to Russia, nearly half of whom were Hungarian Jews, according to Yad Vashem. Over 500,000 Hungarian Jews perished during the Holocaust.

“It’s unimaginable for me,” Morissette expressed, contemplating the experiences of her uncles.

After WWII, Hungary became part of the Soviet Union. Morissette’s grandfather decided to flee with his family in 1956. Her mother was just 6 years old at the time and “still holds frightening memories of the journey,” as revealed in the episode.

Her grandfather successfully led his family out of Hungary and eventually settled in Ottawa, Canada, where Morissette was raised.

In an interview with TODAY.com, the “Hand in My Pocket” vocalist shared an intriguing detail she discovered that wasn’t featured in the episode: Imre Feuerstein and his family nearly relocated to Australia, not Canada, but they missed the boat when Imre Feuerstein stepped outside for a cigarette break.

“Because he went out for a cigarette, he missed that opportunity and they came to Canada. So I like to say that cigarettes made my life possible,” she remarked.

However, her grandfather tragically passed away in a car accident just three months after she was born. He was 65 years old.

While reading the article detailing the accident in the “Finding Your Roots” episode, Morissette was moved to tears. She revealed that her mother “didn’t talk about” her grandfather much, but her grandmother was more open, as Morissette “wouldn’t let it go.”

“Imre had saved his family by fleeing Hungary. But in doing so, he had also severed all ties to their deeper ancestry. In fact, Alanis knew nothing about her mother’s lineage before WWII,” Gates disclosed in a narration. The “Finding Your Roots” team traced Imre Feuerstein’s lineage back to what is modern day Ukraine.

“I had no idea how deeply rooted in Judaism I am,” she remarked.

“I feel embraced by a community that I always felt a connection to,” she added. “I’ve always felt drawn to Judaism and would attend Passover and Seder. Now I understand why. It was like coming home.”

The episode also delved into the story of her father’s ancestors, who, according to Gates, had a “typical Canadian narrative, from settlers to lumberjacks.”

The “Finding Your Roots” team traced Morissette’s father’s lineage back to her ninth great-grandparents in 1600s France. Her eighth great-grandparents, who wed in Quebec City in 1667, constructed a house on a nearby island that still stands today.

She also discovered that her fourth great-grandfather, named James McConnell, born in the 1770s, settled in a town called Hull on the Ottawa River and operated log rafts.

“I briefly lived in a home, though it was only for 10 years, that was located on the Ottawa River and looked into Hull,” Morissette shared.

“No way, really? So you were drawn back,” Gates responded.

McConnell was the subject of a local song about an expedition to run a boat over local waterfalls — over 100 feet tall at their highest point. The journey resulted in the death of his brother-in-law and two other men, leaving him as the sole survivor.

Alanis Morissette at the 2023 CMT Music Awards on April 02, in Austin, TX.Emma McIntyre / Getty Images for CMT

“What is going on?” she exclaimed upon learning that her fourth great-grandfather’s journey inspired the folk song.

She discovered that the trip had no purpose — the men simply wanted to see if they could.

“That willingness to take a chance; I resonate with that,” she mentioned.

Reflecting on her experience on “Finding Your Roots” to TODAY.com, Morissette described her family history as “so many crossroads.”



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