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Mo and Mammy: 1927

Washington, D.C., circa 1927. "Al Jolson's parents." Rabbi Moses Yoelson and wife Ida, the actor's stepmother. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1927. "Al Jolson's parents." Rabbi Moses Yoelson and wife Ida, the actor's stepmother. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.


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Ida Yoelson Obit

Washington Post, Jan 9, 1951

Al Jolson's Stepmother Dies at 80

Mrs. Ida Yoelson, stepmother of the late Al Jolson, died yesterday at her home at 1787 Lanier pl. nw., at the age of 80. She had been suffering from hardening of the arteries for several months.

Mrs. Yoelson died without ever having been told of the death of her famous stepson last October 23. She was too sick to be told, her son, George Jolson, said last night.

The famed singer and comedian used to write home every week and Mrs. Yoelson constantly asked if his letters were coming in regularly. To keep the news from her, George and the other children kept answering yes, even after the letters stopped coming.

She was actually the only mother Al ever knew, according to George. Al's mother, Emma, died when Al was an infant. Ida Yevels came here with her mother from Russia to be married to Al's father, the late Rabbi Moses Reuben Yoelson, when Al was only two years old.

The two Mrs. Yoelsons were cousins. A devout, Orthodox Jew, Mrs. Yoelson did not attempt to divert Al when he decided to enter show business. Instead her devotion to him remained steadfast and she followed his fortunes with unwavering loyalty. "We had to read Al's notices to Mom and Pop over and over again." George said last night. Robbi Yoelson died about five years ago.

Earlier in her life. Mrs. Yoelson was active in numerous charities and social organizations.

In addition to George, a pharmacist who lives at 2527 14th st. ne., she leaves three other children, Meyer Yoelson, of the Lanier pl. adress; Emil Yoelson, a Post Office Department employee, 2756 Woodley pl. nw., and Mrs. Gertrude Sollod of Baltimore, and three grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 12:30 p.m. today at Danazansky's funeral home, 3501 14th st. nw. She will be burieded near her husband at the Talmud Torah Congregation Cemetery.

Beloved, indeed

Considering that Al Jolson was, by most accounts, an egomaniacal tyrant to most people (he ran water in his dressing room, for instance, so as not to hear the applause for others onstage), it is interesting to note that his father was a rabbi! Perhaps he should have walked those "million miles" a bit more often for some heart to hearts with dear old dad!

Their faces

Somehow she looks like the stern one. He seems to have a soft kindly quality in his expression, and what looks like a nice little smile. Just the opposite of the parents in "The Jazz Singer."

From scratch

This picture looks like it had some retouching, like scratching on the faces and hands. Also, the eyes look kind of unnatural.

My Mammy

Before Jolson latched onto it, the song had been introduced on the vaudeville circuit by William Frawley, decades before he achieved sitcom immortality as Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy."

The sun shines east, the sun shines west

I wonder what her smile looks like. I'd like to know if it really is worth walking a million miles for.

I'd walk a million miles


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