by Jacob Gurvis
(JTA) — Seven-time Grammy Award winner Alanis Morissette explores her family’s Jewish past, which she said was kept a secret from her for most of her life, on Tuesday night’s season premiere of the PBS celebrity genealogy series “Finding Your Roots.”
“I think I found out that I was Jewish in my late 20s. I didn’t know,” Morissette tells host and Harvard University history professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in the episode, a snippet of which was shared exclusively with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Morissette, 49, was raised Catholic and is now a practicing Buddhist. But her mother, Georgia Mary Ann Feuerstein, was born in Hungary to two Holocaust survivor parents, Imre Feuerstein and Nadinia Anna Lauscher/Gulyas.
As Gates explains, the family’s experience in the Holocaust was so traumatic that they kept their Jewishness a secret for many years.
“I think there was a terror that is in their bones and they were being protective of us and just not wanting antisemitism,” Morissette says. “So they were doing it to protect us, sort of keeping us in the dark around it.”
Morissette, who has sold more than 85 million albums worldwide and has performed in Israel multiple times, is the latest in a long list of celebrities to explore their Jewish ancestry on the show, which is returning for its 10th season. Past guests have included Pamela Adlon, Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson and Paul Rudd.
Later this season, the show will spotlight Jewish comedians Lena Dunham and Iliza Shlesinger; Jewish actor Michael Douglas; and “Hamilton” star Anthony Ramos and “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin, both of whom have Jewish heritage.