The hottest ticket on Broadway these days is the hip-hop musical Hamilton, starring its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The musical was inspired by a scholarly work, the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow. Already the winner of numerous accolades and awards, Hamilton has a record 16 Tony nominations this year. It is a smash-hit, to say the least.
JN Publisher Arthur Horwitz, who is a prolific “surfer” of the William Davidson Digital Archives, ran across this article from the May 14, 1976, issue of the Jewish News that raises an intriguing question about Hamilton: Was he Jewish?
I can report that Hamilton’s mother was married to a fellow (various spellings of Levine are associated with him) who was believed to be, but not confirmed as, Jewish. It was possible that he was Hamilton’s father although Hamilton held the name of his mother’s second common-law husband, a Scot, John Hamilton. It is unlikely that his mother was Jewish, but this is not a certainty.
We can be certain of two points: One, Hamilton attended Jewish day school for a time on the West Indies isle of Nevis, and two, over the course of his career, as his writings demonstrate, he held great personal respect for Jews.
But was he Jewish? I can confirm that the answer is a definite “maybe, could be!”
By Mike Smith, DJN Foundation Archivist
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.