November 21, 2018

Patty Duke’s Jewish Moment

Patty Duke, who died March 29 at the age of 69, was a remarkable actress and a pioneering crusader for mental health awareness, a result of her own struggles with manic depression/bipolar disorder.  

“This morning, our beloved wife, mother, grandmother, matriarch and the exquisite artist, humanitarian, and champion for mental health, Anna PATTY DUKE Pearce, closed her eyes, quieted her pain and ascended to a beautiful place,” her son Sean Astin said on Facebook, and linked to a fundraising site for the Patty Duke Mental Health Project. “We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life.”

Catching up on the life of a woman I knew mostly through her sitcom appearances, I came across another little fact: she once used her beautiful voice to perform the Jewish folksong “Dona Dona” — a staple of the Israeli folk music scene– on the Ed Sullivan Show.

This was in the afterglow of Israel's victory in the Six Day War, when the little country was being celebrated as David against an Arab Goliath.  No controversy, no protesters, no BDS — just an American heartthrob backed by a troop of dancers in vaguely Russo-Middle Eastern costumes.   Simpler times.  Enjoy… and thank you Anna.