More research from the Jewish roots columnist.
I must admit that I succumbed to speculation in my previous post on the matter, in which I first featured Bloom’s research. I honestly wondered what might have led Bryce Tierney, an acquaintance of the alleged gunman in the Gabrrielle Giffords shooting, to have believed Jared Lee Loughner’s mother was Jewish. I put two and two together — Loughner’s uncle Anton seems to be named for his great-grandfather, Anton Bleifuss — and got five.
For reasons Nate spells out, we need to be careful in this charged climate about assigning ethnicity or religious origin — Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Baptist. The fact that Loughner, as it turns out, has Roman Catholic roots and Irish and German roots does not, of course, indict that faith or those nations — but there are bad people out there who will pretend it does, and bad people who will continue to hope against hope that he is Jewish.
We need to be careful anyway, simply because its the right thing to do. (I had to put out a lot of fires last week after another news service reported erroneously that Gabe Zimmerman, Giffords’ outreach director, was Jewish.) We need to be careful also that its germane — Madoff’s Jewishness, for instance, was germane to his crimes because he pretended to piousness, and because Jewish groups were both his victims and benefitted from his crimes. Had it turned out that Loughner had Jewish roots and that he was somehow hostile to these roots (as Tierney suggested) it would have been germane.
I don’t doubt Tierney heard what he heard or some version of it — it’s just that Bloom has made it clear that whatever version it was, Loughner does not have Jewish ties.
So, over to Nate, who publishes, buy the way, in the American Israelite of Cinncinnati, Cleveland Jewish News, Detroit Jewish News, New Jersey Jewish Standard, Tampa Jewish Federation News and Interfaithfamily.com.
Coda on Amy Totman Loughner’s Ancestry
In my letter, posted on this site on Jan. 12, 2010, I said:
Conclusion—It is exceedingly unlikely that Amy Loughner has any Jewish ancestry. The only “line” not traced is Amy’s father’s mother’s family. The other three lines (Amy’s father’s father, Amy’s mother’s father, and Amy’s mother’s mother)—show, to all but the most obtuse, that these were not Jewish families. Moreover, it is quite clear that Amy’s mother, Lois Bleifuss Totman, came from a Catholic family.
Well, I asked my friend Michael (a friend of Bloom who helps out in his research — RK) if we could find more on the one unknown line—Amy’s father’s mother’s family.
Once again, Amy’s father was Laurence E. Totman. Laurence’s parents were Laurence A. Totman and his wife, Mary.
I previously traced Laurence A. Totman’s ancestry. His (Laurence A.) mother was the daughter of two Irish born parents. His father, Orvie Totman, was almost certainly an American of Irish or English ancestry.
The ancestry of Laurence E. Totman’s wife, Mary, the paternal great-grandmother of Jared Loughner, was not explored in my last letter. I asked my friend, Michael, if Myrtle Brennan, the woman described as a “sister-in-law” and described as living with Laurence E. Totman and Mary in the 1930 census was the sister of Mary, Laurence Totman’s wife.
Michael replied in the affirmative. He told me something I did not know—the description of someone as a “sister-in-law” is always used by the census in relation to the “head of the household.” Laurence E. Totman was the head of the household. So, Myrtle Brennan had to be his wife’s sister, or his brother’s wife.
Michael further informed me that he found the whole Brennan family on the 1920 census. Mary Brennan (later Mary Brennan Totman) was born in Illinois. On the 1920 census, you find a household composed of Mary Brennan, her sister Myrtle Brennan, their brother Wallace, and parents Anna and John Brennan. John’s parents were born in Ireland. Anna’s mother was born in Ireland. Anna’s father was born in New York.
As for Anton Bleifuss, the maternal grandfather of Amy Loughner—speculation that he might have been Jewish is, in my opinion, not very well founded. Bleifuss is a pretty rare last name. I haven’t been able to find a single Jewish person with this last name and I tried using various “tricks” like checking the entire NY Times obituary and news archive—as well as google search terms like Jewish and Bleifuss.
What is known about Anton Bleifuss is that he was born in Germany. He appears to have come over (by ship) by himself (1907). He listed his race as “German” on the ship’s record. He became a naturalized citizen in 1916. He registered for the draft during WWII.
Final conclusion—-Amy Totman Loughner, based on the records, is of mostly Irish background on her father’s side and mixed ethnic background on her mother’s side—Irish, German, Danish, and possibly one or two other ethnic groups.
Very few persons born in Ireland were or are of Jewish background.
We know that Amy’s mother came from a Catholic family.
There is almost nothing left to research here. Again, the conclusion is that it is exceedingly unlikely that Amy Loughner has any Jewish ancestry.
I should add that Mother Jones’ reporter Nick Baumann, who started this hornet’s nest—has now footnoted his article, citing my research into Amy Loughner’s background. Baumann interviewed Bryce Tierney, a friend of Jared Loughner, on Jan. 10, 2011. Tierney mentioned that Loughner’s mother is “Jewish.”
On January 12, Baumann footnoted Tierney’s comment thus: “**Tierney says Loughner’s mom is Jewish. But a columnist who researched the subject doesn’t think that holds up. Tierney also said that Loughner himself was definitely not religious.”
The Mother Jones article footnote hyperlinks to this column.
Finally, I will say here— what I said to Mr. Baumann in an e-mail that he did not respond to. I thought it was irresponsible of him to quote Tierney about Amy Loughner’s “Jewishness” without doing any independent research as to this statement’s accuracy.
It was and is a charged situation—a Jewish congressperson was shot; there are allegations of ties by Jared Loughner to groups that, at the very least, flirt with anti-Semitism; anyone who knows anything about the sick world of anti-Semites knows that they would seize on this statement for their own twisted ends.
As I said to Mr. Baumann, “If a friend of Jared Loughner told you his mother was a Muslim would you have taken his word for it?” I think the answer is obvious. A liberal-left publication like Mother Jones wouldn’t want to be responsible for a backlash against Muslims based on a possibly wholly erroneous report that a mass murderer’s mother was Muslim. They would do some independent research and verification and not take one friend’s word for it.
The fact of the matter is that government (State and Federal) statistics consistently show that hate crimes against American Jews vastly outnumber those against American Muslims. But this fact does not seem to really penetrate the minds of most members of the mainstream and liberal-left media. So, they don’t take the steps they should take—prudent and reasonable steps—to verify before reporting that, again, a mass murderer’s mother is Jewish.
I am also thinking about the Arizona rabbis who had to take time away from their pastoral and other duties to check records to see if the Loughner family was ever connected to the Jewish community. They wouldn’t have had to do this if Mother Jones had refrained from quoting Tierney until they were sure of their facts.