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‘Finding Your Roots’ show divulges new info on family of Michael Douglas

The Oscar-winning actor described the revelations as making him feel “more of a spiritual, religious connection to Judaism than I ever had before.”

Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas at the 41st César Awards ceremony on Feb. 26, 2016. Credit: Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons.

Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. shined a light revealing some of the mysteries behind the families of two Hollywood celebrities.

A new episode of “Finding Your Roots” debuted on PBS on April 2, showing findings demonstrating the Jewish roots of actor Michael Douglas, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the 1987 film “Wall Street.”

He is the son of the equally famous actor Kirk Douglas, a three-time Oscar nominee and the winner of the Honorary Award in 1996 for “50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.” The elder Douglas died on Feb. 5, 2020, at 103.

Gates presented the show’s findings by researchers, explaining that the family could be traced back to the 1700s in Chausy, in what is now Belarus. Knowing the town, researchers could then identify Douglas’s family (originally with the surname of Danilovich), the Jewish quarter where they likely lived and the Jewish cemetery where they were most likely buried.

Douglas described the revelations as making him feel “more of a spiritual, religious connection to Judaism than I ever had before,” he said on the show.

The program also revealed some unsettling family secrets. While Douglas’s grandfather Isidore Demsky had long told the family that he immigrated to America to escape serving in the Russian army, Gates revealed that records showed Demsky (original name Girsh Danilovich) had been arrested for robbery, suggesting that he may have sought to escape serving time in prison.

Douglas said he thought his father would “be very, very touched” and appreciate the new information about his family’s Jewish history.

Train Station in Chausy, Belarus
Railway station in the town of Chausy, Belarus, on May 16, 2016. Credit: CastleMound via Wikimedia Commons.
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