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Arlyn Sharon Phoenix (born December 31, 1944), commonly known as Heart Phoenix, is the mother of actors River, Rain, Joaquin, Liberty, and Summer Phoenix. She is on the Board of Directors of The Peace Alliance, an organization which supports the creation of a United States Department of Peace. She and her family recently started the non-profit organization River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding. She served as the Board President and continues to serve as Vice President. This organization provides and promotes the best practices and principles of peacebuilding and global sustainability and is guided by the life, inspiration and activism of her late son, River.
Life and work
She was born Arlyn Sharon Dunetz in the Bronx, New York, on December 31, 1944. Her grandparents were Jewish immigrants; her mother, Margaret's (née Lefkowitz) family was from Hungary, and her father Meyer's family was from Russia. She has two sisters, Rhoda and Merle (Sun). By the time Arlyn was born, the Dunetz family had become more 'culturally Jewish'; they celebrated Jewish holidays, but did not attend synagogue. Once out of school, she married a computer programmer, moved to Manhattan, and began working as a secretary. She eventually grew tired of this lifestyle:
Wanting to seek new horizons, she left New York in 1968 and headed west towards California. While hitch-hiking she met John Lee Bottom (born April 5, 1947), from Fontana, California. They travelled together along the west coast, picking fruit and vegetables along the way.
Soon after their first son River was born in 1970, they joined the religious group, The Children of God, touring Mexico, Puerto Rico and South America as Christian missionaries for several years. Arlyn and John renamed themselves for a brief period, taking the Bible names Jochebed and Amram, respectively.
They eventually grew disillusioned with the Children of God and left in 1977. Arlyn would later state that she and her husband were opposed to the cult's increasingly distorted rules, particularly the practice of Flirty Fishing.
They returned to the U.S. in late 1977 and landed in Winter Park, Florida, where Arlyn gave birth to her youngest child, Summer. In order to mark their new beginning, they legally adopted the surname "Phoenix" (Arlyn later changed her name to "Heart" in 1988) and began to embrace veganism as their new diet and lifestyle. The parents took their five children and headed back to California, where Arlyn got a job as an executive secretary for NBC. She was able to hire an agent, Iris Burton, who eventually got all of her children acting work.
John and Arlyn divorced in 1997. She is now married to Jeffrey Weisberg. For the past five years, Heart has been the Executive Director of The Florida School of Traditional Midwifery, one of ten accredited direct entry midwifery schools in the country.