Skip to content
The logo for Brooklyn Jewish Heritage Initiative whose mission is to Organize Public Events, Create Oral & Video Histories, Provide Resources to the Brooklyn Jewish Community

Brooklyn Jewish
Historical Initiative

bc Home » The Arts

The Arts

  • by

Brooklyn is famous for its writers, as well as its visual and performing artists. Much of the latter talent has been forged through the public high school system. “SING,” an annual Brooklyn high school tradition of student-run musical theater production, which was started by a music teacher at Midwood High School in Brooklyn in 1947, continues today across the city. Students develop their skills in choreography, singing, lighting, building sets, and acting. The hard work of rehearsing and working as a creative team gives them an understanding of the performing arts and prepares them for all aspects of life.

Brooklyn Jews jumped into the SING opportunities from the start, and some went on to careers in broadcasting as the television industry began to develop. SING generated musicians, singers, actors, and backstage crews. Some of the greatest popular musicians of the 20th century, including Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Carole King and Neil Sedaka, began by participating in their high school SING performances.

Brooklyn Jews have been successful in many performing genres. In addition to the above, Robert Merrill, Beverly Sills and Barry Manilow are just a few of our famous singers. Actors like Eli Wallach, Harvey Fierstein, Shelley Winters, Danny Kaye, Alan Arkin and Lainie Kazan were born here; talk show host Larry King, comedians Mel Brooks, Buddy Hackett, Jerry Seinfeld, Phil Silvers, and Gabe Kaplan were, too. So was sportscaster Howard Cosell, playwrights Arthur Miller and Neil Simon, directors Woody Allen and Paul Mazursky, screenwriter Betty Comden, and composer Aaron Copland, among many others

The Borough also produced gifted authors, including Bernard Malamud, Irwin Shaw, Erich Segal, Sam Levenson, Daniel Fuchs, Alice Mattison, and Chaim Potok, himself a rabbi whose work describes Brooklyn Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish life. Recently Brooklyn has become a haven for a younger generation of Jewish authors, such as Nicole Krauss, Jonathan Safran Foer, Paul Auster, and Austin Ratner

Brooklyn has also produced many Jewish visual artists. Their mediums have varied as much as the countries their ancestors hailed from.  Arthur Leipzig Morris Engel, and Jerry Dantzic, influential Jewish photographers who often focused on New York City street life, have done significant work in Brooklyn.  Lee Krasner and Roy Gussow are examples of two abstract artists who got their start in Brooklyn. A more contemporary multimedia artist, who grew up in Brooklyn’s orthodox community, is Helène Aylon, whose work incorporates eco-feminist themes.  Hassidic art galleries are the newest additions to the Brooklyn visual art scene.

There are hundreds of artists of all kinds who hail from, or work in, Brooklyn, which has become a growing destination for many talented individuals. Many of the earlier generations of artists are immortalized on the Walk of Fame in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.