Brooklyn Jewish Celebrities
Here are the stories of people, famous or not, who once called Brooklyn their home, who made their own contribution to our society, who we Brooklynites can call “our own.”
The wonderful Danny Kaye American was not only a brilliant actor, but he was also a singer, dancer, comedian, musician, and philanthropist. He is most known for his roles in many comedic films, but he has also acted on television and on the stage. He has entertained so many of those who have seen him perform, who have had the opportunity to see his physical comedy, his facial expressions and those little fast-paced songs that he sung.Danny was born David Daniel Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York. He attended P.S. 174 in Brooklyn, then went to Thomas Jefferson High School, also in East New York, where he eventually, it is told, was expelled from the school by the principal at the time, Dr. Elias Lieberman.
The boy from Alabama Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn, made it to Hollywood, to fame and fortune as a wonderful singer and humanitarian. Steve had success on the record charts in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Though best known for his golden voice, Steve also acted on the stage, winning a Drama Desk award for his role as Sammy Glick in "What Makes Sammy Run." His song, "Go Away, Little Girl," sold over one million copies and was awarded a Gold record. However, much of his musical career has centered on nightclubs and the musical stage. He is also an actor, appearing in guest roles on many television shows in every decade since the 1950s, with and without his beautiful wife Eydie Gormé.
Marty Levitt was born into a musical family. His father and uncles were active on the Jewish music scene and had worked with many of the well known musicians of that time, as well as with giants of the Yiddish Theatre. As a child Marty lived in Bialystok, Poland, for three years with his mother. They returned home in April 1939, just months before the war broke out.
Levitt began studying clarinet at age ten. His teacher was a classical clarinet instructor. Of course he started learning freilachs and bulgars from his father Jack who was a trombonist. By the time Marty was seventeen, he left Thomas Jefferson High School and began “booking” work around Brownsville under his own name. The summers were spent in the Catskills each year working at a different hotel.
Though most all of those students of Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, New York, who were under the charge of the school's first and most prominent principal, Elias Lieberman, it can be said that he greatly influenced his students as they passed through their graduation and made their way into the world that awaited them. He was the school's first principal, beginning in 1924, and ending in 1940. Not only was Elias Leiberman a well-respected principal, he also was a writer and a poet. His most prominent writing was a poem entitled, "I am an American." He also published an anthology of his works.
After returning from his native Russia in 1906, William Rolland arranged several theatre productions. Soon thereafter, he returned to America, and there he married the Yiddish actress Pauline Hoffman. Through this he became excited about Yiddish theatre, but his first connection with professional Yiddish theatre began initially in 1916, when he became a cashier for Max Gabel in the New York City's Lipzin Theatre, where he worked until 1920. In 1921 he was lessee of the Liberty Theatre, where he engaged Clara Young to play. In 1922 he was manager in Gabel's Mount Morris Theatre. In 1923 he again returned to Russia and brought to America with his partner Boris Thomashefsky, the Vilna Troupe.
Many of us have such fine memories of our youth, precious recollections of the place we called home, our family members, the foods, and the aromas that still waft through our nostrils; the neighborhood that we joyfully played in, the schools we went to, our social lives, the relatives we visited or who visited us. All of these made us who we are. They are memories so dear to us that they often tug at our heart strings and bring a tear or two to our eyes. How we miss those times, those who we spent our youth with, whom we loved and who loved us. Here you will read (and hear) accounts of many who recall so vividly the good and bad times of their youth, who thankfully were interviewed some years ago to recall their childhood and adolescence.