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The Many Faces of Brooklyn

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."


Jews in the Entertainment Industry:
They Came From Brooklyn

There were so many Jewish artists who have entertained us over more than the past hundred years.

Their abilities, their souls shone through in their performances and made us proud of them. So many of them have passed away, but their legacies live on after them.

In this exhibition, the Museum of Family History recognizes two dozen of them, each of them Brooklyn-born.

The fields of their expertise included opera, music, film, theatre, comedy and television.

Over time, the Museum will introduce biographies of these gloriously talented performers.

For now you can read for of them, with more to come. (The biography of two of them also appear below, i.e. Danny Kaye and Marty Levitt.)



Danny Kaye: The Boy From Brooklyn

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.

It seems that Danny was much the clown, even in his teenage years, and his behavior, his "shtick" at Thomas Jefferson must have been so outrageous, that the school administration decided to remove him from the school.

It is said that he made his way to the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, where he waited on tables while performing there, honing his craft, eventually making his way to Hollywood, building a brilliant career in the film industry, entertaining millions of adoring fans.


Steve Lawrence: Singer Par Excellence 

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. He served as a panelist on the original What’s My Line? (1950-67). In the fall of 1965, Lawrence was briefly the star of a variety show called "The Steve Lawrence Show," one of the last television shows in black and white on CBS. He went to Thomas Jefferson High School, but didn't graduate, as he "won it big" on the Arthur Godfrey talent show, and as they say, "the rest is history ..."

  The Magnificent Richard Tucker

Richard Tucker was one of the finest American tenors to ever grace the stage of the major opera houses of the world. He is undoubtedly the finest Jewish tenor who ever lived.
His operatic career is certainly not the only facet of Tucker's life in which he excelled, nor is it the only way he chose to express himself in a spiritual and soulful manner. He was an Orthodox Jew who served as the cantor of a Brooklyn synagogue and, being the good and proud Jew that he was, unflinchingly gave his support to the new state of Israel. Truly this is a man who befits the word "magnificent."

"Richard Tucker made his European debut with Maria Callas (and got better reviews than she), then went on to perform for nearly three decades opposite an incredible roster of other great singers as well as with conductors like Toscanini." "Tucker not only thrived in this heady company, but on through the 1950s and 1960s he continued to grow and develop as a performer in ways that amazed even his most devoted fans. Luciano Pavarotti recalled Tucker's singing of Canio near the end of his life as 'one of the truly great performances I have ever seen -- not merely of Canio in  Pagliacci, but any performance, anywhere.'"


Marty Levitt: Klezmer Magic

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.

In 1956, Levitt met a young vocalist named Harriet Kane. They started working together and were married the next year. Together the pair became very popular with the Jews that had survived the war and settled in New York. The repertoire that was popular with this crowd were Polish tangos, Hungarian dances, and other continental music.

Marty gained notoriety in 1974 when he appeared playing clarinet in the  movie “The Lords Of Flatbush." In the late 1970’s, the Levitts relocated to Florida. Marty had a radio show in Miami called “Freilach Time’ which ran over parts of 1980-1982. Here you have the opportunity to listen to a handful of his radio shows. Enjoy!



Elias Lieberman: The Principal Poet

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.

In his writings, he was concerned with social subjects and conditions, education, and the understanding of people. He was a very skilled writer, and his eloquence is especially manifest in the semi-yearly messages he wrote for the Jefferson yearbooks, which no doubt inspired many of his charges to become good Americans.


William Rolland and His Million-Dollar Theatre

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.

Rolland became the business manager of the Jewish Liberty Theatre and was prominent in the advancement of Jewish dramatic enterprises. In 1927 he purchased a large plot of ground in Eastern Parkway, between St. John's Place and Howard Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, and subsequently announced that he would build a theater to be devoted to Jewish plays. He estimated that it would cost $1,000,000, including the land. The new theatre would be located in the heart of the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. It would seat 1,800 persons and contain a stage equipped for large theatrical productions, as well as accommodation for vaudeville and moving pictures ...


I Remember When ... My Memories of Brooklyn

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.







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