Danny Kaye from Brownsville

Actor/comedian Danny Kaye (David Daniel Kaminsky), a marvelous song-and-dance-and-everything man, died on this date in 1987. Kaye was born in 1911 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, NY, to Ukrainian immigrant parents who called him “Duvidelleh.” After getting his start as a Borscht Belt entertainer, he would go on to star in seventeen movies, including The Secret […]

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The Short Season, Part 2

HUSTLING FULL-TIME IN THE CATSKILLS by Elliot Podwill   To read Part 1, click here.   THE SOCIAL DARWINIAN universe we inhabited filtered down to adolescent social mores. A friend in high school was on several occasions turned down for dates by girls because his family car was dingy. (No subways or buses ran in South Fallsburg.) […]

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The Short Season

HUSTLING FULL-TIME IN THE CATSKILLS by Elliot Podwill   MY PARENTS BLUNDERED badly in 1945, a year after I was born. They lived in what is today the South Bronx, and my father made the long commute to Brooklyn to work in the huge Navy Yard. The war years brought him prosperity as a welder of […]

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June 9: Jackie Mason

Comedian Jackie Mason (Yacov Moshe Maza) was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on this date in 1931. Ordained a rabbi at age 25, he left the bimah three years later to do stand-up (“Somebody in the family had to make a living,” he said). Mason had a somewhat spotty start on the Borscht Belt circuit and […]

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Thar’s Goldberg in Them Thar Hills!

A History of America’s Most Influential Mountains by Mikhail Horowitz From the Spring 2016 issue of Jewish Currents Discussed in this essay: The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America, by Stephen M. Silverman and Raphael D. Silver. Alfred A. Knopf, 2015, 448 pages. BACK IN THE HALCYON DAYS of my arrested adolescence, I […]

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March 16: Jerry Lewis

Funny man Jerry Lewis (Levitch) was born in Newark, New Jersey on this date in 1926, to a vaudevillian father and a piano-playing mother. After on-stage training on the Borscht Belt (with his parents from the age of 5), he teamed up with Dean Martin in 1946, and within a year they were playing the […]

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February 21: Murray the K

Radio disc jockey Murray “the K” Kaufman died at 60 on this date in 1982. Kaufman was the child of a vaudevillian mother and appeared in several Hollywood films in the 1930s. After World War II (in which he served organizing shows for troops), he worked as a song plugger and a Borscht Belt show […]

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The Subversive Power of Jewish Humor

by George Jochnowitz Discussed in this essay: Kvetching and Shpritzing: Jewish Humor in American Popular Culture, by Joseph Dorinson, foreword by Joseph Boskin. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2015, 248 pages. WHEN I FIRST saw the title of Joseph Dorinson’s book, I was a bit puzzled. I know that Yiddish kvetshn means “to squeeze” and can […]

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April 30: Mickey Katz

“Novelty” musician Mickey Katz, who specialized in Jewish parodies of American classics (such as “Haym afn Range” and “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Katzkills”), died at 75 in Los Angeles on this date in 1985. Katz played clarinet and sax from childhood (in Cleveland) and was earning money as a musician even before his graduation from […]

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