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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Edwin Land and the Instant Camera

Edwin Herbert Land, a Harvard drop-out, demonstrated the first instant camera (soon to become the Polaroid Land Camera) on this date in 1947. Land had already founded the Polaroid company in 1937 after inventing an inexpensive polarizing filter used in film, sunglasses, optical microscopes, and other gadgets. He later served as a scientific adviser under the […]

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George Burns

George Burns (Naftaly — later Nathan — Birnbaum) was born in New York City on this date in 1896 to a family that had immigrated from what is now southeastern Poland. He quit school in the fourth grade to become an entertainer. Burns’ vaudeville career was floundering until he met Gracie Allen in 1923 (they would […]

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Ellis Island

On this date in 1892, a federal immigration depot opened at Ellis Island in New York harbor, replacing the Castle Garden immigration center, which had processed eight million immigrants during the previous thirty-five years. In Ellis Island’s busiest year, 1907, more than a million immigrants were processed. It became known as the “Island of Tears,” but only […]

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A Walk Across the Border

by Elaine Steinmetz I HAVE GROWN accustomed to my story. I have through the years shaped it – like a bird building a nest, I have enlarged the narrative, put layers of gathered soft material to pad the unknown. Now, at age 92 (how is that possible!?), I own the story of my walk across […]

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April 19: The Tenement

A five-story tenement building at 97 Orchard Street on New York’s Lower East Side was given National Historic Landmark status on this date in 1997. The building now houses the Tenement Museum, which notes at its website that between its construction in 1863 and being boarded up in 1935, some 7,000 tenants from some twenty […]

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America’s First Illegal Immigrants

by Robert A. Slayton RABBI MARTIN ZIELONKA of Temple Mount Sinai in El Paso, Texas, had to deal with a growing problem, one he expected would worsen: Four Jewish immigrants appeared on his doorstep, coming from Eastern Europe to Mexico (by way of Spain or the Netherlands) and then entering the United States in total […]

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