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Bagels and Bongos

Irving Fields (Schwartz), who infused beloved Jewish songs (such as “Raisins and Almonds”) with the Cuban rhythms that he learned as a Caribbean cruise ship pianist, then sold two million copies of his 1959 album, “Bagels and Bongos,” was born in New York on this date in 1915. He began playing piano as a child and quickly […]

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January 13: Sholom Secunda

Sholem Secunda, one of the great composers of the Second Avenue Yiddish theater scene, died at 79 on this date in 1974. A boy cantor in the Ukraine, he emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1907, enrolled at the Institute for Musical Art (now The Juilliard School) in 1914, and studied with Ernest […]

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July 7: Abe Ellstein on Second Avenue

Abraham Ellstein, one of the “big four” composers (along with Sholom Secunda, Joseph Rumshinsky, and Alexander Olshanetsky) of New York’s Second Avenue Yiddish theater, was born on the Lower East Side on this date in 1907. Ellstein was a young prodigy who trained at Juilliard. He was an arranger, composer, and accompanist for Molly Picon during […]

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May 26: Al Jolson

Al Jolson (Asa Yoelson), American’s most famous entertainer in the 1930s and the star of the first full-length talking movie, The Jazz Singer (1927), was born in Lithuania on this date in 1886 (he actually did not know his date of birth but selected May 26th). He came to the U.S. in 1894 and lost […]

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A Song for Everyone

by Lou Charloff For several days now I have been singing the same song over and over and over again. I love the song but I can’t seem to be able to stop. It is a very interesting song. I don’t believe that I have ever encountered a song as short as this one. It […]

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November 2: Only in America

Jay Black (David Blatt), leader singer of the all-Jewish group, Jay and the Americans, was born in an Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn on this date in 1938. Along with Kenny Vance (Rosenberg), Sandy Yaguda, Sydell Sherman, Marty Sander and Howard Kane (Kirschenbaum), Jay created such hits as “Only in America,” “Cara Mia,” “Let’s Lock […]

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Resistance: Camp Hemshekh and a Survivor's Daughter

by Margie Newman My childhood home was filled with a sense of loss and heaviness. It was as though we lived with a phantom, more an absence than a presence, never named, tiptoed around but never explored. My mother spoke of it only as “What Daddy Went Through,” “What Happened to Daddy,” or “The War.” […]

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In Memoriam

Abie Nathan April 29, 1927 – August 27, 2008 Abraham Jacob Nathan was a free spirit and a visionary. In 1966, as tensions mounted between Israel and Egypt, he flew a small plane named “Shalom One” to Egypt to discuss peace with Egyptian President Gamel Abdul Nasser. Nathan attempted to repeat the deed in early […]

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Enge Benge Revisited

by Rokhl Kafrissen Conversations among New Yorkers, they say, focus on one topic only: real estate. Too true. Now more than ever, young people are looking at a city in which it is almost impossible to find an affordable home. If you’re single and willing to live in a sketchy neighborhood, maybe with a roommate, […]

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Benkshaft (Longing)

by Rokhl Kafrissen I love to complain about my time as an undergraduate at Brandeis, and the recent barrage of 10th-year reunion mail isn’t exactly letting the sleeping dogs of bitterness lie. Yet I did have some consolations during my college career. One was a CD I picked up the summer before my senior year, […]

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