America’s Jewish Mother
Tilly Edelstein (1898-1966) was born in Harlem, a grandaughter of Jewish-Russian immigrants from Poland. Her parents ran a boarding house, where Tilly grew up entertaining the guests on a regular basis (and where she met her husband Lewis Berg). In 1929, Tilly wrote a short and humourous radio skit about a Jewish family in New York (based loosely on her own family). NBC considered her manuscript, but the radio executive couldn’t understand her writing, so Berg acted it out for him. Not only did NBC pick up her show, but they made an agreement that she would be its lead actress. Thus was born The Rise of the Goldbergs, an instant hit that ran over 5000 episodes, all of which were hand-written by Berg herself. In 1948, it was adapted as a Broadway musical, and in 1949 to a television show called The Goldbergs, which many consider to be America’s first sit-com. It is also credited with stemming the tide of anti-Semitism in the U.S., and bridging the gap between Jews and Gentiles. Starting out with a salary of $75 per week, Gertrude was earning $2000 a week just two years later – at the height of the Great Depression! Berg was beloved across America, and would later star in many other movies and television shows, winning Emmy and Tony Awards along the way. She was also a noted songwriter and Hollywood screenwriter. Sadly, she passed away of a heart attack in the midst of filming her latest movie. The New York Times reported: “Gertrude Berg was a writer and actress who brought out the humanity, love and respect that people should have toward each other. Her contributions to American radio, television, films and stage will always be remembered…”
Words of the Week
Every Jew, man or woman, possesses enough moral and spiritual strength to influence friends and acquaintances, and bring them into the light.
– Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Hayom Yom, Cheshvan 5)