Tag Archives: Great Depression

Jew of the Week: Gertrude Berg

America’s Jewish Mother

Gertrude Berg as "America's Jewish mother" Molly Goldberg

Gertrude Berg as “America’s Jewish mother” Molly Goldberg

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)

Jews of the Week: Rosenbergs, Baskin and Robbins

Dunkin Donuts & Baskin Robbins

Will Rosenberg – Mr. Dunkin’ Donuts

William Rosenberg (1916-2002) was born to a Jewish family in Boston. Because of the Great Depression, Rosenberg dropped out of school in eighth grade to work. After World War II, he invented the now-famous stainless steel “canteen trucks” seen on construction sites, and started a food delivery business with just $2500. Realizing that most of his sales were in coffee and donuts, Rosenberg opened Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. At the time, only four flavours of donuts were available. Rosenberg created 52! He became one of the pioneers of franchising, founding the International Franchise Association in 1960. Today, Dunkin’ Donuts has over 9,700 franchises in 37 countries.

Baskin & Robbins

In the 1960s, his son Robert Rosenberg acquired Baskin Robbins. This company was originally started by Canadian Jew Irvine Robbins (1917-2008), who used his bar mitzvah money after coming back from World War II. It was a merger of his ice cream shop with his brother-in-law’s Burt Baskin (1913-1967), a member of Zeta Beta Tau, America’s first Jewish fraternity. Some consider Baskin Robbins the first-ever food franchise. Today, it has nearly 6,000 locations worldwide.

 

Words of the Week

Money is the cause of good things to a good man, of evil things to a bad man.
– Philo Judaeus

Jew of the Week: Comic Books

What do Batman, Spider-Man and Superman have in common?

The now-ubiquitous superhero comic book was originally a product of poor Jewish immigrants to America. (Look closely and you’ll find Jewish themes in all of them. Superman’s real name? Kal-El!) During the Great Depression, Max Gaines’ (born Max Ginzberg) only solace was reading newspaper comic strips. He wondered how it would be possible to maximize this experience, and thus was born the comic book. Teaming up with Harry Wildenberg, who worked for a colour printing company, they debuted the first ever comic book in 1934. By 1938, comic books had already taken America by storm when two Jews changed the industry forever. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster came up with Superman, the first action superhero. In 1939, Bob Kahn (who became Bob Kane in America) and Bill Finger (a poor Jew from Colorado) brought Batman to the world. In 1941, Joe Kirzberg (who became Joe Kirby) and Joe Simon created Captain America. Meanwhile, a young Romanian Jew named Stanley Lieber, also known as Stan Lee, dreamed up Spider-Man, the Hulk, Avengers and the Fantastic Four, as well as X-Men, Thor and Daredevil, propelling Marvel Comics (which was founded by Martin Goodman) from obscurity into a comics powerhouse. So why the Jews? Will Eisner, the originator of Wonder Man, said it was nothing more than a re-branding of Biblical heroes: “We are people of the Book; we are storytellers essentially. Anyone who’s exposed to Jewish culture, I think, walks away for the rest of his life with an instinct for telling stories…”

 

 

Words of the Week

He shall be free to his home for one year, and he shall cheer his wife whom he has taken.

– Deuteronomy 24:5

A newly-married groom, for the first year following his marriage, is commanded to remain together with his wife, and should not embark upon journeys, join the army in battle, or anything of the like (including civic duties). Rather he must rejoice with his wife for a full year – this is one of the 613 commandments (#214)!