Tag Archives: New York Times

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)

Jew of the Week: William Sidis

The Smartest Man That Ever Lived?

Genius.

William James Sidis (1898-1944) was born to Ukrainian Jews who fled to America because of the pogroms. Sidis was quickly recognized as a child prodigy. His parents were geniuses in their own right – doctors, polyglots and professors – but Sidis would outdo them both. At 1.5 years, he was already reading the New York Times. At age 4, he wrote his first book (in French). By 8, he spoke fluently in English, Russian and Hebrew, as well as Latin, Greek, French, Russian, German, Armenian and Turkish. He later invented his own language called Vendergood. At age 11, William enrolled in Harvard, becoming the youngest person in history to do this. A year later, he was lecturing at the Harvard Mathematical Club. At 17, he had a teaching job at Rice University, where he wrote a geometry textbook in Greek. At 21, he was thrown in prison for participating in violent Communist rallies. After his release, he lived in seclusion and isolation until his death of a brain hemorrhage at age 46. He spoke 40 languages. New York’s Aptitude Testing Institute placed his IQ between 250 and 300, giving him the highest intelligence quotient in history (in comparison, Einstein’s was around 170). Despite his genius, he appears to have left no legacy. Much of his life remains clouded in mystery.

Boston Herald Headline – 1909

Words of the Week

A person is forbidden to eat before he feeds his animals.
– Talmud, Brachot 40a