Bronx, NY—During the first week of June, a ceremony was held at the Bronx Museum on 165th Street and the Grand Concourse in which the Inaugural Class of the Bronx Jewish Hall of Fame was honored. The event was held under the auspices of a newly formed organization, the Bronx Jewish Historical Initiative with the full cooperation and encouragement of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.
The new organization and its website, www.theBronxJewish.org, have an important purpose stated on the website, “Explore, compile, record and share the extraordinary history of the Jewish community in the Bronx.” The organization intends to “disseminate it [the continually increased and updates material] for posterity through the web, social media, forums, exhibits and special events.”
The first event organized and held was a tour of areas of the Bronx by the Bronx Trolley in late May that was conducted by Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan and author Avery Corman. The second event, the Hall of Fame inauguration was held in an edifice that interestingly formerly housed the synagogue Young Israel of the Concourse.
The main speaker at the meeting was Borough President Diaz who spoke of the historical importance of the Bronx Jewish community, “I thank the Jewish community for setting the foundation that allowed us to have weathered the storm of the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s.” he called the Bronx Jewish Hall of Fame “long overdue.”
He numbered the Jewish residents of the Bronx as 53,000 of the borough’s population of approximately 1,400,000. While this may seem very small considering the percentage of the Jewish population of a century ago was more than 50%, Diaz informed the audience, the Jewish population in the Bronx has grown 9,000 since 20002.
Diaz was not reluctant to speak in strong terms of his support for Israel, “I’m proud to say I’m a strong supporter of the state of Israel.” He talked of his visit to Israel recently as head of a Latino delegation that “was very rewarding to me.”
Diaz’s deeds as well as his words at this gathering and in his duties as borough president exhibit an individual who takes his responsibilities to all residents of the Bronx, regardless of background, very seriously.
The centerpiece of the evening was the introduction of the Hall of Fame Class of 2015, the eclectic group of five had several things in common-many years of worthy accomplishments, high intelligence, and a sense of humor. Mike Woods, weather forecaster on Fox 5 did a very admirable job as the program’s master of ceremonies.
Robert Klein, an accomplished actor and brilliant comic was the first to receive the award. A staple of television, motion pictures, plays and recording, Klein has been nominated for an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony during his lengthy and distinguished career. Klein amused everyone in the packed room with his stories and jokes.
Robert Abrams, a public servant for decades as a member of the New York State assembly, Bronx Borough President and NYS Attorney General, gave credit to jis family and his birthplace, “Whoever I am is because of my roots in the Bronx. Whatever sacrifices were needed, my parents made for my sister and I. They were there to the very end.” Abrams also remembered being in the building the award was given many decades earlier to attend his sister’s wedding.
Blu Greenberg, merged her beliefs in Orthodox Judaism and feminism in her work. She moved to the Bronx as a young girl, but had previously visited her uncle often, a rabbi on Elder Ave. She called the borough, “a place of openness and pluralism.”
Daniel Rheingold is the director of the Hebrew Home of Riverdale. It should also be noted that in 2009 he opened the first elder abuse center in the United States.
Cynthia Ozick, a noted short story writer was the fifth honoiree, but unable to attend because of illness.
All accepted their honors with humility and humor.