CONCOURSE — Famed comedian Robert Klein and four other mensches made history on Tuesday night as the inaugural class of the Bronx Jewish Hall of Fame.
The ceremony took place at the Bronx Museum of the Arts and honored Klein, former New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams, founder of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance Blu Greenberg, RiverSpring Health President and CEO Daniel Reingold and award-winning author Cynthia Ozick. All except Ozick attended the ceremony.
Klein, who has done several one-man shows for HBO and received Tony, Emmy and Grammy nominations for his acting and comedy, used the induction ceremony as an opportunity to crack a few more jokes.
“I’m surprised to be getting this award, as I’m an Episcopalian. I don’t know,” Klein said, to laughs. “But I’ll take it because a lot of my best friends are Jewish.”
Abrams was elected to three terms in the New York State Assembly, three terms as Bronx Borough President and four terms as New York State Attorney General, while Greenberg has helped found multiple groups to support Judaism, including JOFA and One Voice: Jewish Women for Israel.
“The Bronx has really sustained me and my life and my work,” she said, “both in my journey of tradition as an Orthodox Jew and in my journey to feminism, to Jewish feminism.”
Ozick is a highly acclaimed fiction and nonfiction writer who has received a National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Humanities Medal, and Reingold opened the nation’s first elder abuse shelter in 2005 and helps to operate Riverdale’s Hebrew Home, a nonprofit senior care organization.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony was part of the launch for the Bronx Jewish Historical Initiative, a new effort to document and share the history of the borough’s Jewish community.
The group recently set up its new website, which contains information on synagogues, Jewish neighborhoods and upcoming events, and it was founded by activist Howard Teich, who also helped found the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative and the Manhattan Jewish Historical Initiative.
He referred to the Jewish population in the United States as one of the most impressive in the religion’s history and described the initiative as a way to better publicize their accomplishments.
“That’s what this project is about. It should be known, all of what we’ve done,” he said. “And The Bronx was home for so many.”
The effort has the strong backing of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who said he views it as an ideal way to celebrate what has been a pivotal component of The Bronx’s population.
“You can’t love The Bronx without appreciating its history,” he said, “and you can’t tell The Bronx history without incorporating the significance of the Jewish community.”
Klein maintained that the energy of New York City had a big impact on his comedy, and while he acknowledged that The Bronx had been through some rough times, he now sees it as a borough on the rise.
“It suffered from what most urban areas did, white flight and all the rest,” he said, “but it’s making a very nice comeback.”