Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

The University of Michigan Library provides access to these materials for educational and research purposes. These materials may be under copyright. If you decide to use any of these materials, you are responsible for making your own legal assessment and securing any necessary permission. If you have questions about the collection, please contact the Bentley Historical Library at bentley.ref@umich.edu

October 01, 1982 - Image 21

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-10-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Friday, October 1, 1982 21

Portrait of the Bernsteins in New 'Family Matters' Biography


Burton Bernstein, the au-
thor of "The Grove," "The
Sticks" and other books, has
recently written the story of
his family, titled "Family
Matters," and subtitled
"Sam, Jennie and Kids."
Published by Summit
Books, it was distributed by
Simon and Schuster.
The author commences
his narrative by describing
a family photograph taken
on the occasion of Sam, the
patriarch's, 70th birthday,
tendered by the Boston
Lubavitz Yeshiva, his favo-
rite charity.
Sam, the former "yeshiva
bokher," whose concern was
Judaism and Jewish mat-
ters, writes Burton, "once
referred to Dwight
Eisenhower as 'General
Eisenberg' and to 'Adlai
Stevenson as 'Steve Adel-
son.' "

Sam maintained that
the Bernsteins were de-
scended from the tribe of
Benjamin because both
names begin with the
Hebrew letter bet. How-
ever, Burton traced his
family roots to his pater-
nal great-grandfather,
Bezalel Bernstein, who in
1847 resided in the Pale
"shtetl" Beresdiv in the
Russian Ukraine. Ac-
cording to legend, Be-
zalel, a blacksmith,
"could lift up the side of a
'doroshky' (a Russian
carriage), and without


faltering, remove one of
the wheels before setting
it down."
In 1908, the blacksmith's
grandson, Shmuel Yosef
(Sam), without saying
goodbye to his parents, left
his hometown, Beresdiv,
and by way of Rovno, War-
saw, Danzig and Liverpool
made his way to'New York.
He started out as a fish-
cleaner at the Fulton
Fish Market. But before
long, he moved to Hartford
where he secured a job in a
barbershop sweeping up
hair clippings and steriliz-
ing combs and brushes. He
relinquished this job and
left for Boston where he ob-
tained employment in a
barber-and beauty-supplies
"By 1913," writes Burton,
"Sam had his 'first papers'
for becoming a naturalized
American citizen and by
1915, he was a bona-fide
citizen — a momentous ac-

complishment for any im-
As soon as Sam saved
some money, he married
Jennie Resnick, started a
business of his own, and
within a short time be-
came a prosperous mer-
chant. Afterward, he
would say often: "One
day in 1927, I didn't have
a nickel to my name, the
next morning . . . I sud-
denly had money in the
bank, credit everywhere,
a name for myself . . . it
was what you call the
American Dream coming
Fascinating is the au-
thor's description of Sam's
and Jennie's oldest child,
Leonard. Born in August
1918, he showed at an early
age a love for music and an
infatuation for the piano.
However, he never showed
an interest in business.
Neither were Sam's other
children, Shirley and Bur-
ton, inclined towards their
father's vocation.
Their attitude aggra-
vated Sam, who would sigh:
"If I have given my kids
every advantage, sacrific-
ing for their education, why
don't they 'pull with me,'
why don't they see things
my way, why don't I have
naches (an inner gratifica-
tion) from them?"
Sam was especially un-
happy that Lenny chose an
unproductive occupation,


that of "Klezmer" (a shtetl
musician). "But when
Lenny was asked to perform
for the Mishkan Tefila
Brotherhood dinner, the
father of the talented young
pianist did not reject the
congratulations of his shul
Sam, morever, allowed
Lenny to major at Har-
vard in music, still hop-
ing that he would some
day become interested in
a more practical profes-
Curiously, prior to his
graduation, Leonard Berns-
tein composed the music for
the Harvard Classical
Club's production "in the
original Greek of Aris-
tophanes"The Birds,' parts
of that score later surfacing
in 'On the Town.' He,
moreover, conducted the
small orchestra, making his

first appearance on a
podium. When the Harvard
Student Union defied the
Boston authorities and pre-
sented a bare-stage perfor-
mance of Marc Blitzstein's
proletarian opera 'The Cra-
dle Will Rock,' Lenny was
selected to direct and play
the piano for the ambitious
effort, at Sanders Theatre."
Following hiS graduation,
Leonard was accepted to the
Curtis Music Institute and
was given a scholarship.
While there, he was selected
as a student conductor to
the Tanglewood Summer
Music Center in the Berk-
shires where under the gui-
dance of Serge Kous-
sevitzky, he practiced "with
a full-size orchestra."
Shortly after his coming
to Tanglewood, Bernstein
wrote his parents: "I have
never seen such a beautiful
setup in my life. I've been
conducting the orchestra
every morning, and I'm
playing my first concert to-
morrow night . . . and
Kous is so pleased with my
work. He likes me and
works very hard with me in
our private sessions. He is
the most marvelous man —
a beautiful spirit that never
lags or fails — that inspires
me terrifically . . . I wish
you •could all be here . . .
please come up . . ."
Though Sam felt a
sense of pride in his son's
accomplishments, he

wondered who that
Koussevitzky was, who is
"so rapidly becoming
another father to Lenny,
usurping Sam's rightful
place? Sam knew that
Koussevitzky, like him,
had been born a Russian
Jew, but unlike Sam, had
converted to Christian-
ity, in order to further his
musical career in the
motherland. What kind of
man was this, who would
do such a thing? And
would he try to convert
Lenny in order to further
his career? . . ."
Significant isthis remark
by the author: "Sam needn't
have worried about his son's
Jewishness which was ir-
revocably a part of him."
Interestingly, as Leonard
Bernstein became a famous
conductor, the Boston
Jewish community adopted
him as "a collective son,"
and friends and even dis-
tant relatives "absorbed
vicariously nachas by
merely being in the same
room as Jennie and Sam."
Jennie, moreover, suddenly
found herself associating
with the famous and high-
born, some of whom were
"descendants of the Boston
It is noteworthy that his-
torically Leonard Bernstein
was the first "young, fam-
ous, respected American
conductor." (The ones before
him were all foreign born.)

Readers Forum

Materials submitted to the Readers Forum must be brief.'
The writer's name will be withheld from publication upon
request. No unsigned letters will be published. Materials will
not be returned unless a stamped, self-addressed envelope is

Who Is Christian?

great many in the name
of Christianity have
persecuted Jewish folk
and this is tragic. Ac-
cording to Romans 8-11
I can't see how this can
be. If there is any com-
fort in all of this, it is
good to know that God
Himself is going to sort
out those who are His
and* those who are not
some day.
For now, let me say, I
am a Christian and I love
the Jewish people dearly
and I am grieved regard-
ing all those who call
themselves "Christians" or
others who refer to them
•as Christians, yet they are
indifferent and some-
times hate Jewish folk.
This is certainly not com-
patible with God's Word.
My prayer for you is
that someday you will be
able to sort out those who
are Christians and those
who are not. If, by chance
. . . some far out chance . . .
George Ball is a Christian .
. . I apologize for his
anti-Jewish remarks.
Your friend and one who
would be a friend to
Jewish folk everywhere.

Editor, The Jewish News:
I want to preface my
remarks with appreciation
to you for The Jewish
News . . . I appreciate it
immensely. In these days
when "truth is fallen in
the street" it is good to
have a source that I feel
more comfortable with.
Now for a word of in-
quiry. In the Sept. 24 is-
sue, you refer to George
Ball as a "Christian." I am
wondering "if' a Christian
. . . what kind of a "so-
called" Christian? I don't
know what your criterion
is for determining who is a
Christian, but please know
that all are not Christians
who say they are Chris-
tians any more than all
who claim to be news re-
porters are indeed, news
I dare say that if one
were to ask the first 10
people he encountered on
the average American
street . . . eight out of the
10 would affirm that they
are Christians. God's Word
repudiates this! We even
have members of our own
church, who in the Light •
Pastor Richard Phillips
of His Word, make me
Montrose (Michigan)
greatly wonder as to their
Baptist Church
I know that in the
Athalia was the only
past and even today a Jewish queen in Bible days.

r ,

rx.r r a •


.a a .a • ro M a sr


4. it


r‘ A ;

"Every spoonful of Maxim® is rich enough for a mugful.
(The sounds from my son's violin should be so rich 0"

My son, Martin, should take
a lesson in richness from
Maxim. Because compared
to other leading freeze-
dried coffees, Maxim con-
centrates 27% more coffee
into every spoonful. And
the scale shows the dif-
ference! So instead of just

a cup, a spoonful of Maxim
is rich enough to make a
mugful. Now, if my son,
Martin, could make music as
rich as Maxim makes coffee,
he could be a
.11 1.. 11 i.
Paganini! (Better!
An optometrist!)

. J 1982 General Foods Corporation


K Certified Kosher.

MAXIM: The spoonful rich enough for a mugful.

) i t

. r


or 4. J.

Back to Top

© 2021 Regents of the University of Michigan