The New Colossus


The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–Emma Lazarus


Colossus of Rhodes image {{PD-old-70}}

Coney Island

I remember in the 1930s going to Coney Island in the summer. The subway ride was a nickel. Teenage boys would buy Eskimo Pies and ices and sell them on the beach out of big ice chests. They would go along the water’s edge where people bought ice cream. But the boys were competing with vendors who had stands on the boardwalk so the cops were forever chasing them away.  The boys would run off, but when the coast was clear(!) they came back to sell more ice cream.

Statue of Liberty smaller

“Getzel Vert a Khoosin”

From the New York Public Library Yiddish Theater Collection
From the New York Public Library Yiddish Theater Collection

The very first live play that I went to see happened to be a musical, in the Hopkinson theater in Brownsville. I had never been to the theater in my life. I was about 10. My mother and father took me. It was a Yiddish play with Menasha Skulnik called Getzel vert a khoosin (Getzel Becomes a Bridegroom). I was so amazed. There were people singing and dancing and hulyan on stage. And I knew they were telling funny stories because everyone in the audience was laughing their heads off. That was the first time I had been to a play and I didn’t know very much Yiddish at the time. I never forgot it. I had been to the movies before. But I knew immediately that this was not like going to the movies. This was real life. It was the beginning of my awakening to the outside world.

Check this out:



The Weather Is Moishe Kapoyer

This is what my mother would say when the weather was wacky like it has been on the East coast of the U.S., snowing one day and warm the next. On the internet it says that the phrase Moishe Kapoyer was coined by a humorist, B. Kovner, in The Forverts (The Forward, a Yiddish newspaper). This makes sense because my mother always read the paper. What does it mean? Moishe of course is Moses, or Morris. Kapoyer means backward or reversed. So in effect it means Moses is upside down. Whenever you are discussing something that is topsy turvy, it’s Moishe Kapoyer.

Moishe Kapoyer: Upside down Moses
Moishe Kapoyer: Upside down Moses

Our Building

During the depression we decided to move in the with tenants instead of paying rent. My father owned a building with cold water flats when we moved in. It was in Bay Ridge on 69th Street between Fifth and Fourth Avenues. This was a typical Brooklyn neighborhood. It was a goyish neighborhood.

There was no heating. We had old black stoves with a lid and you put coke inside and that was how you heated and cooked. But later we bought a stove. And my father put in electricity. But before that, they would send me to a grocery store near Fourth Avenue to get the coke; they called the store “The Greek’s” even though the owner was Armenian. My mother would send me to the store and I would get the coke.

The subway was around the corner from us and two trolleys ran on our street in either direction. The boys still played stickball in between the trolleys.