Here are a few Bios of our famous members and friends, whose headshots grace our stairwell:
Joey Adams (1911 – 1999), born Joseph Abramowitz, was an American comedian, actor, and author. He wrote the "Strictly for Laughs" column in the New York Post. His career spanned more than 70 years and included appearances in nightclubs, vaudevilles, radio, film, and television. He also hosted his own radio show and wrote 23 books, including "From Gags to Riches," "Joey Adams Joke Book," "Laugh Your Calories Away", "On the Road with Uncle Sam" and "Encyclopedia of Humor." This photograph is an original headshot.
Tessa Albertson is a teenage actor from New York City, who has appeared in shows including Shrek on Broadway and in films including Phoebe in Wonderland. She became a Bat Mitzvah at The Actors’ Temple.
Jerry Ames (1930 – 2011) born Jerome Howard Abrams,
was a consummately virtuosic tap dance artist known for his fleeting
steps and ballroom dancing spins. He danced in the free spirited Tap
Happenings of 1969, which began a tap revival. In 1976 he founded his
own company, the Jerry Ames Tap Dance Company, the only company which
presented a variety of tap styles. It is influential even now, having
taught many tap dancers who are actively dancing today. In 1977, he
co-authored The Book of Tap: Recovering America's Long Lost Dance with
Jim Siegelman. Three years later, he was a featured performer in the
movie Tap Dancin' and in 2006, in recognition of his being one of the
outstanding Tap masters in America, he received a Flo Bert Award, the
equivalent of an Oscar in the tap world, for his lifetime contribution
to tap dance. He was a beloved, longstanding member and supporter of The
Morey Amsterdam (1908 – 1996) born Moritz Amsterdam, was an American television actor and comedian, known for his role on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s. He began working in Vaudeville and was also a cellist. By 1924, he was working in a speakeasy operated by Al Capone. After being caught in the middle of a gunfight, he moved to California and turned to writing jokes. His enormous repertoire and ability to come up with a joke on any subject earned him the nickname “The Human Joke Machine.” He was a songwriter and a screenwriter, contributing dialogue for two East Side Kids films. He performed on three daily radio shows, including Stop Me If You've Heard This One, and for a while, had his own TV Show. He briefly hosted the comedy-variety show, Broadway Open House, that led to the development of The Tonight Show. Later in life he did a dramatic turn in the classic film Murder, Inc. This photograph is an original headshot.
Belle Baker [born Bella Becker] (1895 – 1957),
singer. Born on New York's Lower East Side, Baker came to the attention
of vaudeville agents and was soon playing major variety houses. Although
she made her Broadway debut in a minor part in Vera Violetta (1911),
her only important musical comedy appearance was as star of the
short‐lived Betsy (1926), in which she introduced Irving Berlin's “Blue
Skies.” helping popularize such songs as “My Yiddische Mama,” “All of
Me,” “Put It On, Take It Off, Wrap It Up and Take It Home,” "Alexander's
Ragtime Band" and “Cohen Owes Me $97.” In the 1930s, she appeared in
several editions of the Ziegfeld Follies, performed on radio for the
Columbia Network and played music halls in England. For feature films,
she appeared in "Song Of Love" (1929), "Charing Cross Road" (1935) and
"Atlantic City" (1944).
Barney Balaban (1887 – 1971) was president of Paramount Pictures from 1936 to 1964, and innovator in the cinema industry. Balaban built the Circle Theatre, the first cinema to have a balcony. Balaban and brother-in-law Sam Katz created the first air-conditioned movie theater: a large fan blowing over cakes of ice in a washtub. The system was noisy and it occasionally blew a shower of water on the patrons. Balaban and an engineer friend created a workable system, and crowds began to go to the movies to escape the heat during the summer months, making motion picture exhibition a year-round business. Balaban, the son of Russian emigrants who had lived the American Dream, purchased one of the 14 original copies of the Bill of Rights and, in 1945, donated it to the Library of Congress "as an expression of gratitude for the freedom his parents found in this country". The photograph is an original headshot. He has a plaque in the sanctuary.
Burt Balaban (1922 – 1965) was a producer, director, and American filmmaker, the son of Barney Balaban, president of Paramount Pictures from 1936 to 1964. He originally trained as a combat cameraman for the Marines during WW II. Later he went on to direct and produce television films during the 1950s. At the end of the decade he began working in feature films, though he only made a few. Balaban is best known for directing the gangster film, Murder Inc. (1960). This photograph is an original headshot. He has a plaque in the sanctuary.
Jack Benny (1894 – 1974) born Benjamin Kubelsky, was
among the most beloved American entertainers of the 20th century, first
on radio and then in television, for more than 40 years. He brought a
humorously vain and famously stingy persona, expertly honed in
Vaudeville, radio, and film to television, starring in his own series.
Before the civil rights era, the program broke new ground as the only
show that portrayed black and white Americans living and working
together. He appeared in over 25 movies, including It’s in the Air,
Broadway Melody of 1936, College Holiday, Artists & Models, Man
About Town, George Washington Slept Here, To Be or Not to Be, The
Meanest Man in the World, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and A Guide
for the Married Man. He starred in the shows Love Thy Neighbor; Buck
Benny Rides Again, and Charley’s Aunt. “The Jack Benny Program” was on
network radio for 23 years and on TV from 1950 to 1965, winning Emmys in
1958 and 1959. His plaque is in the synagogue. This photograph is an
Milton Berle (1908 – 2002) born Milton Berlinger, was an American comedian and actor. As the manic host of NBC's Texaco Star Theater (1948–55), he was the first major star of US television and as such became known as “Uncle Miltie” and “Mr. Television” to millions, during TV's golden age. He was a radio, television, and film actor, appearing in numerous films, including Always Leave Them Laughing with Virginia Mayo and Bert Lahr, Let's Make Love with Marilyn Monroe and Yves Montand, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Loved One, The Oscar, Who's Minding the Mint?, Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose and Driving Me Crazy. He was a longtime member of The Friars Club. This photograph is an original headshot.
Red Buttons (1919 – 2006) born Aaron Chwatt, was an American comedian and actor. He performed on Broadway and in Burlesque. Drafted into the Army Air Force, he appeared in the Army Air Forces Broadway show, Winged Victory. Buttons also entertained troops in the European Theater in the same unit as Mickey Rooney. He appeared in 35 films including: Winged Victory, Sayonara, The Longest Day, The Poseidon Adventure, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and Pete's Dragon. Buttons also made many memorable guest television appearances on programs including The Eleventh Hour, Little House on the Prairie, It's Garry Shandling's Show, ER, and Roseanne. His last regular role was as a homeless man on CBS' Knots Landing. He was number 71 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. He was befriended by Rabbi Birstein and was one of the first actors to belong to the synagogue. This photograph is an original headshot.
Eddie Cantor (1892 – 1964) born Israel Iskowitz,
“The Apostle of Pep,” was a celebrated American comedian, singer, actor,
songwriter, and author, known to Vaudeville, Broadway, radio, and TV
audiences. Cantor debuted on Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1917
and starred on Broadway in Kid Boots, Whoopee! and Banjo Eyes. He became
a Hollywood star with the film of Whoopee! In 1931, NBC’s Chase and
Sanborn Hour established Cantor as a leading comedian, and soon he
became the world’s highest-paid radio personality. In 1934, he
introduced a new holiday song by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie,
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” His films include Palmy Days, The Kid
from Spain, Roman Scandals, Kid Millions, Strike Me Pink, Ali Baba Goes
to Town, Forty Little Mothers, Thank Your Lucky Stars, Show Business,
Hollywood Canteen, and If You Knew Susie. He was a founder of the March
of Dimes, a leading voice in the battle against polio and against
racism, and the first president of the Screen Actors Guild. Writer H. L.
Mencken once said that Cantor’s pamphlet writings did more to pull
America out of the Depression than all government efforts combined.
Joe Franklin (1926 –) is a radio and television personality, actor, and author from New York City, who hosted the first television talk show in 1951 on WABC-TV and later moved to WOR-TV, broadcasting until 1993. Known as "The King of Nostalgia" he focused on old-time show-business personalities. After retiring from television, he did an overnight radio show. He currently interviews celebrities on the Bloomberg Radio Network . The Theatre Museum awarded Joe Franklin with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Joe has visited the synagogue on a number of occasions. This photograph was donated by Mr. Franklin and is an original headshot.
Bob Greenberg has been doing film, theater, TV,
commercials, industrials, print, clowning, improv, impersonations and
stand-up for years now and loving it! He has appeared in the TV Shows:
ABC’s Next Best Thing, Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Lateline, Ed, Primetime
Live, Guiding Light, Law & Order, Show Me The Funny, and America’s
Funniest People; and in the films: Sad Sack Sally, Glow Ropes, Maid in
Manhattan, Freax of the City, Heartbreak Hospital, Big Money Hu$tlas,
Punch the Clock, and others. He is a member of the Friar’s Club, a
Member-At-Large of Sons Of The Desert (Laurel & Hardy Appreciation
Society) and on the Board of the Actors’ Temple.
Hank Greenberg: Henry Benjamin "Hank" Greenberg (1911–1986), nicknamed "Hammerin' Hank" or "The Hebrew Hammer," was an American professional baseball player in the 1930s and 1940s. Hank is widely considered as one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history. A first baseman primarily for the Detroit Tigers, Greenberg was one of the premier power hitters of his generation. Greenberg was a five-time All-Star, was twice named the American League's Most Valuable Player, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956. Greenberg is still the American League record holder for most RBIs in a single season by a right-handed batter—183 RBI in 1937. He was one of the few opposing players publicly to welcome Jackie Robinson to the majors.
Steve Greenstein is a Bronx born character actor of stage, screen, and TV, who recently returned from the London stage as Officer Krupke in the acclaimed 50th anniversary production of West Side Story at Sadler’s Wells, which was nominated for a Lawrence Olivier award for Best Musical Revival on the West End. Steve played in summer stock as Pap Finn in Big River and on As The World Turns in its farewell season on CBS. Be sure to catch him on the FOX Comedy Running Wild. He begins shooting Welcome to Greenpoint on location in New York in fall 2010. You still can get a good hot dog from Steve, the hot dog seller in the film, Confessions of a Shopaholic now available on DVD. He is a current member of The Actors’ Temple.
Harry Hirshfield (1885 – 1974) was an American comic
artist, humor writer, and radio personality known as "The Jewish Will
Rogers." He studied at the Chicago Art Institute, and he began drawing
sports cartoons and a comic strip about a dog, Homeless Hector, for the
Chicago Daily News and the San Francisco Chronicle. He became a
well-known radio personality, telling jokes on Stop Me If You've Heard
This One and Can You Top This? and a frequent guest on early television
shows during the 1950s. He was a columnist for the New York Daily
Mirror. His books include Laugh Louder, Live Longer and Now I'll Tell
One. His plaque is in our Sanctuary. This photograph is an original
Willie and Eugene Howard (born Levkowitz) were among the first openly Jewish entertainers to tread the American stage. Not only were they Jewish but they played Jews, In their field, they were tops. George Jessel said “Willie Howard was the best of all the revue comics, bar none”. In 1929, Variety called Eugene “a flawless straightman”. Their father was a cantor who taught his boys to sing in hopes that they would serve God. Instead, they ran off and joined the theatre. Willie and Eugene worked in vaudeville and in major Broadway revues like the Shuberts' Passing Show series and George White’s Scandals. The last of these was Ballyhoo of 1932. Eugene retired in 1940 to manage Willy, who performed in several more Broadway shows and in night clubs before passing away in 1949. Eugene joined him on the other side in 1965.
George Jessel (1898 – 1981) was an actor, singer, songwriter, and Academy Award-winning movie producer. He was famous in his lifetime as a multitalented comedic entertainer, achieving a level of recognition that transcended his limited roles in movies. He was widely known by his nickname, "Toastmaster General of the United States" for his frequent role as the master of ceremonies at political and entertainment gatherings. Jessel played in Vaudeville and on Broadway in the stage production of The Jazz Singer. He appeared in the film, Private Izzy Murphy. He performed on the radio and TV in The George Jessel Show, on TV in Here Come The Stars, and appeared as himself in the film Valley of the Dolls. He crossed the era's stereotypical political lines with his support for the Civil Rights movement and criticism of racism and anti-Semitism He was a member of the Friars Club, traveled widely overseas with the USO and wrote three volumes of memoirs, So Help Me, This Way, Miss and The World I Lived In. This photograph is an original headshot.
Al Jolson (1886 – 1950) born Asa Yoelson, was an
American singer, actor, composer, and blackface comedian. Jolson, known
as “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” was the first openly Jewish man to
become a star in America. He was featured in the musicals Honeymoon
Express, Bombo (introducing “My Mammy”), and Big Boy. An unknown
Gershwin song, “Swanee,” became his trademark. In 1927, Jolson starred
in The Jazz Singer, the first feature film with synchronized speech as
well as music and sound effects. His performance revolutionized the
motion-picture industry and signaled the demise of the silent-film era.
Jolson became the first “movie star,” following his success with The
Singing Fool, Say It with Songs, Hallelujah, I’m a Bum, and Swanee
River. Jolson introduced African-American musical innovations such as
jazz, ragtime, and the blues to white America, paving the way for
African-American performers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats
Waller, and Ethel Waters. He entertained American troops in World War II
and the Korean War, and donated time and money to myriad philanthropic
and charitable causes, including the March of Dimes. This photograph is
an original headshot. The synagogue originally had a prayerbook with
Jolson’s name in it, which has since been lost.
Bert Lahr, born Irving Lahrheim, (1895 – 1967) was an American actor and comedian, who played the Cowardly Lion and farmworker Zeke in the film, The Wizard of Oz. He dropped out of school at 15 to do Vaudeville and in 1927 debuted on Broadway. Later he was in the musicals Hold Everything!, Flying High, Florenz Ziegfeld's Hot-Cha!, and DuBarry Was a Lady. In the 1944 film Meet the People, Lahr said, "Heavens to Murgatroyd!" later popularized by the cartoon character Snagglepuss. He co-starred in the American premiere of Waiting for Godot in Miami, and on Broadway. In 1964 he won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for the musical Foxy, and in 1960 the Best Shakespearean Actor of the Year Award for A Midsummer Night's Dream. He also appeared on many TV shows. During one Actors’ Temple Benefit, he was 90 miles from the theater. He phoned Rabbi Birstein and explained. “I want you to appear” the Rabbi said. Less than two hours later, he was on the stage.
Al Kelly (1899 – 1966) born Abraham Kalish, was a famous double talk artist, actor, comedian, and radio and television personality who appeared in the film Singing in the Dark, and on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, The Milton Berle Texaco Star Theater, The Dinah Shore Show, The Ernie Kovacs show, Candid Camera, and other TV series. His ability to speak nonsense, slowly or quickly, while seeming to communicate matters of deep import, left audiences in stitches. He was a Friar’s Club favorite. This photograph is an original headshot. His plaque is in the sanctuary.
Alan King (1927 – 2004) born Irwin Alan Kniberg, was an American actor and comedian. King became well-known as a Jewish comedian and satirist. He was also a serious actor who appeared in a number of movies such as Casino, Night and the City, I, the Jury, Cat's Eye, Bye Bye Braverman, The Anderson Tapes, Just Tell Me What You Want, and Memories of Me; and television shows such as Ed Sullivan, Perry Como Garry Moore and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He hosted the Oscars in 1972, was the MC for President John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961, and was the long-standing host of the New York Friar’s Club celebrity roasts. King wrote several books, produced films, and appeared in plays. In later years, he helped many philanthropic causes. His comedy inspired other comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Billy Crystal. This photograph is an original headshot.
Dave Konig began his career at the age of nine as an obnoxious child actor, in several New York productions, including the Off Broadway revival of A Thousand Clowns. Emmy award winning comedian Konig hosted HBO’s late night comedy series Hardcore TV, hosted and produced the cult talk show parody The Dave Konig Show for USA Network, and won three Emmy Awards as host of NY Metro TV’s reality/comedy series Subway Q&A. With his wife, humor writer Susan Konig, Dave hosted the national, daily comedy talk show Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace for two years on SIRIUS Satellite radio. For many years Konig was the regular featured comic on The Joey Reynolds Show on WOR-AM. Konig appears regularly at the NY Friars Club, The Borgata in Atlantic City, Holland America and Carnival Cruise lines, and various clubs and casinos. He recently starred in his own Off Broadway solo comedy Hebrew School Dropout at the Actors Temple Theater. Konig also starred on Broadway in Tommy Tune’s hit revival of Grease!, as well as in New York and regional productions including The Odd Couple, Sugar, The Boys Next Door, An Enemy of the People, as well as sketch comedy and stand-up comedy revues. He serves on the Board of The Actors’ Temple.
Sanford “Sandy” Koufax (1935 –) was one of baseball’s greatest pitchers. A left-hander, he pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League from 1955 to 1957, continuing, after they became the Los Angeles Dodgers, from 1958 to 1966. Born in Brooklyn, his parents divorced when he was young and his mother married Irving Koufax. In 1954, he landed a spot on the University of Cincinnati baseball varsity team, where he went 3–1 with 51 strikeouts and 30 walks, in 31 innings. That same year, he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Koufax is notable as one of the few outstanding Jewish athletes of his era in American professional sports. His decision not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, drew national attention as an assertion of personal religious beliefs. From 1962 through 1965, Koufax had the lowest earned run average in the National League. He was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1963 and won the 1963, 1965, and 1966 Cy Young Awards. Among National League pitchers with at least 2,000 innings pitched who have debuted since 1913, he has the highest career winning percentage and the lowest career ERA until Tom Seaver eclipsed that record in 1974. At age 36, he became the youngest player ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
And here are a few more!
James Lamarr (1939 –) is believed to be the adopted son of Jewish actress Hedy Lamarr, who appeared in many films including the famous Ecstasy, and co-invented an early technique for spread spectrum communications, a key to many forms of wireless communication.
Tito Schipa (1888 – 1965) was a world famous Italian opera singer, a tenor, who was not Jewish. This photograph is inscribed to Rabbi Bernard Birstein, who befriended Sophie Tucker and Red Buttons, and under whose aegis this synagogue became The Actors’ Temple.
Jack E. Leonard (1910 – 1973) born Leonard Lebitsky, was the original master of "insult comedy" having pioneered the art form of crafting the ultimate put-down in the blink of an eye, turning world-class hecklers into mush, and turning his unsuspecting targets into some of his biggest fans. He was a comedian and actor, appearing in film, television, and recordings. His outfit was a dark suit, purposely two sizes too small, a white narrow-brimmed hat, and horn-rimmed glasses. His appearances on The Tonight Show hosted by Jack Paar made him nationally famous, after which he continued to work in Las Vegas and in nightclubs. He was a member of The Friar’s Club, and hosted a number of “Roasts.” This photograph is an original headshot.
Danny Lewis (? – 1982) born Daniel Levitch, (Father of Jerry Lewis) was a Master of Ceremonies and Vaudeville entertainer. He sang, and did mime and physical comedy at hotels and nightclubs. His son Jerry Lewis says he first went on stage with his Dad, who taught him how to do a pratfall. This photograph is an original headshot. He was a member of The Actors’ Temple.
Jerry Lewis (born Joseph Levitch, March e16, 1926) is an American comedian, actor, film producer, writer, film director, and singer, best-known for his slapstick humor in stage, radio, screen, recording, and television. In 1946, he paired with Dean Martin, starring in 16 films together. He is especially known for the films, The Nutty Professor and The King of Comedy. Lewis is credited with inventing the video assist system in cinematography and for his charity fund-raising telethons as national chairman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). Although he never was a member of this synagogue, his father was a member of The Actors’ Temple. John Loiacona, security guard of the synagogue for over 40 years, donated this photograph. He has been a bodyguard and friend to the stars for decades.
Joe E. Lewis (1902 – 1971) born Joseph Klewan, was an American comedian and singer. In 1927, Lewis refused the request of an Al Capone lieutenant to renew a contract to sing and perform at a Cocktail Lounge partly owned by Capone, because he had been offered more money by a rival gang, to appear at their club. He was assaulted in 1927, mutilated, and left for dead. It took him a few years to learn to speak again. Capone, who was fond of Lewis, provided him with money to allow him to recover and resume his career. Lewis toured in USO shows and was an Abbot of the Friar’s Club. He appeared in the movies Too Many Husbands, Private Number, The Holy Terror, Private Buckaroo & played himself in Lady In Cement. He appeared frequently on The Ed Sullivan Show and other TV shows. Frank Sinatra portrayed him in the film The Joker is Wild. This photograph is an original headshot. He has a plaque and a large stained glass window in the sanctuary.
Ted Lewis (1894 – 1971) born Theodore Leopold Friedman, was a pioneer of the Big Band Era, star of stage, screen and radio. Known as “The Jazz King,” or “Mr. Entertainment,” a bandleader and clarinetist, he ranks as one of the most influential entertainers of the 20th Century. Famed for beginning his shows with, "Is Everybody Happy?” he was known for singing the song, Me and My Shadow. Lewis had a show biz career in recording, radio, movie, television and concerts that lasted for 50 years. From the 1920s to1930s, Lewis had several million-selling records, a rarity at the time. Lewis' bands and records featured many up-and-coming Jazz musicians like Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, and Fats Waller. His film credits include: The Show of Shows, Is Everybody Happy? Hold That Ghost, and Here Comes the Band. Three films were made about Ted Lewis or starred him. He was married to Adah Becker Lewis, a ballet dancer who became his manager. Their plaques are in the sanctuary.
Harpo Marx (1888 – 1964) was born Adolph Marx, the third child of Minnie and Sam Marx. The oldest, Manfred, died in infancy. Leonard (Chico) and Julius (Groucho) were next. Milton (Gummo) and Herbert (Zeppo) were born last in line. His mother pulled him off a piano stool in a nickelodeon and dragged him into a singing act she'd created with Groucho, Gummo, and another boy. The singing group became a comedy troupe and Chico joined the act. So did Zeppo when Gummo left. Together the Four Marx Brothers went from Vaudeville to the Palace Theater, to legitimate Broadway, and on into movies: Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, Room Service, At the Circus, Go West, The Big Store, Stage Door Canteen, A Night in Casablanca, Love Happy, and The Story of Mankind. Harp playing Harpo was a member of the literary Algonquin Round Table in New York, hobnobbing with Alexander Woollcott, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman and Dorothy Parker. His entertaining autobiography, (co-written by Rowland Barber) Harpo Speaks, is still in print. Among his golf buddies and friends in California were Actors’ Temple members: Jack Benny, George Jessel, and the Ritz Brothers.
The Ritz Bros: (Al 1901 – 1965, Jimmy 1904 – 1985, Harry 1907 – 1986) The family name was Joachim but eldest brother Al, a vaudeville dancer, adopted a new professional name after he saw the name "Ritz" on the side of a laundry truck. Jimmy and Harry followed suit when the brothers formed a team. The Ritz’s emphasized precision dancing in their act, and added comedy material as they went along. They frequently behaved identically, making it hard for audiences to tell them apart. By the early 1930s they were stage headliners. They appeared in 18 films from 1934-1976, most notably, a 1937 Irving Berlin musical, On the Avenue, The Goldwyn Follies, and a 1939 musical-comedy version of The Three Musketeers, co-starring Don Ameche. This photograph is an original headshot. At least one relative has a plaque in the synagogue.
Edward G. Robinson (1893 – 1973) born Emanuel Goldenberg, was a Romanian-born American actor. Although he played a wide range of characters, he is best remembered for his roles as a gangster, most notably in his star-making film Little Caesar. Others of his 101 films include: Double Indemnity, The Woman in the Window, Scarlet Street, Key Largo, The Ten Commandments, A Hole in the Head, and The Cincinnati Kid. On three occasions in 1950 and 1952, he was called to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee and was threatened with blacklisting. Robinson took steps to clear his name, He also gave names of Communist sympathizers and his own name was cleared. He was a synagogue member.
Richard Rodgers (1902 – 1979) was an American composer of more than 900 songs for 43 Broadway musicals. He also composed music for films and television. He is best known for his songwriting partnerships with the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960), who is in this photograph, but not Jewish. Rodgers is one of only two persons to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony, plus a Pulitzer Prize. With Hart he wrote: "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", "My Funny Valentine", "The Lady is a Tramp", "Falling in Love with Love", and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered". With Hammerstein he wrote the music for Oklahoma!, Carousel South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. Their collaboration includes the songs, "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'", "People Will Say We're in Love", "Oklahoma!" "If I Loved You", "You'll Never Walk Alone", "It Might as Well Be Spring", "Some Enchanted Evening", "Getting to Know You", "My Favorite Things", "The Sound of Music", "Sixteen Going on Seventeen", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain", "Do-Re-Mi", and "Edelweiss." This photograph is an original double headshot.
Barney Ross (1909 – 1967) born Barnet (Dov-Ber) Rasofsky, was an American three-time world boxing champion and a war hero during World War II. When he was 14 years old, his father was killed in a robbery of the family store. Barnet and his oldest brother lived with a cousin; his three youngest siblings were placed in an orphanage. In his grief, Barnet renounced his Orthodox faith and sought revenge by becoming a petty thief, numbers runner, and brawler. He took up amateur boxing, and eventually won championships and election to the Boxing Hall of Fame. Ross, after Pearl Harbor and at age 32, received a waiver to join the Marines. Assigned to be a boxing instructor, he asked for combat duty and was shipped to Guadalcanal, where he saw some of the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific. He was awarded the Silver Star for heroism. At the military hospital where he was treated for severe wounds, medics gave Ross all the morphine he asked for. When he got out of the hospital, Ross couldn’t shake his need for morphine. He went "cold turkey" and, after much agony, emerged, having kicked the habit. While he lived in constant pain from his wounds, Ross spent the remainder of his life speaking out against drug abuse. Hollywood later turned Ross’ autobiographical account of his addiction into the movie "Monkey on My Back." In his autobiography, No Man Stands Alone, Ross recounted that a rabbi once told him that, since he was a Jew in the public eye, he would have to lead an exemplary life, which he did. The thing that meant the most to him was having earned enough money, by fighting, to reunite his mother with her three youngest children. This photograph is an original headshot. He has a plaque in the sanctuary.
Neva Small is an American actress, singer, and puppeteer. She made her Broadway debut in the 1964 musical Something More! Additional stage credits include The Impossible Years and Henry, Sweet Henry. Most recently, Small starred a theatrical review based on her own life, Not Quite an Ingenue, at the Actor's Temple Theater. Small's most notable screen appearance was as one of Tevye's daughters, Chava, in the 1971 film of Fiddler on the Roof. Small's television credits include Law & Order and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Small's solo album, My Place in the World, is a compilation of tunes she sang in film and on stage throughout her career. She has appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall, the Lambs Club, the Lincoln Square Synagogue and at services at The Actors’ Temple. This photograph was donated by Ms. Small and is an original headshot.
Smith & Dale Joseph Sultzer (left 1884 – 1981) and Charles Marks (right: 1881 – 1971) one of vaudeville’s most famous comedy teams, performed together for 70 years and became audience favorites with their signature sketch ”Doctor Kronkheit and His Only Living Patient,” which lives on in show business history. Their comic style can be seen in the films The Heart of New York, Oh, What a Business!, and Fun in a Firehouse. They appeared on Broadway in 1942’s Laugh, Town, Laugh! and Off-Broadway, on radio, in nightclubs, and on television variety shows, including The Steve Allen Show, Toast of the Town, and The Ed Sullivan Show. Neil Simon’s play and 1975 film The Sunshine Boys is loosely based on Smith & Dale. Their influence continues today Their plaques are in the sanctuary.
The Three Stooges were a popular American comedy team famous for chaotic, playfully violent slapstick and a comic style rooted in burlesque. The six members throughout the years were Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz: 1895 – 1955); Moe Howard (Moses Horwitz: 1897 – 1975); Larry Fine (Louis Feinberg; 1902 – 1975); Curly Howard (Jerome Horwitz:1903 – 1952); Joe Besser (1907 – 1988), Joe DeRita (Joseph Wardell; 1909 – 1993). Moe entered show business first, finding little success until he started a comedy act with his older brother, Shemp, and Ted Healy, a friend. Larry Fine, a comedian-violinist, joined the act in 1925. They performed in vaudeville before making a splash on Broadway in the late 1920s. Shortly after their film debut in Soup to Nuts, Shemp quit the act and was replaced by younger brother Jerome, In 1934, Moe, Larry, and Curly signed a long-term contract with Columbia Pictures and renamed themselves The Three Stooges. Moe was the bully. Curly the gentle child-man, Larry, the passive middleman. In 1946, Curly suffered a stroke and was forced to retire. Shemp rejoined the act and remained with the Stooges through 78 films until his death. Joe Besser, a heavy-set character comic with an effete persona joined the act after Shemp’s death. In 1958, he left to care for his ill wife. Moe and Larry were planning to retire, but TV reruns of their films catapulted the Stooges to popularity once again. Burlesque comic Joe DeRita (nicknamed “Curly Joe”) joined the act for several successful films from 1959 to 1965, including The Three Stooges Meet Hercules and Around the World in a Daze. Today, the Three Stooges are still extremely popular. Their slapstick comic style has influenced several generations of comedians. Two of the Horwitz brothers were known to be synagogue members.
Ed Sullivan (1901 – 1974) was an American
entertainment writer and television host, best known as the presenter of
the iconic TV variety show called The Ed Sullivan Show that was
broadcast from 1948 until 1971. Its 23-year run made The Ed Sullivan
Show one of the longest-running and most beloved variety shows in U.S.
broadcast history. He introduced many emerging entertainers and singers
to American households, including The Beatles. His wife was Jewish and
attended this synagogue. He graciously hosted the yearly Actors’ Temple
Benefit at The Majestic Theater. This photograph is an original
Sophie Tucker (1884 – 1966) born Sonya Kalish, “The last of the Red Hot Mamas,” and the Madonna of her time, was an international singing star and comedian in vaudeville, music halls, film, and on Broadway. Performing in a half-century career, she was one of the most popular and beloved entertainers in early 20th-century America. London’s Daily Express said, “A big fat blond genius, with a dynamic personality and amazing vitality.” Rooted in self-parody, her act was true to its vaudeville origins: singing earthy, suggestive, jazzy, or sentimental songs, which showcased her enormous voice, she challenged size and age stereotypes of female sexuality. Her comic style influenced later generations of Jewish female entertainers, including Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, and especially Bette Midler. Sophie was the first actor befriended by Rabbi Birstein. This photograph is an original headshot. She has a plaque and a stained glass window in the sanctuary. Her son, Albert, also has a plaque.
Shelley Winters, born Shirley Schrift (1920 – 2006) was an American film, stage, and television actress whose career spanned over half a century. She appeared in more than 100 films, playing a variety of earthy, colorful, memorable characters, winning two Best Supporting Actress Academy Awards, for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) and A Patch of Blue (1965). She appeared in the films: A Double Life, Meet Danny Wilson, Cry of the City, The Great Gatsby, The Night of the Hunter, Lolita, Harper, Alfie, Enter Laughing, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, The Poseidon Adventure, and many others. Broadway credits include Oklahoma! Rosalinda, A Hatful of Rain The Night of the Iguana. In 1960, Winters was a co-sponsor of a New York Times ad to Defend Martin Luther King Jr. and the Struggle for Freedom in the South. Gloria Steinem said that Winters paved the way for the women’s movement, by portraying victims who fought back. This photograph is an original headshot. She was a synagogue member.
Henny Youngman (1906 – 1998) Henry Youngman was a British-born comedian and violinist, known as the “King of the One Liners.” His best known (and oft misquoted) one-liner was "Take my wife—please". He was discovered and befriended by Milton Berle. Youngman worked in nightclubs, hotels, and other venues, and made numerous appearances on television, including Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. He was host of the TV series The Henny and Rocky Show, with boxer Rocky Graziano. He had cameo appearances in several movies: History of the World, Part I and Goodfellas, and made a few recordings, most notably The Primitive Side of Henny Youngman. His autobiography is Take My Life, Please! Youngman's last movie appearance was in the Daniel Robert Cohn film Eyes Beyond Seeing, in which he has a cameo as a mental patient claiming to be Henny Youngman. This photograph is an original headshot.