Bernie Sanders may be the first old Brooklyn Jew to be president
But old Brooklyn Jews have done a bunch of other stuff
By Tim Townsend
Why isn’t everyone all mishugah about the Historical Moment earlier this month when Bernie Sanders became the first Jewish candidate to win a presidential primary? Leading the meh reaction was Bernie Sanders, who — as the editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency put it — “seems uncomfortable with efforts to place a Jewish frame on his candidacy.”
Sanders is old. He’d be 75 when he assumes the Oval Office, crushing Ronald Reagan’s Old Guy Prez record by six years. And while an old Brooklyn Jew has never been president of the United States, it’s not like old Brooklyn Jews have accomplished bupkes.
Senator Barbara Boxer of California, at 75, is older than Sanders and has served with him in the Senate since 2007. Barbra Streisand is 73 and was born in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. She’s most famous for playing Yentl the Yeshiva Boy in a 1983 film.
Alan Dershowitz was also born in Williamsburg and was also a Yeshiva boy (he played basketball at Yeshiva University High School in Washington Heights). Dershowitz, 77, made a name for himself championing pornographers’ rights and defending OJ Simpson. In the current hit TV show The People v. O.J. Simpson, Dershowitz is played by Evan Handler, who also played Larry in the 2000 made-for-TV movie hit, The Three Stooges. Which Mel Gibson produced. What? Yes.
The Funny Man
Woody Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg in Brooklyn in 1935, and ever since he’s simply been a laugh riot.
Did Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and Allan Konigsberg know each other growing up? They were both born in Brooklyn the same year, so they must have. Here’s an exchange between Groucho Marx and Woody Allen, published in 1978, that doesn’t really help answer the question:
Woody Allen: You don’t watch baseball?
Groucho Marx: No, I have no interest in baseball. I don’t know the teams…
WA: I remember being at your home a few years ago, and you were talking about the Dodgers. You were a big fan at the time — a big fan of Sandy Koufax.
GM: I’m still a fan of Sandy Koufax, but he’s been out of baseball for years!
WA: I know, but when you’re a baseball fan your whole life, it’s hard to turn it off. So, what have you been doing?
GM: Nothing. And I’m crazy about it.
Despite writing classical music that embraced the most American of influences (jazz, folk) Aaron Copland was placed on Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s blacklist in the 1950s, and questioned about his communist ties. Copland’s biographer Howard Pollack wrote that the composer “regarded Judaism alternately in terms of religion, culture and race; but he showed relatively little involvement in any aspect of his Jewish heritage.”
Copland died in 1990, but it sounds like he could have been a Bernie Bro.