Leonard Bernstein’s Brother: A Forgotten but Talented Observer of American Jewish Life

Aug. 23 2018

This Saturday would be the great composer Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday. But Sunday is the anniversary of the death of his brother Burton, who died last year at the age of eighty-five. A gifted writer, Burton—in Allan Arkush’s opinion—ought to be remembered as a perceptive chronicler of American Jewish life:

Apart from his long and distinguished career at the New Yorker, Burton wrote eight books, including a marvelous one on the Sinai desert. I have read a fair amount of his work, but I would probably have forgotten him by now had he not written an outstanding history of his family. I read what became Family Matters when it was serialized in the New Yorker, loved it, and have been quoting from it for decades. At least a couple of times a year I recommend it to students as an excellent and enjoyable introduction to 20th-century Jewish history.

For me, the most memorable figure in Family Matters is Leonard and Burton’s father, Sam. Born in 1892 into a pious, learned, and poor family in a Ukrainian shtetl, the one-time yeshiva student crossed the Atlantic alone when he was sixteen, like so many others, and immediately found backbreaking work in New York’s Fulton Fish Market. But he didn’t stay there long. With help from an uncle who owned a barbershop in Hartford, hard work, and good luck, Sam made his way up the ladder in the beauty-supplies business. By the late 1920s, he owned his own business in Boston and had 50 people working for him. . . .

He didn’t think much of musicians either and was deeply troubled when Leonard fell in love with music. “A musician to Sam was a klezmer. The klezmer was an impoverished musician, usually a fiddler, who wandered from shtetl to shtetl, playing at weddings or bar mitzvahs for a few kopecks, some free food and wine, and a night’s lodging. In Sam’s eyes, he was a disreputable character of the Old World, a rootless profligate who would die young of starvation or the worst diseases. The American version of such a person wasted his life away playing in cocktail lounges or with dance bands. Where would the nakhes be in that?”

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish History, History & Ideas, Leonard Bernstein

Iran’s Responsibility for West Bank Terror

On Friday, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli police officer and was then shot by another officer after trying to grab his rifle. Commenting on the many similar instances of West Bank-based terror during the past several months, Amit Saar, a senior IDF intelligence officer, predicted that the violence will likely grow worse in the coming year. Yoni Ben Menachem explains the Islamic Republic’s role in fueling this wave of terrorism:

The escape of six terrorists from Gilboa prison in September 2021 was the catalyst for the establishment of new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank, according to senior Islamic Jihad officials. The initiative to establish new armed groups was undertaken by Palestinian Islamic Jihad in coordination with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, implementing the strategy of Qassem Suleimani—the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards who was assassinated in Iraq by the U.S.—of using proxies to achieve the goals of expansion of the Iranian regime.

After arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Iran moved in the last year to support the new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank. Iran has been pouring money into the Islamic Jihad organization, which began to establish new armed groups under the name of “Battalions,” which also include terrorists from other organizations such as Fatah, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. First, the “Jenin Battalion” was established in the city of Jenin, followed the “Nablus Battalion.”

Despite large-scale arrest operation by the IDF and the Shin Bet in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad continues to form new terrorist groups, including the “Tulkarem Battalion,” the “Tubas Battalion,” and the “Balata Battalion” in the Balata refugee camp.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Palestinian terror, West Bank