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B’nai B’rith Podcast: Author James Kaplan Explores a Rarely-Discussed Side of the Jewish American Composer
(Washington, D.C., Nov. 26, 2019)—Some of the 20th century’s most enduring popular music, including classics like “God Bless America” and “White Christmas,” were written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant who grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City. Joining CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin on the B’nai B’rith International Podcast, distinguished biographer and journalist James Kaplan discusses his latest book, “Irving Berlin: New York Genius,” and navigates Berlin’s legacy and connection to New York City.
Berlin lived in a New York City that was a myriad of ethnic neighborhoods. Kaplan theorizes that New York’s diverse character influenced the songwriter’s work. “The term melting pot was very popular in the early 20th century, but in fact I always think of New York City and the country as a whole then, and to this day really, as an unmelted melting pot. There were Jewish neighborhoods, there were Italian neighborhoods, there were Irish neighborhoods.” Some of Berlin’s songs were targeted at specific ethnic groups, and he was adept at targeting audiences that did not fit his own demographic profile.
In addition to his most recent work, Kaplan is the author of the two-volume biography of Frank Sinatra, “Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman.” He has also profiled a wide range of public figures including playwright Arthur Miller and comedian and writer Larry David.
Listen to the podcast here.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit