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Wasserman, of Bensonhurst

shul’s outEverybody say sh’ma! In the midst of city, state and federal affairs of unpleasant tiding, there came this Sunday at least some good news. Suzanne Wasserman, historian and filmmaker, wrote a piece about her father, Edward, for the New York Times, “A Bensonhurst Boyhood, Unlocked At Last”. I might have more to say about family, Mother Russia, Brooklyn anarchists, and the historical process later but first everyone needs to discover it for themselves. What I can write briefly about today is Bensonhurst and Bath Beach, the unknown and the unknowable— or so one might gather from a media whose greater attentions are, to put it kindly, elsewhere. But like Edward Wasserman, I’ve got my own old New Utrecht style, as did Gilbert Sorrentino, Buddy Hackett and David Geffen, Ralph Kramden, Mr. Kotter and Tony Manero, among many many others, not all of them Italian or Jewish. Still, knowing a little of Suzanne’s interests as a historian, let me point out Congregation Sons of Israel synagogue, organized in 1896, at the corner of Benson Avenue and Bay 28th Street. To say that I have a— how you say?— “complicated” relationship with Judaism reminds me that everyone should read Wallace Markfemory roth in bensonhurst?!ield’s Teitlebaum’s Window (1971), the greatest Jewish New York novel of them all, ever— accept no substitutes. But Markfield went to Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island, home of the Lady Railsplitters, some of whom from years past, like C.D., still perform the dance of the seven veils in the ner tamid of my mind. I will now put down C.D.’s name. Her name is Clare Dushler. She didn’t give a shit about Emery Roth synagogues then and truth be told, neither did I. —Yenta Gersh

Clarinetist and composer Yenta Gersh, New Utrecht High School class of 1972, grew up in Coney Island and Bensonhurst. He might, in the not-so-distant past, have made his living in a mediocre wedding band.


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