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The Americanization of Irving Berlin

Stefan Kanfer

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It is supremely fitting that "God Bless America"--that stirring hymn to patriotism--has become our unofficial anthem in the aftermath of September 11, since the life of the legendary New York songsmith who penned it, Irving Berlin, born one Israel Baline in 1888 in distant Siberia, epitomizes everything about America's indomitable civilization that our terrorist enemies despise: its openness to striving and talent, its freedom, its inexhaustible optimism and creativity.

Baline's amazing American success story began when he stepped onto Ellis Island in 1893, on his way to Gotham's teeming Lower East Side, "the eyesore of New York and perhaps the filthiest place on the continent," according to the New York Times of the era. However dirty and poor, this Jewish ghetto was incubating an American renaissance that would produce legislators, merchants, professionals of all stripes--and Irving Berlin.

For the complete article go to the City Journal website.



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