The Actors’ Temple
Congregation Ezrath Israel
339 West 47th Street New York, NY 10036
(212) 245-6975 www.theactorstemple.org
A Brief History
The Actors’ Temple was founded
in 1917 as the West Side Hebrew
Relief Association. Its leaders were
Orthodox Jews who owned shops in the rough-and-tumble Hell's
Kitchen district, then one of the world's busiest steamship ports.
Thanks to Rabbi Bernard Birstein and Cantor Louis Malamud, a bond formed
between the shul and Jews working in another local industry, show business. Talent from
vaudeville, cabaret, nightclubs, television, and Broadway made the synagogue a true Actors’
Temple. Members and congregants, most of whom were born into poor, hardworking immigrant families,
included Al Jolson, Edward G. Robinson, Jack Benny, Jake Pitler, Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, Red
Buttons, and countless other lesser-known actors, comedians, singers, playwrights, composers, musicians,
writers, and dancers, along with sports world figures like Sandy Koufax. Academy Award winner Shelley
Winters kept the High Holy Days in our sanctuary. The Three Stooges attended services too. Famous non-
Jewish entertainers such as Ed Sullivan, whose wife, the former Sylvia Weinstein, was Jewish – were also
friends of the Temple. Today, our sanctuary features stained-glass memorials to these beloved show
business luminaries of yesteryear, including comedian Joe E. Lewis and singer Sophie Tucker, who
headlined an annual benefit for the Temple on Broadway. And you’ll find many of their pictures in our
Actors Photo Gallery, on the stairwell walls. Collectively, this group of
extraordinarily talented individuals made a contribution to American life
through the arts that is beyond measure.
Eventually the nightclubs closed, television went west, and vaudeville
disappeared. The Actors’ Temple declined along with the Times Square
area. Today, a stroll through clean, bright, family-friendly Times Square
confirms the resurgence of the Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen. The
Actors’ Temple is resurgent too, adding staff and new members from the
surrounding neighborhood and the thriving entertainment industry
community, while evolving into a diverse congregation where every voice is
heard and respected. In keeping with our illustrious show business past,
our new spiritual leader, Rabbi-Cantor Jill Hausman, is a classically trained
singer and former actor. In her words, “Today’s congregation is progressive,
egalitarian, eclectic, and post-denominational, looking for fresh approaches
to enliven worship while maintaining deep connections to our Jewish roots.
We provide community and self-expression, deeds of loving kindness and
caring.” And we take great pride in carrying on our Jewish show business tradition.
About the Rabbi
In keeping with our show business tradition, our new spiritual
leader, Rabbi-Cantor Jill Hausman, is a classically
trained singer and former actor. She received her
Semicha from the Rabbinical Seminary International. A
New Jersey native and graduate of Smith College who served
for 12 years at Brooklyn’s Boro Park Progressive Synagogue as
cantor and more recently as assistant rabbi, she is rapidly attracting adherents
with her comprehensive knowledge of Jewish history, liturgy, learning, and ritual,
and her warm, welcoming manner. “To me, the spirit of the law is more important
than the letter of the law, and love for one's neighbor precedes all else,” she says. Rabbi Hausman studied
voice with James Carson. She has appeared as a soloist with the South Shore Symphony under the
auspices of the Five Towns Music and Art Foundation and gave two concerts at the Museum of Fine Arts,
Houston, in conjunction with the exhibit French Masterworks from the Pushkin Museum, Moscow. On
numerous occasions she has been a soprano soloist for the New York Choral Society Summer Sings. A
semifinalist in the New York Singing Teachers Association Vocal Gymnastics Competition, she has
performed such opera roles as Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Musetta in Puccini’s La Boheme, Adele in
Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, and Nanetta in Verdi’s Falstaff with Opera on the Sound, the Goldovsky
Opera Institute, and the Amato Opera. Her operetta and summer stock credits include the Blossom Festival,
the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, and the Fort Salem Theater. She has been presented in recital
by the New York Public Library, Christ and St. Stephen’s Church, and other New York venues. The
founder of Lieder in our Language, she produced a CD of German lieder in her own English
translations. She is currently working on Lieder in our Language, Volume 2, as well as a CD of
contemporary songs, including the world premiere of a song cycle written for her by the composer
Gerald Busby, with her own original poetry. The New York Times published a short example of her
light verse. Rabbi Hausman is married, has two sons, and lives on the Upper West Side.
Spirituality and Creativity
Continuing the Actors’ Temple performing arts tradition, Rabbi Hausman welcomes presentations of Jewish-
themed dramatic excerpts, short stories, poetry, songs, modern dance, or instrumental music at Shabbat
services. Please contact her in advance if you would like to participate.
We are also planning an ongoing weekly Showcase Performance Series of Jewish-themed one-person
shows, cabaret acts, short plays, musical presentations, literary
readings, comedy acts, poetry,
We welcome you to join us at our weekly worship services.
Shabbat Services are held Friday evenings at 7 p.m.; Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m.
(brief service and Torah study in English. Both services followed by an Oneg Shabbat)
Tot Shabbat is held once a month, one half hour before services.
We have services on all major holidays: Selichot, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini
Atzeret, Simchat Torah, Purim, Pesach, Shavuot, and Tisha B’Av. Check the Events page at
theactorstemple.org for the schedule of this month's special programs and holiday services.
The new Actors’ Temple Hebrew School is
now registering children in grades K-7. Our
approach is creative and child-centered, providing
a caring atmosphere where the enduring values of Judaism are taught and experienced through
song, stories, arts and crafts, food, dance, and discussion. It is a place where children and their
opinions are respected, where friendships are made, and where young people are given tools for
living an ethical and knowledgeable Jewish life.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah Training for sixth- and seventh-
graders includes reading and discussing a Torah portion each
week, chanting from and understanding the Torah and Haftarah
portions, and writing a D’var Torah.
Adult Education The Actors’ Temple offers a variety of evening classes and
workshops for adults. Please check our online Events page at
theactorstemple.org for current offerings.
Show Business Legacy
On the following pages, you’ll find pictures and short biographies of some
of the famous Jewish show business personalities who were members or
congregants. If you’re a performing artist, when you join or worship at the Actors’
Temple, you’ll be carrying on their distinguished legacy.
Sophie Tucker (January 13, 1884–February 9, 1966) was an international
singing star and comedian in vaudeville, music halls, on Broadway, and film,
performing in both Yiddish and English in a career that spanned a half-century.
One of the most popular and beloved entertainers in early-20th-century America,
she was born Sonia Kalish to a Jewish family in Tsarist Russia. Her family
immigrated to America when she was an infant, settling in Hartford, Connecticut.
She began singing for tips in her family’s kosher rooming house. Tucker later
recalled waiting on Yiddish theater greats such as Jacob Adler, Boris and Bessie
Thomashefsky, Madame Lipsky, and Bertha Kalich. Playing piano to accompany
her sister at amateur shows, “the fat girl” – at 13, she was already 145 pounds
– rapidly became an audience favorite. Theater people fascinated her, but her
parents, wary of traveling vaudeville paskudnyaks (scoundrels), urged her to marry and
settle down. In her autobiography, Some of These Days, Tucker wrote that her mother felt “that marriage,
having babies, and helping her husband get ahead were career enough for any woman. I couldn’t make her
understand that it wasn’t a career that I was after.” In 1903, at age 19, she eloped with local beer-cart driver
Louis Tuck. Upon her return, her parents arranged a traditional Orthodox wedding. She gave birth to a son,
Bert, in 1906, but the marriage dissolved soon after. Leaving Bert with her parents later that year, she went
to New York, changed her name to Tucker, and began singing for meals, pay, and “throw money” in cafés
and beer gardens, sending much of her earnings back home.
Soon she began playing piano and singing burlesque and vaudeville tunes. Tucker’s stage persona and
songs like “Nobody Loves a Fat Girl, But Oh How a Fat Girl Can Love” emphasized her “fat girl” image but
incorporated a playful suggestiveness. In 1907, Tucker got her first break, singing at Chris Brown’s amateur
vaudeville night. After her audition, she overheard him muttering, “This one’s so big and ugly, the crowd
out front will razz her. Better get some cork and black her up.” She was soon being billed as a “World
Renowned Coon Shouter,” performing African American influenced songs in blackface, a role she hid from
her family. Tucker appeared in 1909’s Ziegfeld Follies, but she didn’t last long because Ziegfeld’s other
female stars refused to share the spotlight with the popular singer. Soon after, William Morris, founder of
the famous agency, booked her at his new American Music Hall. When luggage containing her makeup was
stolen, she strode out onstage without her customary blackface, declaring to the shocked audience: “You all
can see I’m a white girl. Well, I’ll tell you something more: I’m not Southern. I’m a Jewish girl, and I just
learned this Southern accent doing a blackface act for two years. And now, Mr. Leader, please play my
song.” Tucker was a huge hit and, taking Morris’ advice, never wore blackface again. She continued,
however, to draw material from black songwriters and culture, singing in a ragtime-and-blues style and
hiring black stars like Mamie Smith and Ethel Waters to give her lessons. Songs such as “I'm Living Alone
and I Like It,” “I Ain”t Takin’ Orders from No One,” and “No Man Is Ever Gonna Worry Me” were hits at
vaudeville houses and music halls throughout America and Europe. She appeared in 1910’s Lulu’s Husbands
on Broadway and recorded several popular songs, including Shelton Brooks’ “Some of These Days” in 1911,
which became her signature number. In 1914, she married Frank Westphal, her pianist, but they divorced in
1919. In 1921, Tucker hired pianist-songwriter Ted Shapiro as her accompanist-musical director. Besides
writing numbers, he became part of her act, exchanging banter and wisecracks between songs.
Tucker appeared in Earl Carroll’s Vanities of 1924 on Broadway. In 1925, Jack Yellen wrote one of her most
famous songs, “My Yiddish Momme.” The song was a hit in large U.S. cities with sizable Jewish audiences.
But as Tucker explained, “You didn’t have to be a Jew to be moved by ‘My Yiddish Momme.’ Mother in any
language means the same thing.” Tucker never forgot her Jewish roots, even as she performed for
mainstream audiences. On her 1922 tour of England, a London audience greeted her with a sign reading
WELCOME SOPHIE TUCKER, AMERICA’S FOREMOST JEWISH ACTRESS. Tucker recalled, “I was
prouder of that than of anything.” Tucker befriended many Jewish actors in London and sang “Bluebird,
Where Are You?” at a Palladium benefit for the Lying-in Hospital, in her words, “as a hazan would.” She
was immensely popular in England, amusing crowds with songs like “When They Start to Ration My
Passion, It’s Gonna Be Tough on Me.” London’s Daily Express described her as “a big fat blond genius, with
a dynamic personality and amazing vitality.” Describing a command performance before royalty in 1926,
another critic wrote, “In her bespangled gown, a hairdo in layers, and wearing a long string of orchids, she
made a dazzling and towering theatrical figure whose love for the audience was returned to her in waves.”
In Vienna, Tucker was asked to sing “My Yiddishe Momme” to a Jewish audience nostalgic for the song’s
images. But after Hitler came to power, her recordings were ordered smashed and the sale of them banned.
In 1928, she married Al Lackey, a fan-turned-personal-manager, but they divorced in 1933. In the 1930s,
Tucker brought early-20th-century nostalgia into her act. She was billed as THE LAST OF THE RED HOT
MAMAS, and her unflagging sexual appetite was alluded too in many of her songs and jokes. As vaudeville
was eclipsed by cinema, Tucker appeared in several films, including Honky Tonk (1929), Broadway Melody of
1938 and Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937), and Follow the Boys (1944). But she preferred performing in
Broadway hits such as Cole Porter’s Leave It to Me (1938) and High Kickers (1941). In the 1950s and early ’60s,
she appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, What’s My Line?, Person to Person, and The Tonight Show and did a
cameo in The Joker Is Wild, the 1957 biographical film about her fellow Actors’ Temple congregant, comedian
Joe E. Lewis. She continued performing in America and Britain, playing New York’s Latin Quarter only
months before she died from a lung ailment and kidney failure, at 82. She was interred at Emanuel
Cemetery in Wethersfield, Connecticut. Three thousand mourners attended her funeral; Teamsters’ union
hearse drivers temporarily called off their strike in her honor.
Rooted in self-parody, her act remained true to its vaudeville origins: earthy, suggestive songs, jazzy or
sentimental, that showcased her enormous voice. The Madonna of her day, Tucker’s performance was a
playfully complex critique of ethnicity, gender, and morality. Songs such as “I’m the 3-D Mama with the Big
Wide Screen” and “I May Be Getting Older Every Day (But Younger Every Night)” challenged size and age
stereotypes of female sexuality. Her comic style influenced later generations of Jewish female entertainers,
including Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, and especially Bette Midler.
Tucker was known for her reverence for the Jewish principle of tzedaka, charity. Early in her career, she
helped prostitutes who shared the same rooming houses as she, noting, “Every one of them supported a
family back home or a child somewhere.” In addition to performing, Tucker was active in efforts to unionize
actors and was elected president of the American Federation of Actors in 1938. In 1945, she established the
Sophie Tucker Foundation, donating time, energy, and resources to myriad causes, incuding the Jewish
Theatrical Guild (she was a life member), Negro Actors Guild, and Catholic Actors Guild, as well as the Will
Rogers Memorial Hospital, the Motion Picture Relief Fund, synagogues, including the Actors’ Temple, and
hospitals. She supported Israel Bonds and in 1955 endowed a Sophie Tucker chair at Brandeis University. In
1959, Tucker dedicated the Sophie Tucker Youth Center at Beit Shemesh, Israel. In 1961, she sponsored
another youth center at Kibbutz Be’eri in the northern Negev. In 1962, she sponsored the Sophie Tucker
Forest near the Beit Shemesh amphitheater and raised money for another forest. She also donated time and
money to numerous hospitals and homes for the aged.
Al Jolson was a hugely popular American singer and blackface comedian of the
musical stage and movies with a career that began before World War I and lasted until
his death, in 1950. His unique singing style and legendary personal magnetism
established an immediate and lasting bond with audiences everywhere. Jolson, known
in the industry as “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” for well over 40 years, was the
first openly Jewish man to become a star in America. Many believe his outsider status
as a Jew helped shape his blackface portrayal of Southern blacks.
Jolson was born Asa Yoelson on May 26, 1886, in Seredzius, Lithuania (the family name was originally
Hesselson), the youngest of four children. When Asa was four, his father, Moshe, immigrated to
Washington, D.C., to set down roots for the family, becoming the rabbi of the Talmud Torah Synagogue
(now, Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah). Asa’s mother, Naomi, introduced him to the violin, encouraging him to
practice so that he could become successful in America someday. In 1894, his father arranged for the family
to join him in Washington. Nine months later, Naomi died (apparently in childbirth). Seeing his mother in
her death throes traumatized the
8-year-old Asa. He remained withdrawn for several months, until he met showman
Al Reeves, who played the banjo, sang, and introduced him to show business.
Asa and his older brother Hirsch changed their names to Al and Harry, and by age 11, Al was singing in the
streets for change that he used to buy tickets to National Theater shows. After running away from home to
New York City and a brief stint with a circus, Al joined Harry on the vaudeville circuit, where he first began
performing his trademark blackface routine. An immediate success, he came to New York in 1906. Billing
himself as “The Blackface with the Grand Opera Voice,” his trademarks were vocal scales, highly dramatic
facial expressions, and a whistling routine that sounded like a frenetic birdcall. Following his New York
debut and success as a blackface comedian and singer in California, he was signed in 1909 by Lew
Dockstaders’ Minstrels, a sophisticated, Broadway-style revue. In 1911, he returned to New York to star in
La Belle Paree. Recognizing his talent, the Shubert Brothers hired him to appear in the opening show of their
new Winter Garden Theater on Broadway, in April 1912. Jolson soon became “King of the Winter Garden,”
with shows written specifically for him. He was featured in the musicals Honeymoon Express (1913), Bombo
(introducing “My Mammy, ” in 1921), and Big Boy (1925). A hitherto unknown Gershwin song, “Swanee,”
from 1918’s Sinbad would become his trademark number. In the ‘20s and ‘30s, Jolson became one of the most
popular entertainers in America. Frenzied audiences clapped, shouted, and stamped their feet, demanding
more encores and curtain calls. Once, performing before Boston’s usually reserved, conservative audience,
Jolson stopped the show for 45 minutes. A combination of intense personal charisma and the ability to make
each audience member feel that he was singing directly to them catapulted him to stardom.
In 1927, Jolson starred in The Jazz Singer, the first feature film with synchronized speech as well as music and
sound effects. His performance electrified audiences and caused a sensation. Based on Jolson’s own life, it
told the story of a Jewish boy, Jackie Rabinowitz, who runs away from his father, an old-world shtetl cantor,
to pursue a show business career. Jackie returns home to chant the somber Kol Nidre service as his father
lies on his deathbed. The film’s immense popularity derived from its combination of silent film technology
(on-screen subtitles) with never-before-seen vitaphone “talking” sequences. It revolutionized the motion-
picture industry and signaled the demise of the silent-film era. Jolson quickly became the first bonafide
“movie star,” following his success with The Singing Fool (1928), Say It with Songs (1929), Mammy (1930),
Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (1933), Go into Your Dance (1935), and Swanee River (1940).
During World War II, Jolson entertained troops in Africa and Sicily, but his tour was curtailed when he
contracted malaria and pneumonia. With his popularity waning, in 1946, Columbia released The Jolson Story,
with star Larry Parks miming Jolson’s vocals. It became a surprise smash hit, the highest grossing film of the
year. Parks garnered an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor, and the sound track sold several
million copies. Jolson also collaborated on writing many hit songs and was a very popular recording artist.
In 1948, when Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como were all singing heartthrobs, Jolson was voted
“Most Popular Male Vocalist” in a Variety poll. Columbia followed up with the only biography sequel in
film history, Jolson Sings Again (1949), also a box office success. In 1950, Jolson went to Korea to entertain
American troops. While there his health declined, and shortly after his return to America he suffered a
massive heart attack. He died on Oct. 23, 1950, in San Francisco.
Al Jolson was instrumental in introducing African-American musical innovations such as jazz, ragtime, and
the blues to white America. In The Jazz Singer, viewers watched him moving his hips and waist in ways that
they had never seen before. Historian and performer Stephen Hanan wrote in Tikkun that Jolson’s “funky
rhythm and below-the-waist gyrations (not seen again from any white male till the advent of Elvis) were
harbingers of the sexual liberation of the new urban era. Jolson was a rock star before the dawn of rock
music.” He helped pave the way for African-American performers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington,
Fats Waller, and Ethel Waters.
Al Jolson tirelessly entertained American troops in World War II and the Korean War, and he donated time
and money to myriad philanthropic and charitable causes, including the March of Dimes. He has been an
important influence on several generations of performers, including superstars Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee
Lewis, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie.
Eddie Cantor (January 31, 1892–October 10, 1964) was a celebrated American
comedian, singer, actor, and songwriter. Known to Broadway, radio, and early TV
audiences as Banjo Eyes, on his popular radio shows he told homey stories and
comic anecdotes about his wife, Ida, and five children. Cantor was born Israel
Iskowitz in New York City, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, Meta and
Mechel Iskowitz. His mother died when he was two. Abandoned by his father,
he was raised by his grandmother, Esther Kantrowitz. A misunderstanding
when registering at school gave him her last name (later Americanized as
Cantor). He also got a new first name in 1903 when he met Ida Tobias, who
liked the idea of having a beau named Eddie. They married in 1914 and
remained together until her death, in 1962.
In his early teens, Cantor began winning talent contests at local theaters. For an early job as a
singing waiter at Coney Island, a young Jimmy Durante accompanied him on piano. In 1907, Cantor began
working regularly in vaudeville, creating his first blackface character, Jefferson, in 1912. His antics got
showman Florenz Ziegfeld’s attention, and Cantor was soon seen in the impresario’s postshow, Midnight
Frolic (1916). A year later, Cantor debuted on Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1917. The “Apostle of Pep”
began recording comic songs and routines that year, continuing in the hugely popular Follies until 1927,
where he co-starred alongside W. C. Fields, among others. He went on to star in book musicals on
Broadway, including Kid Boots (1923), Whoopee! (1928), and Banjo Eyes (1940).
After the 1929 stock market crash, Cantor replenished his bank account with a bestselling book of humor
and cartoons, Caught Short! A Saga of Wailing Wall Street. He went on to become a leading Hollywood star in
1930 with the film version of Whoopee! In 1931, NBC’s Chase and Sanborn Hour established Cantor as a
leading comedian, and soon he became the world’s highest-paid radio personality. Cantor’s theme song was
“Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider.” In November 1934, he introduced a new holiday song by J. Fred Coots and
Haven Gillespie. Sheet music orders for “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” hit 100,000 the next day. It sold
400,000 copies by December. In the 1940s, Cantor had a popular NBC national radio show, Time to Smile. His
films include Palmy Days (1931), The Kid from Spain (1932), Roman Scandals (1933), Kid Millions (1934), Strike
Me Pink (1936), Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937), Forty Little Mothers (1940), Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), Show
Business (1944; also producer), Hollywood Canteen (1944), and If You Knew Susie (1948).
Cantor’s heavy political involvement began early on, with the Actors Equity strike in 1919. He was a
founder of the March of Dimes and a leading voice in the battle against polio. Cantor also served as first
president of the Screen Actors Guild. Cantor’s career declined in the late 1930s due to his public
denunciations of Adolf Hitler and Fascism. Anxious to distance themselves from controversy, many
sponsors dropped Cantor’s shows. But with America’s entry into World War II, Cantor’s popularity once
again soared. In the 1950s, he was one of the hosts of The Colgate Comedy Hour, introducing variety acts and
playing comic characters like Maxie the Taxi. Bucking pressure from worried sponsors and network
executives, Cantor again courted controversy by championing young Sammy Davis, Jr. and booking him as
a frequent guest. Cantor wrote or co-wrote several more books, including popular one-dollar booklets that
came with a penny embedded in the cover. Writer H. L. Mencken once said that Cantor’s writings did more
to pull America out of the Depression than all government efforts combined.
In 1953, Warner Brothers made The Eddie Cantor Story. Cantor’s own self-produced 1944 feature Show
Business is more faithful to his real life story. His love letter to vaudeville and show business became RKO’s
top-grossing release that year. In one Colgate Comedy Hour show, reissued on DVD as Eddie Cantor in Person,
Cantor recounts his career, sings his most popular songs, and even relives his singing-waiter gig with guest-
star Jimmy Durante. In 1964 in Beverly Hills, Cantor suffered a fatal heart attack. He is buried in Hillside
Memorial Park Cemetery, in Los Angeles. Cantor was awarded an honorary Academy Award that year.
The Three Stooges were a popular American comedy
team famous for chaotic, playfully violent slapstick and a comic
style rooted in burlesque. The six members throughout the
years were Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz; b. March 17,
1895, New York City—d. November 23, 1955, Los Angeles);
Moe Howard (Moses Horwitz; b. June 19, 1897, New York
City—d. May 4, 1975, Los Angeles); Larry Fine (Louis
Feinberg; b. October 5, 1902, Philadelphia—d. January 24,
1975, Woodland Hills, CA); Curly Howard (Jerome
Horwitz; b. October 22, 1903, New York City—d. January
18, 1952, San Gabriel, CA); Joe Besser (b. August 12, 1907,
St. Louis, MO—d. March 1, 1988, North Hollywood,
CA); Joe DeRita (Joseph Wardell; b. July 12, 1909,
Philadelphia—d. July 3, 1993, Woodland Hills, CA).
Moe Howard entered show business first, attempting a stage career during the 1910s
but finding little success until 1922, when he started a comedy act with his older brother, Shemp,
and Ted Healy, a longtime friend. Larry Fine, a comedian-violinist who’d worked in vaudeville, joined the
act in 1925. The quartet performed in vaudeville for the next few years before making a splash on Broadway
in the late 1920s as stars of Earl Carroll’s Vanities. In it, frontman Healy’s attempts at singing or telling jokes
were frequently interrupted by the Stooges crazy antics. Shortly after the team’s film debut in Soup to Nuts
(1930), Shemp quit the act. He was replaced by Jerome, a younger Howard brother, who shaved his head to
fit in with the Stooges’ trademark comic hairstyles (Moe’s bowl cut; Larry’s wild, frizzy mop) and soon
became known as Curly.
Ted Healy and His Stooges appeared in several features and short films during the early 1930s, including
Meet the Baron (1933), Dancing Lady (1933), and Hollywood Party (1934). In 1934, Moe, Larry, and Curly signed
a long-term contract with Columbia Pictures and renamed themselves The Three Stooges. The incorrigible
threesome’s brash comic style was characterized by cartoonishly violent head-slapping, hair-pulling,
punching, and eye-poking, underscored by exaggerated verbal noises. They often attacked one another with
props. Moe was the bully. Curly, highly popular with both audiences and critics, was the gentle child-man.
Often the butt of Moe’s abuse, he expressed his suffering through squeals, grunts, physical comedy, and his
signature cry, “Woo-woo-woo!” Larry, the passive middleman, was the perfect foil for Moe and Curly.
Constantly honing their brilliant comic timing, the trio made 97 shorts between 1934 and 1946.
During the filming of Half-Wits’ Holiday (1947), in 1946, Curly suffered a major stroke and was forced to
retire. Shemp rejoined the act and remained with the Stooges through 78 films until his death from a heart
attack, in 1955. Shemp (billed as “The Ugliest Man in Hollywood”) was an exceptionally astute comic who
excelled at ad-libbing and physical humor. However, studio budgets were cut in those years, and many of
the films he appears in suffer from low production values. Joe Besser, a heavy-set character comic with an
effete persona joined the act after Shemp’s death. He appeared with the Stooges through the filming of their
final Columbia short, in 1958, and then left to care for his ill wife.
Moe and Larry were planning to retire after Besser’s departure, but, within a year, TV reruns of their films
catapulted the Stooges to popularity once again. Burlesque comic Joe DeRita (nicknamed “Curly Joe”) joined
the act, which appeared in several successful feature-length films from 1959 to 1965, including The Three
Stooges Meet Hercules (1962) and Around the World in a Daze (1963). During the shooting of their final film, the
low-budget Kook’s Tour, in 1970, Larry suffered a stroke. Footage from the never-completed movie was
released years later on video. Larry spent his final years promoting his autobiography, Stroke of Luck (1973).
Moe appeared at colleges and on talk shows during the early ‘70s, also penning a life story, Moe Howard and
the Three Stooges (published posthumously in 1977). Today, the Three Stooges are still extremely popular due
to TV syndication and the merchandising of their familiar images on various commercial products. Their
slapstick comic style has influenced several generations of comedians.
Sanford “Sandy” Koufax was a professional
American baseball player who, despite early retirement
due to arthritis, ranks among the sport’s greatest pitchers.
A left-hander, he pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the
National League from 1955 to 1957, continuing, after they
became the Los Angeles Dodgers, from 1958 to 1966,
winning 165 games and losing 87.
He was born in Borough Park, Brooklyn, to Evelyn and
Jack Braun, on Dec. 30, 1935. His parents divorced when
he was young and his mother married Irving Koufax, a
lawyer. Shortly after, the family moved to Rockville
Centre, on Long Island. After Sandy completed ninth
grade, the family moved back to the Bensonhurst section
of Brooklyn. Koufax took Sandy and his stepsister, Edith,
to see Yiddish theater in New York City and was supportive of his participation in sports at Brooklyn’s
Lafayette High School. Sandy often played basketball at the local Jewish Community Center. When he was
15, he pitched for a team in the Baseball Ice Cream League, where he first came to the attention of
professional baseball scouts. After graduating from high school, in 1952, he attended the University of
Cincinnati on a sports scholarship. In spring 1954, he landed a spot on the college baseball varsity team,
where he went 3–1 with 51 strikeouts and 30 walks, in 31 innings. That same year, he signed with the
Brooklyn Dodgers. The 1961 season brought him 18 wins; he struck out 269 batters, setting a National
League record. The next year, he developed a blood clot in his arm that almost necessitated amputating a
finger, but he pulled though, going on to win two games against the Yankees in the 1963 World Series.
From 1962 through 1965, Koufax had the lowest earned run average in the National League. He was named
the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1963 and won the 1963, 1965, and 1966 Cy Young Awards by
unanimous votes. In his final season, 1966, he won 27 games and posted a 1.73 earned run average; both
figures were career bests. On Sept. 9, 1965, he pitched his fourth no-hit game, then (and until 1981) a Major-
League record. In this perfect game against Chicago, not a single player reached first base.
Known as the “man with the golden arm,” during his career Koufax struck out 2,396 batters in 2,324 innings;
achieving a rare average of more than one strikeout an inning. A notoriously challenging pitcher for batters
to confront, he was the first Major Leaguer to average fewer than seven hits allowed per nine innings
pitched in his career. He also became the second pitcher in baseball history to pitch 2 games with 18 or more
strikeouts and the first to have 8 games with 15 or more strikeouts. Among National League pitchers with at
least 2,000 innings pitched who have debuted since 1913, he has the highest career winning percentage and
had the lowest career ERA until Tom Seaver eclipsed that record in 1974. His 2,396 career strikeouts ranked
seventh in Major League history and trailed only Warren Spahn’s total of 2,583 among left-handers.
Retiring in 1966, at the peak of his career, five years later he became, at age 36, the youngest player ever
elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1967, he signed a ten-year contract with NBC for $1 million to be a
broadcaster on the Saturday Game of the Week. Never comfortable in front of the camera, he resigned after six
years. From 1979 until 1990 he was a minor league pitching coach for the Dodgers. In 1999, he was named
one of 30 players on the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Although he rarely makes public
appearances, he went to Turner Field in Atlanta for the introduction ceremony before Game 2 of the World
Series. Forty-one years after he retired, Koufax, was the final player chosen in the inaugural Israel Baseball
League draft, in April 2007. Koufax, 71, was picked by the Modi’in Miracle. “His selection is a tribute to the
esteem with which he is held by everyone associated with this league,” said Miracle manager Art Shamsky.
Koufax is notable as one of the few outstanding Jewish athletes of his era in American professional sports.
His decision not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of
the Jewish calendar, drew national attention as an assertion of personal religious beliefs.
Smith & Dale, one of American vaudeville’s most
famous and successful comedy teams, was made up of
Joseph Sultzer (Smith, left) and Charles Marks (Dale, right). The
beloved duo performed together for 70 years.
Marks was born September 6, 1881, in Teaneck, New Jersey, and
Sultzer was born February 16, 1884, in New York City. Both grew
up in Jewish ghetto neighborhoods. The two met as teens in 1898
in a feud over a bicycle crash, but when they discovered a
common interest in performing, they became friends and during
the early days of the vaudeville era, formed a partnership.
Realizing they needed business cards to promote themselves,
they called themselves Smith & Dale, the name of a defunct
comedy-dance team, because a local printer was selling cards
with the moniker at a discount.
By 1902, they had teamed up with singing comedians Irving
Kaufman and Harry Godwin, calling their act the Avon
Comedy Four. The quartet became one of the most
successful comedy acts in vaudeville. For the next decade
and a half they appeared regularly on Broadway, including 1916’s Why
Worry? By 1919, the act’s popularity waned, but the celebrated Smith & Dale continued
to appear on Broadway and tour the country on the vaudeville circuit, including New York’s
prestigious Palace Theatre. During the 1920s, they became audience favorites from coast to coast with their
signature sketch ”Doctor Kronkheit and His Only Living Patient,” which like Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s
On First?” lives on in show business history as one of the most famous comedy routines of the last century.
The hilarious sketch involved a nurse, a doctor (Dale), and a patient (Smith) with a sore. Other famous
sketches were “School Days” and “The Tax Examiner,” in which a simple relationship (doctor/patient or
teacher/student) served as the basis for an ever-escalating barrage of jokes, ranging from the ridiculous to
As vaudeville began to be eclipsed by the advent of network radio and sound pictures, Smith & Dale lost
steam as headlining stars. The duo made several short comic films in the late 1920s, including At the Gate,
Dear Teacher, Knights in Venice, and False Alarm Fire Co. (1929). Their comic style, characterized by complex
verbal interplay and impeccable timing, can be seen in the feature film The Heart of New York (1932), where
they play feuding professional matchmakers. Other film appearances from that decade include Oh, What a
Business! (1934) and Fun in a Firehouse (1936). Although both appeared individually on Broadway and in
films and later in television, they continued working regularly as a team on Broadway, including 1942’s
Laugh, Town, Laugh! and Off-Broadway, on radio, in nightclubs, and on television variety shows, including
The Steve Allen Show, Toast of the Town, and The Ed Sullivan Show, until Marks’ death, on January 16, 1971.
Sultzer continued to perform, making guest appearances on TV sitcoms and many recordings for Dial-a-
Joke, until his death on February 22, 1981, at age 97. Interred at Kensico Cemetery, in Valhalla, New York,
his tombstone reads “BOOKED SOLID.”
Neil Simon’s play and 1975 film The Sunshine Boys is loosely based on Smith & Dale. Gordon Lish’s 1989
novel, Extravaganza: A Joke Book, was inspired by their act. Like The Three Stooges, their influence on
subsequent generations of comedians continues to this day.
Shelley Winters was a serious American film, stage, and television actress
whose career spanned more than half a century. She appeared in well over 100
films, playing a variety of earthy, colorful, memorable characters. She won two
Best Supporting Actress Academy Awards, for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
and A Patch of Blue (1965), and received nominations for Best Actress for A Place
in the Sun (1951) and Best Supporting Actress for The Poseidon Adventure (1972).
Winters was born Shirley Schrift on August 18, 1920 (some sources list 1922) in
East St. Louis, Illinois, to Jewish parents Jonas Schrift, a men’s clothing
designer, and Rose (Winters), a singer. Her father moved the family to Brooklyn when
she was young so that he could work in New York’s thriving garment industry. Shirley developed an
interest in acting early, appearing in high school plays. In her mid-to-late teens she began earning money as
a Woolworth’s clerk, a model, a borscht belt vaudevillian and a nightclub chorus girl. During a nationwide
search for an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939), auditioning director George Cukor
recommended that she take acting lessons, which she did. After apprenticing in summer stock, she made
her Broadway debut in The Night Before Christmas, in 1941, followed by the operetta Rosalinda (1942).
Like many young actresses of the era, Winters went to Hollywood hoping for stardom. She studied at the
Hollywood Studio Club, sharing a bedroom with another young hopeful Marilyn Monroe. According to
Hollywood lore, it was Winters who taught Monroe how to “act pretty,” by tilting her head back, lowering
her eyes, and ever-so-slightly opening her mouth. Playing bit or unbilled roles for years, many of her scenes
ended up on the cutting-room floor. Determined to be seen as a serious actress, in the 1940s, Winters studied
Shakespeare with Charles Laughton. Her first movie was There's Something About a Soldier (1943). After
appearing in What a Woman! (1943), The Racket Man (1944), Cover Girl (1944), and Tonight and Every Night
(1945), her breakthrough occurred in 1947 on both the stage and screen. She won the replacement role of
Ado Annie in Oklahoma! on Broadway and landed the part of a murder victim in the critically-hailed A
Double Life, directed by Cukor. Winters quickly achieved film stardom in supporting-actress roles, playing
off-color characters who often met an abrupt end in such films as Cry of the City (1948) and The Great Gatsby
(1949) and sultry seductresses in films like South Sea Sinner (1950), Meet Danny Wilson (1952), and The Night
of the Hunter (1955). In 1956, Winters returned to New York, where she joined the Actors Studio and starred
in A Hatful of Rain on Broadway. For the rest of her life, she divided her time between stage, film, and TV.
In 1960, Winters was one of the sponsors, along with Eleanor Roosevelt and Diahann Carroll, of a
controversial New York Times ad for the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King Jr. and the Struggle for
Freedom in the South. Gloria Steinem once said that Winters helped pave the way for the women’s
movement, by portraying victims who fought back. In 1962, Winters appeared in Tennessee Williams’ The
Night of the Iguana on Broadway, as the earthy Maxine Faulk. Making the transition from glamorous roles to
more matronly character parts, she appeared to great critical acclaim in such films as Lolita (1962), Harper
(1966), Alfie (1966), and Bloody Mama (1970). In 1964, she won an Emmy Award for an appearance in a Bob
Hope special. As she grew older and heavier, Winters made a specialty of playing boisterous, unsubtle
characters in films such as Enter Laughing (1967), Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976) and, most notably, The
Poseidon Adventure (1972). Winters also wrote a series of one-act plays that was produced off-Broadway in
1970, One Night Stands of a Noisy Passenger. In later years, the Actors Studio enthusiast became one of its
most respected coaches, helping to guide and shape many of today’s serious actors. In addition to appearing
in numerous TV films and series, including several episodes in the 1990s as the outspoken grandmother on
Roseanne, Winters was a popular guest on talk shows, where she regaled audiences with tales of her life and
loves in show business. Married four times, Winters gave birth to one daughter. Winters published two
autobiographies, Shelley: Also Known as Shirley (1980) and Shelley II: The Middle of My Century (1989), in which
she revealed anecdotes about affairs with many famous leading men, including William Holden, Burt
Lancaster, and Marlon Brando. Winters suffered a heart attack on October 14, 2005, and died on January 14,
2006, at the Rehabilitation Centre of Beverly Hills at the age of 85.
Jack Benny was among the most beloved American entertainers of the 20th century.
His unique comic style and expert timing made him a legendary success, first on radio
and then in television for more than 40 years. He brought a humorously vain and
famously stingy persona, expertly honed in vaudeville, radio, and film to television,
starring in his own series from 1950 until 1965.
Born Benjamin Kubelsky, on Feb. 14, 1894, in Chicago to Jewish immigrant parents
from Poland, he was raised in Waukegan, a small northern suburb, where his father
operated a saloon and later a dry-goods store. As a boy, he helped out in the store and
began playing the violin. By age 14, he was working with local dance bands and playing in his high
school orchestra. When offered the opportunity to play in a theatre professionally, Benny quit school and
started working in vaudeville, where he played popular songs and developed a comic style based on wry,
self-deprecating jokes and quips. Another young vaudeville act, the Marx Brothers, was also booked in the
same theatre. Their mother, Minnie, was so impressed with the 17-year-old Benny that she asked him to go
on the road with them; a plan the elder Kubelskys quickly nixed.
Benny continuing working as an orchestra-pit violinist from 1909 to 1914, when he was drafted into the
Navy in World War I. Luckily assigned to entertainment duties, he continued to hone his talents. In 1918,
Benny returned to vaudeville, touring as Ben K. Benny, a comic and a dancer. He began appearing in small
parts in Broadway musicals during the 1920s. His first film appearance was in Bright Moments (short) in
1928; he played an emcee in The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and appeared on Broadway in the successful Earl
Carroll Vanities in 1930. Between that year and 1949, he appeared in 22 movies, including It’s in the Air and
Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), College Holiday (1936), Artists & Models (1937), Man About Town (1939), George
Washington Slept Here ; To Be or Not to Be (1942), and The Meanest Man in the World (1943). He starred in Love
Thy Neighbor; Buck Benny Rides Again (1940), and Charley’s Aunt (1941) and produced The Lucky Stiff (1949).
The major turning point in his performing career, however, came when columnist/broadcaster Ed Sullivan
booked Benny on his radio show on March 19, 1932. Audiences immediately responded to Benny’s comic
persona. In a comedy era characterized by broad jokes and rapid delivery, his subtle, languid style was new
and disarming. Benny landed his own twice-weekly show later that year, quickly gaining a big following.
The all-star supporting cast included Benny’s wife, Mary Livingstone (her real name was Sadie Marks),
playing what Benny called in his memoirs “a kind of heckler-secretary” and Eddie Anderson as Rochester,
his chauffeur and valet. Mel Blanc, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Frank Nelson, and announcer Don Wilson
regularly ribbed at and insulted the star. Expertly polished scripts underscored Benny’s self-deprecating
characterization as a stingy, vain man and would-be violinist, anxious about his receding hairline and
insistent that he was no older than 39. Beneath that unmistakable comic facade, viewers identified with an
American Everyman. Audiences loved him so much that he was able to get laughs with just a pregnant
pause, a roll of his expressive eyes, or a single word, such as his signature exasperated “Well!” with one
languid hand on his cheek, the other holding that arm at the elbow. Before the civil rights era, the program
broke new ground as the only show that portrayed black and white Americans living and working together.
“The Jack Benny Program” remained on network radio for 23 years. Its immense popularity led to a
successful transition to TV, where it aired from 1950 to 1965, winning Emmys in 1958 and 1959. Benny also
made frequent guest appearances on other talk shows, sit-coms, and specials of that era, including The Jackie
Gleason Show, Shower of Stars, The George Burns Show (Benny and Burns were close friends, but had a long-
standing comic feud), Make Room for Daddy, Toast of the Town, and The Andy Williams Show. In the final years
of his life, he appeared in films, including It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), A Guide for the Married
Man (1967), and The Man (1972); guest-starred on various sit-coms and talk shows, including The Tonight
Show, The Flip Wilson Show, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in, Here’s Lucy, The Bob Hope Show, Dinah’s Place, The
Jackie Gleason Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and various celebrity roasts; and also starred in
specials, including An Evening with Jack Benny and Jack Benny’s Birthday Special (1969). Jack Benny died on
December 27, 1974, and is buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California. He had continued
working up until his death, guest-starring on several shows and appearing in the TV film Annie and the
Hoods that year. He was posthumously inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1989.
This brochure includes a short history of the Actors’ Temple written by the late Rabbi Josh Simon and other material
from theactorstemple.org, compiled and edited by Nancy Shore Creative Editorial Services. firstname.lastname@example.org