The Shmooze

Jon Favreau and E.L. Doctorow At Bronx Science Gala

By Masha Leon

  • Print
  • Share Share

What do eight Nobel Prize winners, five Pulitzer Prize winners, Academy Award and Emmy winners and my husband, Joseph Leon (‘46) — at one time director of the Electron Microscope Laboratory at Columbia University — have in common?

All were graduates of The Bronx High School of Science, which on April 20 held its 75th Anniversary Gala at the Waldorf-Astoria. Among the 600 festive minglers noshing on pre-dinner pastrami, pickles, coleslaw and lo-mein, were mayoral wannabe John Liu (’85), singer-actor Dominic Chianese (’48) and journalist-author Jeff Greenfield (’60) who said Bronx Science was “where you felt welcome even if you didn’t like science” and joked that former English teacher (Isabel Gordon) “was so ferocious I think she trained the people who got Bin Laden.”

Karen Leon
E.L. Doctorow

E.L. Doctorow (’48) admitted to circumventing math and science “by taking a course in journalism.” Assigned to do an interview, he delivered what he modestly admitted his teacher described as “the best interview she had ever read.” His subject was the stage doorman at Carnegie Hall. “A German Jewish refugee, — a camp survivor — a sweet man who wore a blue serge jacket, came to work with a brown paper bag lunch and thermos of tea which he drank Old World style, putting a cube of sugar between his teeth.”

The audience was entranced. “He knew the music repertoire. Vladimir Horowitz, Artur Rubinstein, Jascha Heifetz all knew him…called him by his first name—Karl the Stage Door man.” When his teacher suggested sending a school photographer, Doctorow told her it was not possible, “Karl is very shy.” The teacher said, “How shy can he be, he talked to you.” Doctorow fessed up: “There is no Karl. I made him up.” The room exploded with laughter. “I accepted her judgment which was an F and went about my business, ” said the author of such bestsellers as “Ragtime,” “ The March,” “Billy Bathgate.”

“Let’s face it. I don’t belong here,” said director-writer-actor Jon Favreau. “I wasn’t the best student. To understand Bronx Science you should watch [1999 teen TV show] ‘Freaks and Geeks.’ I started out as a geek went on to freak…. I was a Jewish kid from Queens who wanted to go to the School of Performing Arts but—my father told me I couldn’t. I passed the test. I was a B-B+ student…graduated from Queens College and ended up in Hollywood. [But] I can hold my own with people from all walks of life.”

Director of “Cowboy and Aliens,” the “Iron Man” franchise and actor in “Wolf of Wall Street” and “People Like Us,” Favreau recalled applying for a job as an usher at Flushing’s RKO Keith Theatre. “I was told there were no openings. I mentioned I go to Bronx Science. The guy said, ‘Stop. Wait. I’ll get you an application. It also impressed my wife’s family.”

“My parents were Holocaust survivors,” said world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind (’65) responsible for the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the Denver Art Museum, and the Military History Museum in Dresden. “We disembarked in New York without language, without jobs, settled in the Bronx in a housing cooperative. My mother worked in a sweatshop in the garment industry. My sister didn’t speak a word of English, only Yiddish — but got into Bronx Science. She found a teacher who told her ‘You seem smart. I will teach you in Yiddish for a while and then you can catch up.’ She is the only person who got into Bronx Science by studying in Yiddish and not taking the test. An immigrant’s dream.”

“Now I’m top of the Appropriations Committee,” said 13th term Congresswoman Nita Lowey (’55). “I look back on my career in government and it is because of Bronx Science.” Seated at the piano, composer Steve Karmen (’54) informed, “I hit the road with fellow Bronx alum Bobby Darin (’53).” Creator of such classic jingles as “Nationwide is on Your Side,” and the official New York State song “I Love New York” he called out to the audience: “Is there anyone here who graduated from Bronx Science and did not go to college?” Total silence. He smiled, “I did, I dropped out after the first month.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: steve karmen, nita lowey, jon favreau, gala, jewish, daniel liebskind, e.l. doctorow, bronx science

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.