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Yiddish Walk of Fame.

Yiddish Walk of Fame

Field review by the editors.

New York, New York

The southeast corner of Manhattan's 2nd Avenue and 10th Street is currently home to a bank. Nothing unusual in itself. But if you look down at the sidewalk you will find five-pointed gold stars set into granite, with blocky lettering celebrating generally unfamiliar people such as Abraham Goldfaden and Bessie Thomashefsky. They aren't exactly household names.

This is the Yiddish Walk of Fame, a holdover from the days when the Second Avenue Deli slung matzo balls and passed the pastrami at this address.

Yiddish Walk of Fame.

Second Avenue was Jewish Broadway from the 1890s through the 1930s. Restaurateur Abe Lebewohl (who opened the deli in 1954) decided to honor luminaries of that era with a Hollywood Boulevard-style treatment. In 1985 he used his own money to place granite slabs in the sidewalk in front of his restaurant commemorating these dramatic (and sometimes melodramatic) figures. Surely lovers of Yiddish theater were all verklempt!

The most widely recognized name belongs to Paul Muni (born Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund) who eventually moved to Hollywood, starred in I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, and played both Louis Pasteur and Emile Zola in classic biopics. Memories of other Yiddish superstars such as Zvi Schooler (who portrayed the long-bearded father in Woody Allen's Love and Death) fade as the years pass -- and the markers themselves are constantly worn down by pedestrian pummeling.

Lebewohl was murdered in 1996 and his brother Jack kept the deli going until 2006, when a dispute with the landlord shut it down (Two branch locations survive uptown). The honorary sidewalk was deemed impossible to move. It remains intact but orphaned, with no caretaker to maintain it. Oy, how sad! For now, you can still drop by and pay tribute to Lilly Lilyanna and Fyvush Finkel, whether or not you know who they are.


Yiddish Walk of Fame

156 2nd Ave., New York, NY
On the southeast corner of 2nd Ave. and 10th St. By subway, take the 6 to Astor Place. Walk east on the south side of St. Marks Place/8th St. Cross 2nd Ave., then turn left and walk north to the corner of 10th St.
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