By Cady Schulman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Jewish composer Irving Berlin rose from his place in a Russian family who immigrated to the United States in 1893 and started life over with nothing in New York City to become one of America’s greatest songwriters.
For almost 20 years, entertainer Hershey Felder has told the stories of various American icons, including Berlin. Felder has traveled across the country to tell Berlin’s story, which he calls incredible.
“You get 100 years of some of the most amazing music and American history rolled into a very fun, I would say really remarkable, story,” Felder said. “It’s one of the great stories of all times and a great immigrant story.”
Felder initially took on the project of portraying Berlin’s character after a request by his family.
“The more I dug into his story, the more I realized it’s one of the great American immigrant stories,” Felder said.
Berlin’s songs, including “God Bless America,” “Easter Parade” and “White Christmas” — which Felder said is the highest-grossing song in the history of published and recorded music — have back stories, and he delves into them during his show.
“It’s not in a lecture,” Felder said. “It’s actually a character. It’s the man who composed them telling you. It is Irving Berlin. I am known for creating these characters.”
Felder, who has a background as a concert pianist and actor, began creating his one-man shows in 1997 when he took on the character of another Jewish composer, George Gershwin. Since he began portraying Berlin, he has performed his well-reviewed show for more than 200,000 people.
“They like it,” Felder said. “I’ll just say that. It’s a really good show because it tells a really good story.”
Stephanie Williams, a Federation spokeswoman, said the organization is excited to partner with Judy Zaban Miller and Lester Miller to bring Felder to Atlanta.
“We felt it was a great opportunity to bring our community together and share some American Jewish history,” Williams said. “It’s an amazing story. Irving Berlin was one of the greatest musical contributors of all time. It’s a great performance and story of someone who started with nothing.”
Bringing shows like Felder’s to Atlanta is one way for Federation to strengthen Jewish community connections.
“Because Atlanta is so demographically dispersed, any opportunity we have to bring the community together inside the Perimeter or outside the Perimeter is a great opportunity,” Williams said. “This brings people even outside of the Jewish community to understand more about our background.”