The many celebrations of the past year much was shared about the life and legacy of one of the leading composers and Jewish figures of the 20th century. At that time, we invited you to share your own memories of Leonard Bernstein.
In all, we received over 1,000 submissions. We expected to get some interesting stories, but we could not have anticipated the number of touching, personal experiences that so many of you submitted, shedding light on his life, his career, his personality, and his connection to Israel and to Judaism.
Seeing these stories all together paints a portrait of Leonard Bernstein in the context of American, Jewish and world history of the 20th century. It also illustrates the profound personal influence that his work had on so many lives.
The following is a small sampling of the beautiful memories that you shared. Join us on Facebook and Instagram to read all 101 Memories of Leonard Bernstein.
Browse by topic:
|Being Jewish||West Side Story|
|Young People's Concerts||Personal|
The fact that Leonard Bernstein was proudly Jewish doesn't come as a surprise today, but in the time when his star was rising, that wasn't an easy assumption to make. Many aspiring entertainers changed their names to more American-sounding variations in order to escape discrimination and glass ceilings. Bernstein never shied from his heritage and even infused several of his most notable works with Jewish motifs and references.
— Daniella Lednicer
— Hazzan David F. Tilman
— Bobbi Jacobsen
Leonard Bernstein in Bersheeba, 1948.
Whether performing his own music or conducting that of others, Bernstein’s participation in historic events created a legacy that spans borders, race and religion.
— Sylvia Kay
— Geoffrey Wieting
— Deborah Elizabeth Lotus
Leonard Bernstein with his wife Felicia in Jerusalem, 1948.
Bernstein's pride in the State of Israel was visible, if not palpable, manifesting in numerous visits and concerts that inspired similar pride in Jews around the world.
— Amnon Orent
— Phyllis G. Weinstein
Harpist Heidi Lehwalder and Leonard Bernstein, Young People's Concert 1963. (Source)
Most popular in your hearts and minds were the series of Young People's Concerts that so many people attended in person, watched on television, or listened to on the radio around the world. The concerts inspired everything from a love of music, to careers in music and education, to a way of simply looking at the world through an inquisitive lens.
— Leslie A. White
— Stuart Leeman
West Side Story original Broadway cast singing "I Feel Pretty", 1957. (Source)
Not surprisingly, West Side Story was the most-mentioned composition that touched people at various points in their lives.
— Richard Keena
— Lidia T Pines
Composer David Amram with Leonard Bernstein
Bernstein's passion for music was infectious, inspiring generations of musicians, composers and teachers. He championed new composers and gave much credit to his mentors and his peers.
— Ofer Ben-Amots
— Judy Heller
— Mike Galos
— Paula Rosenstock
Over the course of 50 years, Bernstein studied, taught, composed and conducted at Tanglewood. Each summer, those fortunate enough to be near the Massachusetts estate could see Bernstein working and honing his craft, as well as teaching and emboldening the next generation of musicians and composers—all while delighting audiences.
— Anthony Torelli
— Ruth Hurwicz Markovitz
Crossing all other categories above were the personal stories of how the life and work of Leonard Bernstein impacted our lives and even our relationships to our families.
— Jeffrey Hazan
— Barbara Weiser, MD
— Peggy Walt
— Linda Arking
Thank you to all who shared your love and memories of Leonard Bernstein with us. And thank you to all who share our love of Jewish music and culture as it continues to be a positive force in the world—simultaneously celebrating personal identity and rejoicing in the universality of the human condition.
Happy 101st birthday, Mr. Leonard Bernstein.