Thursday, April 23, 2009

Growing Up Jewish in Postwar Kew Gardens

Robert H. Lieberman, right, with his older brother, George, and a neighbor, Mildred Berry, around 1944.

Mr. Lieberman is a lecturer in physics at Cornell, where he has also done work in mathematics, engineering and neurophysiology.

The television host (and former Cincinnati mayor) Jerry Springer and his sister, Evie Springer Strauch, were interviewed for the film.

A reunion of graduates of Public School 99 in Kew Gardens.

Growing up in Kew Gardens, Queens, in the 1940s and ’50s, the children of Jewish refugees from Central Europe did not always feel distinctive. Attending summer camps and public schools, and going on in many cases to remarkably successful careers, they quickly assimilated into the postwar American ideal. Yet they shared, in many instances, a certain sense of unease, or even guilt — a legacy of their identity as children of Holocaust survivors.

Such are the themes of “Last Stop Kew Gardens,” a 54-minute semiautobiographical documentary by Robert H. Lieberman, a senior lecturer in physics at Cornell University who has branched into novels and films. The film is being broadcast on WLIW-TV (Channel 21) at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

The film is intensely personal, but it also offers a fascinating glimpse of a cohort of Jewish Americans whose ranks include the television host (and former Cincinnati mayor) Jerry Springer; the pop music critic Rona Elliot; Joshua Brand, the writer and producer, and a creator of the television hits “St. Elsewhere” and “Northern Exposure”; the architectural historian Barry Lewis; and, to be sure, countless lawyers and doctors.

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