Select Bernstein Surname Genealogy

Here are some Bernstein stories and accounts over the years:

Stein and Company

Bernstein ranks #3 among the Jewish Stein names in America.  The table below shows the eight most common Stein names in America, listed according to their frequency.

A Notable
Joseph Stein, writer of Fiddler on the Roof
gold + stone
Vida Goldstein, Australian suffragette
amber + stone
Leonard Bernstein, American composer
boar + stone
Jacob Epstein, British sculptor
silver + stone
Abe Silverstein, American pioneer in the space program
carbuncle + stone
Norman Finkelstein, American Holocaust expert
fine + stone
Moshe Feinstein, American Orthodox rabbi
ruby + stone
Arthur Rubinstein, famous pianist

Other famous -steins are Einstein, Eisenstein, and Hammerstein.  Stein also appears as a prefix in surnames, such as Steiner, Steinitz, Steinbeck, and Steinway.  

Bernsteins in America

Bernsteins emigrated to America from a number of countries.


Alexander and Sidney Bernstein

Alexander Bernstein was a Jewish immigrant from Latvia who had come to the East End of London in the 1890’s and prospered.  He had been what would nowadays be known as a property developer; and, in an effort to make the various housing estates he built seem attractive, he usually acquired either a music hall or a picture palace in the vicinity.   In 1906 he built his first music hall, the Edmonton Empire.  By 1914 he had created a budding entertainments group, including a number of early cinemas (the known as 'flickers') and a film-renting business. 

When his elder sons Sidney and Cecil inherited the business in 1922, they found themselves the owners of two music halls which also ran as cinemas.  They decided to sell the building business and - with the help of two younger brothers - to create a cinema chain across the south of England.  Cinemas made the Bernsteins wealthy and gave Sidney a lifelong interest in show business. 

It remains an open question whether - but for the coming of commercial television – Sidney Bernstein would not have drifted into being simply a rich man.  But the opening up of ITV offered him a fresh world to conquer.  In his mid-fifties he was at the height of his powers and the new medium afforded him just the kind of challenge for which all his earlier life now seemed to be a mere apprenticeship. 

At long last, he could put the 'roll-up, roll-up' audience philosophy of Barnum into creative action, while at the same time demonstrating that ITV could more than match the BBC in quality standards.  Sidney Bernstein created Granada Television and the studio which had its first success with the still-running Coronation Street.

Leonard Bernstein's Rise to Fame

He was born Louis Bernstein in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the son of Ukrainian Jewish parents.  His grandmother insisted that his first name be Louis, but his parents always called him Leonard.

Despite his surname he was not related to film composer Elmer Bernstein, although the two men were friends.  Within the world of professional music, they were distinguished from each other by the use of the nicknames Bernstein West (Elmer) and Bernstein East (Leonard). 

His father Sam initially opposed young Leonard's interest in music.
A shy and sickly child, he had fallen in love with music after a relative gave his family an old, weathered upright piano.  Later the elder Bernstein took him to orchestra concerts in his teenage years and eventually supported his music education. 

Leonard got his big break in 1940 when he met
Serge Koussevitsky, who was to be his chief mentor during his early years, at the Berkshire music festival.  On Koussevitsky's recommendation two years later, Artur Rodzinski made Bernstein his assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic. 

The suddenness of this appointment was replaced only by the dramatic events of November 14, 1943.  With less than 24 hours' notice and no rehearsal, Bernstein substituted for the sick Bruno Walter at Carnegie Hall and led the Philharmonic through a difficult program that he had barely studied.  By the concert's end the audience knew it had witnessed the debut of a born conductor.  The New York Times ran a front-page story the following morning and Bernstein's career as a public figure had begun.

Bezbrozh to Bernstein

Shulem Bezbrozh, born in Ukraine in 1885, was the fourth child of Meyer and Chana Bezbrozh.  He married Sukra Hegelinski there before coming to America. 

Shulem was the first Bezbrozh to come to the United States, arriving somewhere between
1913 and 1915, and he sponsored many of the other Bezbrozh relatives who came to the U.S. in the 1920’s.  After Shulem came to the U.S., he changed his name to Sam Bernstein, but many people continued to refer to him as "Uncle Shulem."  Surka changed her name to Sarah. 

Shulam and Surka had two children: Yankel Bezbrozh who became Jack Bernstein and Anna Bezbrozh who became Anita Bernstein.

Herman Bernstein in Albania

Herman Bernstein had met Herbert Hoover at the Paris Peace Conference and had supported his bid for the presidency in 1928.  In return Hoover appointed Bernstein as the United States minister to Albania in 1930, a position he held until 1933. 

He was on good terms at that time with Albania’s King Zog.  Indeed Bernstein was the source of the only autobiographical material of Zog, “the life story of the Albanian ruler told by himself in the third person,” as written down by Bernstein. 

Ambassador Bernstein, being Jewish, took a keen interest in exploring Jewish history in Albania.  He did in fact find evidence of a large Jewish community there in the 15th and 16th centuries.  He thought it likely in 1935 that Albania might again offer asylum to the new Jewish wanderers who found doors closed elsewhere. Albanians were in fact proud of their record during World War Two when not a single Jew was handed over to the Nazis.

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