Oral histories are intimate conversations between and among people who have generously agreed to share these recordings with BHS’s archives and researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. BHS abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.
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[Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer’s First name Last name], [Month DD, YYYY], [Title of Collection], [Call #]; Brooklyn Historical Society.
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Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan
February 27, 2012
Call number: 2008.031.3.012
0:23 - Father's background: Judaism, survival during pogroms, accounting, didn't assimilate in U.S.; parents' courtship; mother's sociable family; socializing his big brother; Norbert's biographical details: Brooklyn, home in Crown Hts. near Botanic Gardens: visits to Japanese Garden, play on Carroll St., PS 241
15:44 - Friends nearby; street sports; school friends; insular youth, lacking diversity; Conservative Judaism in Crown Hts.; games & baseball cards; forming, running a club
32:15 - Father's income, accounting clientele; family trait of insubordination; family dining; Catskills at Passover; art school at Brooklyn Museum; piano lessons, recitals
48:26 - Music in family; parents' opera nights; Brooklyn Jewish Center's cantors; his experiences in home's closet and radio shows; layout of family's apartment; father's commute & newspapers; extended family
61:09 - Bungalows for vacations: b.b. gun and car fire incidents, spring water and iceboxes, news of atomic bomb drop; WWII life in Brooklyn: concern for European Jews, newspaper covering the Japanese, Pearl Harbor news, reaction
76:35 - Air raid preparation: gasmasks, blackouts, shelter; supplies for war effort; viewing war as Jewish child; patriotism; rallies led by Paul Muni & E. Roosevelt; President at Ebbets Field; Holocaust: FDR's failure to address, film footage, animus toward Germans
93:39 - Erasmus H.S. challenges, classes: Physics, German, Hebrew; growing up without personal choice; bar mitzvah preparation; rituals between parents and child; minimizing Jewish religious practice en masse to assimilate
108:48 - Society's exclusion of Jews and assimilation as means of coping; repercussions of Holocaust, other acts of genocide; memory for 1941 baseball: Dodgers & league-wide; baseball misfits during war; Robinson & Dodgers excitement from '47: hearing games, catching balls outside park; hero worship of Robinson; Dodger dating neighbor, boys as voyeurs
123:57 - Friends' sports and games talk matured into topic of girls and dates; college pulled friendships apart; friends reunions; keeping kosher; Jewishness for him and broadly; concern for antisemitism; his children's Jewish education & community; Lubavitch Hasidim ritual on Rosh Hashanah in Crown Hts.
139:39 - Carrying on father's Orthodox Judaism; antisemitism, Jewish pride, and fear in early 20th century; a youth gang fight on Yom Kippur; bubble of family & religion; antisemitism in college
154:44 - Jewish fraternities and hierarchy of nationalities; Harvard Law learning; visiting father's Poland hometown; parents' details; Lower East Side to Crown Hts.
168:01 - Racism, blockbusters, & Jewish White flight to 5 Towns & L.I.; rich relative drew parents to 5th Ave. home; visits to grandfather on Ocean Ave.; Coney Island trips: hot dogs & amusements; college dating; fun as Brooklyn youth; learning respect from father's example; mother's & aunt's war work
Oral History Interview with Norbert Weissberg
Norbert Weissberg was born in Brooklyn in 1934. His father, Bernard Weissberg, immigrated to New York from Lezajsk, Poland; his mother, Anna Spitzer Weissberg, was also of Polish-Jewish heritage but she was born in the United States and grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Weissberg grew up with one brother in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn at 881 Washington Avenue. His education took him from PS 241 to Erasmus Hall High School and then, in 1951, he went to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He then attended Harvard Law School. Married to Judith Schneider Weissberg, the couple resided in Manhattan and, as of 2017, East Hampton, New York. He is currently Chairman of Package Research Laboratory, LLC and Stapling Machines Company, LLC. He serves on several boards, including those at Brandeis University's Ethics Center and-- from 2012 to 2016-- Brooklyn Historical Society.
In this interview, Norbert Weissberg talks about his childhood in Brooklyn and how his Brooklyn community and the events of World War II influenced his life. Touching on many biographical details, Weissberg recalls PS 241 where he attended elementary school and the fun he had with friends playing street games and following sports like Dodgers baseball. He remembers being raised as a Conservative Jew, maintaining a kosher household, and going to the Catskills for Passover, like many New York families. Weissberg describes his parents' community; they would attend performances at the Metropolitan Opera House weekly and on Thursdays his mother would host a mahjong club. He notes how the family consumed New York media; his father read the "New York Post" and "PM," while he listened to Uncle Dan and Mayor LaGuardia's broadcasts. The news of Pearl Harbor in 1941 was pivotal for his worldview as a young boy. Weissberg delves into his Jewish identity, then considers antisemitism and how his two children both think differently on the subject. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.
The Voices of Brooklyn oral histories: Civic leaders series features a dynamic range of narrators. Many are well-known public figures and others are well-known in their communities. This ongoing series focuses on Brooklyn history and the experiences of these narrators often reference their outsized contribution to how New York City citizens live, work, and conduct business in the five boroughs. The oldest narrator in this series was born in 1921.
CitationWeissberg, Norbert, Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan, February 27, 2012, Voices of Brooklyn oral histories: Civic leaders, 2008.031.3.012; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball team)
- Erasmus Hall High School
- Weissberg, Norbert
- American newspapers
- Apartment houses
- Baseball teams
- Emigration and immigration
- Family life
- Jews, American
- Public schools
- Religious life and customs
- School children
- World War, 1939-1945
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Catskill Mountains (N.Y.)
- Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidVoices of Brooklyn oral histories: Civic leaders