ELLIS ISLAND HERITAGE AWARDS
Seinfeld arrives at Ellis Island
Gloria Estefan and husband Emilio on
Candice Bergen arrives at Ellis Island
Dr. Eric Kandel, Nobel winning
Joe Namath accepts his award
Jerry Seinfeld gets the award from
Stephen A. Briganti
Emilio and Gloria Estefan receive awards
from Robert Forbes
Jerry Seinfeld and Dr. Eric Kandel
Joe Namath favors fans with autographs
Jerry Seinfeld, Dr. Eric Kandel, Gloria and
Emilio Estefan, and Joe Namath
Coming To America And
Reaping Achievement Awards
emigrated from Syria, and Nobel laureate
Eric Kandel came
from Vienna. They were among five notables honored at the 8th
annual Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards.
Waiting in the historic Great Hall of the Ellis
Island Immigration Museum, Jerry cracked, "We got the immigrants’
experience just by sitting on these wooden benches."
The awards are presented by the Statue of
Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation to outstanding immigrants or their
Jerry’s maternal grandmother, Salha Hasseni,
came from Aleppo, Syria. His paternal grandfather, Simon Seinfeld,
came from Stanislau, then in Austria, as a 15-year-old tailor.
Jerry was born in Borough Park, Brooklyn, grew up in
Massapequa, and lives in Manhattan with his wife and three children.
Candice Bergen, who hosted the program, said that
Jerry described Massapequa as "a Native Indian word for ‘close to
Dr. Kandel was born in Vienna where his father owned
a toy store. On November 9, 1938, two days after his ninth birthday,
Kristallnacht scorched Jewish life.
"I am a Jew," Kandel said. "A kid from my school
told me, ‘My father said not to talk to you again.’ No one from my
class ever talked to me again."
The next year Kandel was sent to New York ahead of
his parents and enrolled as a scholarship student at the Yeshiva of
Flatbush. He went on to Erasmus High School and then got a
scholarship to Harvard to major in history and literature.
"I was interested in history because I wanted to
understand how a highly civilized nation could one day turn to kill
Kandel wanted to switch to psychoanalysis but his
wife, Denise Burstyn, convinced him to pursue brain research.
"You don’t have money, I don’t have money," he
"Money is of no significance," his wife said.
"She never uttered those words again," Kandel noted,
At New York University Medical School, Kandel
immersed himself in the biology of the mind. His research in the
molecular basis of memory storage earned him a share of the 2000
Nobel Prize in medicine. Currently he’s a professor at Columbia
Kandel told me how he grew up in a "modified"
Orthodox home where his parents kept kosher. Today he belongs to the
Conservative Synagogue of Riverdale. His daughter Minouche, a
graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School, is a public interest lawyer
in San Francisco, working with abused women.
"Minouche and her husband Rick are committed
to Judaism," Kandel said. "They keep a kosher home and send their
two kids to Brandeis parochial school."
Media superstar Joe Namath, who led the
underdog New York Jets to a legendary upset in Super Bowl III, was
also honored. His father, Janos Nemet emigrated from Hungary
After the rise of Fidel Castro, two-year-old
Gloria Fajardo and her family escaped to Miami. Emilio
Esfahan, 13, left Cuba for Madrid and then Miami. At age 18
Gloria, now a singer, started to work for Emilio, fronting his
Miami Sound Machine. They married after she graduated from the
University of Miami.
Emilio rocketed Gloria Esfahan to
superstardom in the music world, with 24 albums and seven Grammy
Awards to her credit. Emilio has written and produced for such other
stars as Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and Ricky Martin.
"No matter where our forefathers came from," Gloria
said, "they were running away from something. We came to the only
country where we can realize our dreams."
Robert Forbes, vice president of Forbes and
president of ForbesLife magazine, presented the couple with the B.C.
Forbes Peopling in America Award, given to immigrants who came after
the Ellis Island era or through other ports.
After the ceremony Kandel turned to Esfahan. "Gloria
does all the talking but you take care of all the checks."
"No," Esfahan shot back. "She
does the checks too."