Prominent Jewish-Americans

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  • Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941): First Jewish US Supreme Court Justice (1916), he assumed leadership of the American Zionist movement in 1914 and is the namesake of Brandeis University (1948) in Massachusetts, largely due to his lifelong commitment to social justice.

  • Emma Lazarus (1849-1887): Poet noted for her sonnet “The New Colossus” (1883). Her words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” grace the Statue of Liberty.

  • Adolph Ochs (1858-1935): Newspaperman and philanthropist who, at 38, took over The New York Times and turned it into one of the most prominent newspapers in the world.

  • Emma Goldman (1869-1940): Russian-born anarchist, feminist and labor advocate.

  • Golda Meir (1898-1978): Born in Kiev, she emigrated to the US in 1906. An ardent Zionist, she resettled in then-Palestine in 1921, got involved in politics and rose to be Israel’s fourth prime minister (1969-1974).

  • Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (1906-1947): New York and Hollywood mobster who built the Flamingo Hotel and Casino. Although a criminal, he’s credited with the development of what would become the Las Vegas Strip.

  • Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990): One of the most revered conductors and composers of the 20th century, he led the New York Philharmonic for 11 years. He is also remembered for musical scores including Candide and West Side Story.

  • Sandy Koufax (1935- ): Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who refused to play on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year, during the 1965 World Series. At 36, he became the youngest player voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

  • Barbra Streisand (1942- ): Talented and multiple award-winning singer and actress of stage and screen.

  • Steven Spielberg (1947- ): The world’s most successful living movie director, he acknowledged his return to Jewish culture after making Schindler’s List (1993) and continues to film Holocaust survivors’ testimony through his Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation ( He co-founded Dreamworks SKG, along with former Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, both Jewish.

For more prominent Jewish-Americans, see the Jewish-American Hall of Fame at