Jewish-American Hall of Fame medal honors TV pioneer

Gertrude Berg wrote, performed in radio/TV series
By , Coin World
Published : 04/25/16
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The Jewish-American Hall of Fame has announced its inductee for 2015, radio and television pioneer Gertrude Berg, who may be better known as Molly Goldberg.

As nominee, Berg is also the subject of a high-relief art medal sculptured by Eugene Daub.

The obverse depicts writer and performer Gertrude Berg as Molly Goldberg, leaning out of her Bronx apartment window shouting “Yoo-hoo Mrs. Bloom” (the phrase with which she opened her television show); the reverse features members of the original cast of her sitcom The Goldbergs.

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The 47th issue in the longest continuing series of art medals being produced in America is available in bronze, silver and gold-plated silver.

In total, 115 bronze medal are available, as are 56 of the 3-ounce .999 fine silver medals and 27 of the gold-plated 3-ounce .999 fine silver medals.

Berg was born Tillie Edelstein in New York City in 1898. Her father, Jake Edelstein, ran a resort in the Catskill Mountains where Tillie worked and eventually created and performed skits to amuse the guests’ children. 

She met an older Englishman, Lewis Berg, one summer at the resort. He wooed her, and when she turned 18 they married. A few years later, she began writing and acting full time, changing her name to Gertrude Berg.

Berg began writing radio scripts based on a fictional family she had formulated as a young woman, now calling them “The Goldbergs,” a combination of her mother’s maiden name and her husband’s last name. 

The Goldbergs premiered on radio in 1929 with Gertrude filling in for the role of Molly until another actress could be found.

According to Mel Wacks, director of the JAHF, Berg was so good that when she was sick for a week, the public sent in mass amounts of fan mail asking, “Where’s Molly?” 

Audiences loved listening to the stories and struggles of the Goldberg family and their neighbors, and instantly took to the warmth and guidance of the accented Molly Goldberg.

As scriptwriter and star, Berg was one of the leading women in radio with one of the longest running shows. 

Unlike Molly, Berg lived on Park Avenue, owned a country house and did not speak with an accent or recite malapropisms. She wrote early in the morning, and then went to the studio to produce and star in her show — which she always opened with herself as Molly yelling out the window to her neighbor.

In 1947, following her 17-year run on radio, Berg brought the show to television, reintroducing The Goldbergs after World War II. 

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