A true New York Jew

Jerry Seinfeld traces his roots from Ellis Island to the Lower East Side.

Jerry Seinfeld 88 248 (photo credit: )
Jerry Seinfeld 88 248
(photo credit: )
Watching his TV series, no one doubted that Jerry Seinfeld was quintessentially New York. It turns out his family is, too. The comedian, whose grandfather Simon Seinfeld was a 15-year-old tailor from what is now Ukraine when he arrived at Ellis Island in 1903, is receiving a family heritage award from the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. The New York Times and the foundation traced the path of Seinfeld's family through passenger manifests, census records and naturalization papers. After arriving by sea, Simon Seinfeld was briefly detained until he met up with an uncle who lived on Manhattan's Lower East Side - where Jewish immigrants often made their homes in cramped tenements. Eventually, Simon Seinfeld became a fish vendor, probably selling from a pushcart, and moved to Brooklyn. Jerry Seinfeld, who turns 55 on Wednesday, told the Times he was struck by the independence of his grandfather's journey to New York. "I mean, you wouldn't let your kid in Disneyland do that," he said. He said that learning about his ancestors' arrival was sobering: "To me, these are scenes from Godfather II," he said. "They didn't really come over on these boats and go to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It almost seems like a cliche. It's theatrical imagery. You forget this really happened." The comedian's 100-year-old aunt, who arrived at Ellis Island on another boat as a baby, plans to attend the May 19 award ceremony, as does his 94-year-old mother.