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Abe Vigoda (who is, as of today, alive) got his big break in Hollywood playing Italian mobster Sal Tessio in The Godfather. So he must have Italian heritage, right?

Abraham Charles Vigoda was born 24 Feb. 1921 in New York City, the son of Samuel and Lena (Moses) Vigoda. His father was born in Ostrołęka or Łomża or (I believe) Przasnysz, Poland (then Russia) (his passenger manifest entry, World War I draft registration card, and petition for naturalization each give a different place of birth). Curiously, none of the records consulted say that he was born in Italy. Samuel arrived at Ellis Island by way of Buenos Aires, 28 Sept. 1913, aboard the S.S. Verdi (hey, that's Italian!), and was admitted a naturalized citizen 18 Dec. 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. He married 15 Feb. 1916 in Brooklyn (reported in that day's Brooklyn Standard Union) Lena Moses of Manhattan.

Based on info given in the censuses, it's likely that Lena was the daughter of Eli and Bella Moses, who lived in Manhattan in 1910, Wawarsing, N.Y., in 1920, and Brooklyn in 1930. Hilel and Beile Moses—with daughter Libe (Lena) and three other children—showed up in New York 27 Mar. 1904. Despite my best efforts to prove that they were Italian, they were not. They, too, came from Poland.

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Tags: celebrities, jewish, vigoda

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Comment by Chris Dunham on July 16, 2009 at 8:31pm
I actually did some investigating before publishing this, because I couldn't remember Det. Fish's ethnicity ever being mentioned on the show. Wikipediadoesn't say whether Fish was Jewish, though other sites say that he was. His wife, Bernice, though—she had to be Jewish.
Comment by Jeanie McCully on July 16, 2009 at 8:09pm
I always think of him as Det. Fish, from Barney Miller, anyway - and isn't he Jewish? And thanks for the Dead-Or-Alive update - every time his name comes up, someone inevitably says "isn't he dead?" :)

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