Between 1892 and 1924, over 12 million immigrants sailed into New York Harbor, watched over by the Statue of Liberty, on their way to new lives in the United States. Driven from their home countries by famine and persecution, they arrived at Ellis Island full of fear and hope, determined to claim their share of the American Dream.
Among the first to pass through Ellis Island was young Israel Baline, a Russian Jew who at the age of just five had seen his homeland overrun by anti-Semitic violence. Forced to flee their village deep within the Russian Empire, the Baline family used their meagre life savings to cross Europe and buy a one-way steerage-class ticket to America. They landed at Ellis Island in 1893, only to find that the streets of New York were not quite paved with gold; the riches they had risked everything for would not be easily won.
Israel Baline may have traded a rural slum for an urban one, but he was an American now. He would not stay impoverished for long. Blessed with talent, spurred by the will to succeed, Israel Baline would grow up to become—under another name—his adopted country’s most famous songwriter.