He was Unaware of Being Raised in Abject Poverty
Little Irving Berlin was born on May 11, 1888, one of eight children of Moses and Lena Lipkin Beilin. According to his daughter, Mary Ellin Barrett, claimed that his birth city was Tyumen, Siberia. . His father, a cantor in a synagogue, uprooted the family to America, as did many other Jewish families in the late 19th century. In 1893 they settled in New York City. As of the 1900 census, the name “Beilin” had changed to “Baline.” According to his biographer, Laurence Bergreen, as an adult Berlin admitted to no memories of his first five years in Russia except for one: “he was lying on a blanket by the side of a road, watching his house burn to the ground. By daylight the house was in ashes.
Ian Whitcomb described Berlin’s life in Russia:
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