They provide us with a lot of thoughtful radio talk and a refreshing breath of fresh air as opposed to the opposite that predominates the media these days.
I began listening to Curtis and Sid on the radio years ago because I am what you might call a “radio rat” from my earliest days. In fact, even nowadays, if someone I meet wants to communicate how old they really are, all they have to say is, “I used to listen to you on the radio…”
I’m not sure if I’ve written about my radio days enough over the years, but I vividly recall walking into a radio station to do a broadcast for the first time back in 1975. I knew how the apparatus worked, but I was still intrigued by the idea that I could sit in a small room in New Jersey with a microphone and an electronic control board and be heard for miles around the Tri-State area.
The two radio personalities I want to focus on today have a great deal to say on the current war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. They are Sid Rosenberg and Curtis Sliwa. In a radio and TV world that vacillates in their support for the righteousness of the Israeli cause in defending itself against the vicious terrorists and their “from the river to the sea” supporters, Sid and Curtis tell it like it is and are proud to be on the side of rightness.
Listening to Sid on 77 WABC in the morning is the closest thing you can get to what I call “Jewish radio.” Rosenberg, 57, is an old-time comedy writer from the Don Imus radio program, which, for many years, was known as Imus in the Morning. After Rosenberg and Imus had a falling out years ago, Rosenberg went into a kind of radio exile in South Florida, becoming a broadcast personality in his own right.
Rosenberg has been hosting WABC’s morning program since 2017, and until his radio partner, Bernard McGuirk, passed away just over a year ago, the two ascended to the top of the radio ratings. Now Rosenberg is the sole host and the program is known as Sid and Friends.
My personal obsession with broadcasting led me to arrange an interview with Don Imus during his morning show on WNBC in Rockefeller Center. I had to be there when the Imus show aired at 6 a.m. and I was there!
I brought a cassette recorder with me to tape the interview, but there was a problem with recording the talk. Apparently, the union of broadcast engineers objected to a non-union person (me) recording a program in a union shop.
When Don Imus heard what was going on and that my plan to tape the interview was in jeopardy, he took my small tape recorder and put it in the inside pocket of his sports coat that was slung across the back of a nearby chair and in that manner, we managed to record the interview.
In a way, Sid Rosenberg is a protégé of Imus, but not enough can be said about how he rose to the top of the radio market while simultaneously wearing his Judaism proudly on his sleeve. He has supported Israel unhesitatingly during this current conflict with Hamas.
Last week, Sid and his family were in Woodmere over Shabbos, visiting a good friend of ours who happens to be a frequent guest on Sid’s show, and that is none other than former NY State Assemblyman, Dov Hikind.
Sid Rosenberg brings to New York radio a kind of Judaism that has heretofore been unknown and rarely spoken about on the air even though many of the hosts over the years were Jewish and from Jewish families.
Rosenberg doesn’t conceal his Jewishness, his attachment to Jewish life, and his notable absence from the show on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He doesn’t hide the flip side of the very common and majority American Jewish experience, which can include breaking your Yom Kippur fast with a cheeseburger.
No, obviously and clearly, that is not our way, but it can be counted as part of the evolutionary process that exists between a Jew regarding his or her level of Jewish observance.
Regarding the Jewish overtones that exist on WABC, it is vitally important to count Curtis Sliwa, long-time host, and founder of the Guardian Angels, as an important dynamic in the “Jewish” feel of the station, especially during the all-important morning drive time.
Sliwa knows the New York Jewish community like the back of his hand. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He is comfortable with aphorisms like, “It’s a shanda” or “chillul Hashem.” He is at ease with the nuanced differences between Satmar and Lubavitcher Chassidim, and so on. He is proud of the fact that during the 1991 Crown Heights riot when then-Mayor David Dinkins ordered the police to stand down and not protect the Jewish residents of Crown Heights from assaults, Sliwa and his Guardian Angels were right there on the streets protecting us.
Sliwa, who ran for mayor and lost against our current mayor Eric Adams, makes it clear that he is planning on running for mayor again. But for now, a large part of what he does on the air is to pick the Adams administration apart for their foibles and the current investigation into illegal campaign contributions. If it happens, it’s going to be an interesting race, to say the least.
Anyway, last Shabbos, Sid Rosenberg was the guest of Mr. Hikind at the Yismach Moshe shul in Woodmere, which is spiritually directed with style and panache by Rabbi Heshy Blumstein. The rabbi is a dynamic personality that in a sense, matches that of Mr. Rosenberg, so it is no coincidence that they became good and fast friends. Blood brothers, if you will. “It was an absolutely beautiful and even startling Shabbos,” Dov Hikind told me in a conversation on Tuesday.
Hikind explained that on Shabbos, he had the aliyah that was just before the aliyah they gave to Sid, and he was thinking that he might have to help Sid with the berachos on the Torah, so he was glad to be nearby.
Dov’s assistance was not required, and according to him, Sid recited the birchos haTorah flawlessly. Rosenberg doesn’t hesitate to mention on his radio program that for years he studied in a yeshiva as a proud “yeshiva boy” and his father who passed away a few years ago was a very traditional Jew.
In the aftermath of the inspiring Shabbos with Dov and Rabbi Blumstein, the conversation on the show this week shifted to potentially visiting Israel and doing the morning show live from Jerusalem for a week.
Curtis says that Sid needs to do his show from Hebron or Efrat. But for his part, Sid says he would rather do the show from the pool at the King David Hotel.
Another thing I would like to point out is how packed the shul was in Woodmere, with people walking from all over the Five Towns and Far Rockaway.
For Sid and his wife, Danielle, it was a great Shabbos experience as it was for the entire Five Towns Jewish community. But more than anything else, Sid’s daily radio show is a tremendous source of chizuk for advancing the cause of justice and righteousness in the fight against terror as we see in Israel in our days.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.