Here She Is, Miss America

Jews kvelled when Bess Myerson won the Miss America crown.

Editor’s Note: This article is the winner of the Fresh Ink For Teens and Jewish-American Hall of Fame writing contest. Nearly 30 contestants from around the country answered the following question: “Which Jewish-American do you most admire?" The winner receives a $180 cash prize and medal from the Jewish-American Hall of Fame.

At one point in everyone’s life, a wish is made. A wish so distant from home and completely out of reach. A wish that more likely than not, won’t come true. But nevertheless we wish anyway; we dream on anyway. Because having high hopes is important and being let down makes us stronger in the end. Therefore we hold on to what helps us fall asleep at night and what makes us wake up in the morning with a smile on our faces. It is the dreams we pray will come true. And sometimes they really do. Bess Myerson is a prime example of how young desires can become reality.

Bess was born on July 16, 1924, to a strong, Jewish family. She grew up in New York in the Bronx. She lived in a multi-family dwelling with her parents, Louis and Bella, and two sisters, Helen and Sylvia. Just after graduating Hunter College with a degree in music, her oldest sister Sylvia entered a photograph of Bess into the Miss America pageant.

Before long, her fame would begin to unravel like the red carpets she would soon be walking on. At first she was advised to change her name to give off a “less Jewish” appeal but Myerson refused. Being Jewish was always something she took pride in and she never tried to hide the fact that she was a Jew. She felt proud to stand for something.

After winning over the judges with her charm and musical talent her fame truly began. But not all of it was so positive. Many sponsors for Miss America pulled out once they found out a Jewish woman had won. Many were shocked and angered by this, but Bess stayed strong and kept her head high and her heels even higher. The year of 1945 was a wonderful year for our Miss America, but also incredibly difficult. After being exposed to anti-Semitism and hatred first-hand, Bess Myerson decided to take a stand. She began to speak for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) at schools and public services.

A few years later Bess Myerson had another fantastic breakthrough when she became a pianist and appeared in television programs. No matter where Bess Myerson went in life, she always kept Judaism in her heart and on her mind. She became a well-known spokesperson for Israel bonds. Bess Myerson never let the minds of other interfere with how she felt about herself. She stayed strong and chose the highroad. I admire her strength and ability to be her own person. She has power from within that she let shine through and she stayed true to her Jewish heritage. She is a wonderful Jewish-American that I look up to. She had many roads that led to great paths in her life, but even with all the sunlight on her way she never forgot where she came from.

 

author's bio: 
Dafna Fliegelman is a junior at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, N.J.