My Father's Iconic Israeli New York Nightclub Deserves to Be Remembered – Kveller
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jewish identity

My Father’s Iconic Israeli New York Nightclub Deserves to Be Remembered

Growing up on his stories helped instill in me the importance of sharing the traditions, values and language that define the Jewish identity.

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Credit: Avram Grobard

I grew up listening to my father’s singing voice resonate through the walls of our New Jersey basement. And I grew up on the stories he would tell me about the amazing nights he had at the nightclub he owned, the people he met, the songs he sang, and the memories he made, including meeting and marrying my mom there. 

My dad, Avram Grobard, was the founder and star of El Avram, a legendary spot in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City that attracted celebrities, politicians and anyone who loved Israeli music and culture

El Avram was more than just a nightclub. It was a place where people could experience the richness and diversity of Israel, from its food and drinks to its belly dancers and songs. It was a place where people could celebrate, connect and feel at home. It was a place where history was made. 

My dad opened El Avram in the late 1960s, when he was a young singer and accordion player who had moved to New York from Israel. He had a dream of sharing his passion for his homeland with the American audience, and he found a loyal fan base among the Jewish community and beyond. He befriended and performed with some of the most famous Israeli musicians of his time, like Tzvika Pik and Yoram Gaon and even American legends like Louis Armstong.

One of the stories that stuck with me most was about the night of March 26, 1979. That was the night when U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, ending decades of war and hostility. The nightly news broadcast from the club showed my dad, alongside his emotional Egyptian chef, celebrating this momentous occasion with music and joy. That night, my dad said, was a proud moment. He felt that he had fulfilled his mission by showing the world the beauty and spirit of Israel. 

In 1982, the vibrant neon lights of my dad’s nightclub faded into history long before I had the chance to experience its heyday. Yet, El Avram remains a part of me and holds a place in my heart. You see, it was within those walls that my parents met. My mom fondly remembers when she laid eyes on my dad on stage, and instantly knew she would marry him one day. 

Today, El Avram may be a memory, but these captivating tales instilled in me a desire to continue my father’s legacy by educating others about the diverse traditions, values and language that define the Jewish identity.

While I initially earned my teaching certification and went on to become a 6th grade teacher in a public school, I spent 15 years teaching at supplemental religious school, where I taught Hebrew, the Alef-Bet, Jewish values, traditions and Israeli history to upper elementary school students.

When my parents would visit, I’d invite my dad as a guest speaker in my classroom. His captivating accounts of his upbringing in Israel and his vivid memories of the War of Independence were priceless, especially since he was the same age as my students during those historic events. Through his storytelling, he transformed history from a distant, abstract concept confined to textbooks into a vibrant, living narrative that resonated deeply with my students. 

And while I didn’t follow in my father’s footsteps of opening a nightclub, I did go on to start my own successful business that specializes in Jewish educational resources on everything from the holidays to the Hebrew language to, of course, Israel.

It brings me immense joy to know that my work contributes to shaping young minds and hearts, just as my father’s stories shaped mine. I am driven by the belief that educating the younger generation about their roots and traditions is the key to preserving our cultural heritage and strengthening our community. 

As I look back on my journey from being the daughter of a famous nightclub owner to a Jewish educator and now a business owner, I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. 

My father, now 85 years old, continues to inspire me every day. 

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