The once and future Corbin Street (Screenshot/Google Maps)
The once and future Corbin Street (Screenshot/Google Maps)

Street named for anti-Semite gets a new name that’s actually the same name

This week, on the “(Is It) Good for the Jews?” podcast …

Larry Rosen: Meanwhile, in Brooklyn…

Eric Goldbrener: Nice segue.

LR: Councilman Chaim Deutsch, representing Brighton Beach, that’s a Jewish place, right? Russians and Jews?

EG: And Russian Jews…

LR: In Brighton Beach there’s a street called Corbin Place.

EG: Corbyn!

LR: Not Jeremy Corbyn but almost as bad. It’s named after 19th-century robber baron Austin Corbin, father of the Long Island Railroad and open anti-Semite.

EG: Yeah? Screw him.

LR: He was the secretary of … now brace yourself for this one … the American Society for the Suppression of Jews.

EG: The American Society for the Suppression of Jews?

LR: The very same.

EG: Hold on here.

LR: “You know, we’re having a lot of trouble getting organized. We suppress a Jew here, we suppress a Jew there. But what we really need is an organized movement to maximize the efficiency of our Jew suppression. Now we’re not going full Nazi here, we just want to suppress, but we …

EG: At least the rest of the Nazis have the decency to say, “We’re not here to suppress the Jews, we just want white pride. We’re not anti-Semitic, we’re just pro-Nazi!”

LR: But Corbin wasn’t the leader of the American Society for the Suppression of Jews. He was just the secretary.

EG: So they’ve got Father Coughlin, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh … Who else is on the team?

LR: Could be, though Corbin came earlier. But just the secretary. But here’s the funny thing.


LR: So Chaim Deutsch is horrified …

EG: But wait a minute. The guy built the railroads. That’s an accomplishment. A pretty big one.

LR: It’s sort of along the lines of, “Do we tear down this statue of Robert E. Lee?” We’re tearing those down, so we should probably change the name of this street.

EG: Oh, that’s right. We’re tearing those down. And here in San Francisco we changed Army Street to Cesar Chavez Street, setting a precedent.

LR: OK, but here’s the kicker: You know what they changed the name of the street to?

EG: What?

LR: Corbin Street. Only now it’s named after Margaret Corbin, “early patriot.” (voice rising) Nobody’s going to know they changed the name of the street!

EG: So they basically kept the name of the street but said no, it’s not after this guy anymore, it’s after this gal?

LR: “We’re going to add an addendum to the city code.” It’s like it’s a secret.

EG: You know what? I’m in support of that, because the practical matter is that it costs money to change a street name. Are we really going to spend public funds and cause confusion among residents because this guy was the secretary of the American Society for the Suppression of Jews? That’s not his claim to fame! That’s something he did in his spare time! It’s incidental!

LR: (not entirely convinced) Yeah.

EG: I’m not for it. Leave it as is.

LR: Maybe you have a point. You know, you’ll still find people in San Francisco who won’t call Army Street “Cesar Chavez.” It’s not because they hate Cesar Chavez, or have any feelings about him in particular, but because …

EG: They’re pro-Army.

LR: No, because it was Army Street when they were growing up and they’re not going to stop calling it Army Street.

EG: When I grew up the mall down the street was named Getz. I still call it that. I call the Albertsons there “Getz.”

LR: “Getz!” Wow!

EG: Anyone who’s a native calls it that.

LR: See, you’re a native. I’m an interloper. And you natives have these little tests you like to conduct, to see who’s a local. These little games you play to show us we’re not natives.

EG: Correct.

LR: It’s a little trick you play.

EG: You’re an interloper.

LR: I’m going to start calling Albertsons “Getz.”

EG: You’re a poseur. Get out of here!

LR: You won’t be calling me that when I introduce a bill requesting we change the name of Bush Street to Obama Street.

EG: Actually, I’m surprised nobody’s done that already.

LR: It’s sponsored by the San Francisco Society for the Suppression of Republicans.

EG: And you’re the secretary.

Larry Rosen
Larry Rosen

Larry Rosen is a writer, husband, father and author of “The Rabbi Has Left the Building,” a memoir about his son’s bar mitzvah. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”

Eric Goldbrener
Eric Goldbrener

Eric Goldbrener is a Libertarian, Zionist, atheist and autodidact technologist. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”