Leonard Nimoy takes a virtual star turn in the West End
By Kara Bettis | May 4, 2016, 19:08 EDT
BOSTON – Last year’s passing of Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock in the “Star Trek” TV series and movies, delivered a blow to “trekkies” worldwide. A year later, Nimoy’s memory will be honored during Jewish American Heritage Month at the West End Museum, in what remains of the neighborhood where he grew up.
The museum, set up to preserve the West End’s history and polyglot culture, focuses each year on three of the main ethnic groups from the once immigrant-rich section of Boston that was largely leveled in the “urban renewal” projects that began in the late 1950s. The neighborhood’s former Irish and Italian residents also came in for honors this year, and some went to current residents rather than posthumously.
“We hold these events and the Jewish event, among others, to honor those who made a significant contribution to the community,” said Susan Hanson, the museum’s director, adding that they also provide a way to connect with the community.
“Families and friends of these folks come and are very supportive,” she said. Nominations for honors are made by museum volunteers or members of its board of directors.
Born in 1931, Nimoy has said that his time in the West End influenced his future career. In a 28-minute television documentary produced by his son Adam, “Leonard Nimoy’s Boston,” the actor discussed the importance of the city and events in his life. Made for WGBH-TV, it was shown on public broadcasting stations.
“I was born in the West End area that is now highrise Charles River Park,” Nimoy told a Boston Globe reporter in the 1960s. “Chambers Street, where I lived, is flattened now and about the only thing left of my neighborhood is St. Joseph’s Church, which was 75 yards from my home.”
His father was a neighborhood barber.
“My dad actually thought I was wearing a wig,” he said in the documentary, referring to his Star Trek look. “He had a picture of me as Spock up on the wall in the barbershop and kids would come in and say, ‘I want a Spock haircut.’”
The museum’s recognition is far from the only honor given to Nimoy. Last year, he had an asteroid named for him, 4864 Nimoy. Another documentary, “For the Love of Spock,” released last year, encapsulated his life and career.
Nimoy’s death still affects fans.
“Shedding tears while watching ‘Into Darkness’ because this is the first time I’m watching it after Leonard Nimoy’s death,” a fan wrote last month on Twitter.com, referring to the 2013 movie “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
Two other individuals are being recognized this month, librarian Fanny Goldstein and lawyer Gladys Shapiro. A free May 17 event at the Staniford Street museum will honor all three from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and is open to the public.
Goldstein was the Boston Public Library’s first Jewish female branch director and the first Jewish woman to serve as Judaica curator, in 1954. Her 44-year career with the library began in 1913 at the North End branch and ended in 1957 at the West End branch.
After emigrating to the North End from Russia in 1900, Goldstein built and published collections of immigrant-themed books, curated exhibitions and was the force behind events like Jewish Book Week, which grew into the Jewish Book Council of America and the National Jewish Book Week Program.
Shapiro became a lawyer in 1937, a rare achievement for women in those days. She set up a practice in the West End and was a successful trial lawyer. She also fought for property owners as the city sought to redevelop the neighborhood and worked to prevent the razing of Beacon Hill’s north slope during the period.