5. Neil Simon based one of the most famous plays on Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach

The legendary playwright Neil Simon, perhaps best known for his play The Odd Couple, wrote Brighton Beach Memoirs with the Brooklyn neighborhood in mind. The play is semi-autobiographical, drawing from his years growing up Jewish in New York City. The 1982 play is filled with relatable Jewish humor and representations of Jewish culture that uplifted many. The plot takes place in Brighton Beach during the Great Depression, focusing on Jewish teenager Eugene Morris Jerome and his experiences with puberty and a search for identity.

Although much of the plot is fictional, the play’s setting does match the ethnic makeup of Brighton Beach in the 1930s. Many first- and second-generation Jewish Americans settled in Brighton Beach in the years prior to the Great Depression, some moving from the Lower East Side and others coming directly from Ellis Island. The New Brighton Theater converted to the country’s first Yiddish theater in 1919 to appeal to the local audience.