Song Sways Judge that Elderly Woman is Fit to Live at Home

Broadway Tunes Helped Elderly Woman Get Back Home. Photo credit: Randy Lemoine
Broadway Tunes Helped Elderly Woman Get Back Home. Photo credit: Randy Lemoine

Ruth Berk, a 91-year-old former Broadway singer, used her singing abilities to convince a judge to let her return to her home after she had been sent to a nursing home against her will.

Berk persuaded Manhattan judge Tanya Kennedy that she could successfully live in her Greenwich Village apartment by singing the famous show tunes, “My Little Valentine” and “Summertime.”

Arthur Schwartz, Berk’s lawyer, stated in court papers that at her hearing, “although the justice refused to allow her to speak, [Berk] interrupted the court and told the court that she wanted to go home. She then began to sing for Justice Kennedy.”

Berk’s daughter, Jessica, 55, said that the judge was more than a little surprised by the unrehearsed performance. Jessica said her mother could be likened to a mixture of Bea Arthur and Elizabeth Taylor in her heyday.

“[The judge] stepped off the bench, took [her] robe off and shook her hand and said, ‘Mrs. Berk, that was wonderful. Thank you very much for honoring me with that,’?” Berk’s daughter stated.

After the hearing Berk was allowed to return to her home, where she has resided since 1960. But the dispute about where Berk is to live in the future is still not resolved. Lloyd Goldman, owner of Berk’s rent-stabilized apartment, has filed an eviction notice in an attempt to kick Berk and her daughter out of their $700/month penthouse. According to Goldman’s lawyer, Lawrence Wolf, the mother and daughter owe their landlord $27,000 in back rent for their two-bedroom apartment at 95 Christopher Street.

Berk’s lawyer as well as her guardian, Mr. Schwartz, explained that the two have withheld their rent payments because their apartment has been allowed to deteriorate by the landlord, who is guilty of multiple violations of the law as far as upkeep of their apartment is concerned. Schwartz asserted that Goldman has brought 21 unsuccessful landlord-tenant actions during the course of 20 years.