Violinist Regina Kohn Played Her Way Into America

Forward Association

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.

In 1924, Regina Kohn became known as the musician who played her way into the country when she was asked to perform for immigration officers at Ellis Island where she was detained. Kohn came to America from Romania and the quota for Romanians had been filled. Undeterred by the pile-up of ironies inherent in the rejection — Kohn was actually Hungarian but from a part of Hungary now occupied by Romania, hence her Ellis Island classification as Romanian — Kohn was permitted to perform her choice of an extremely still and delicate piece by Schumann, called “Traumerei” (“Dreams”). If she played well, she would be granted entry. If not, deportation. The special Board of Inquiry must have fallen under her spell because they reportedly immediately granted her artist status and permission to immigrate. Her immediate plans were to open a studio to teach and live with her brother Ignatz on Second Avenue.