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Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family descended from Russian and Polish immigrants. His parents were Rose (née Rapoport) and Akeeba “Kieve” Diamond, a dry-goods merchant. He grew up in several homes in Brooklyn, having also spent four years in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where his father was stationed in the army. In Brooklyn he attended Erasmus Hall High School and was a member of the Freshman Chorus and Choral Club, along with classmate Barbra Streisand; :155 Diamond recalled they were not close friends at the time: “We were two poor kids in Brooklyn. We hung out in the front of Erasmus High and smoked cigarettes. ” After his family moved, he then attended Abraham Lincoln High School, and was a member of the fencing team. Also on the team was his best friend, future Olympic fencer Herb Cohen.