A Tale of Two Jewish Communities in Westchester 3-29-08

A Tale of Two Jewish Communities in Westchester

By

Richard J. Garfunkel

March 29, 2008

 

Not too long ago I received a call from Miriam Netter, the daughter of the late Max Maccoby, who had served as the founding Rabbi of the free Synagogue of Mount Vernon from 1927 to 1956, the year of his untimely death at the age of fifty-two. I knew neither Miriam nor her brother Michael Maccoby, who were born more than a half a generation earlier. Miriam and folks from the synagogue were working on a party to celebrate not only the Maccoby Foundation, but the life of their late father. It seems that Miriam was surfing the Internet when she came upon my essay, The Connections Music, the Synagogue and Politics, which mentioned her father and his relationship with the great American Rabbi, Stephen Wise and his friendship with the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She was able to contact me through my website: http://www.richardjgarfunkel.com , and during our conversation, I mentioned that I knew her father when I was a lad and admired him greatly, as did the entire Jewish and non-Jewish community of the City of Mount Vernon. I learned subsequently that there would be a celebration of his life, a dinner in his honor, and an address from his son, her brother, Michael regarding his father’s legacy on Friday the 28th of March. This event would take place at the new Sinai Free Synagogue, which is located on the same property as the now demolished Free Synagogue used to stand. I promised her that Linda and I would be there, and we were.

 

I met Linda at the Harlem Line’s Metro North stop in Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, and within five minutes we were crossing Gramatan Avenue, heading east on Devonia Avenue and turning north for one block on Columbus to the entrance of the Sinai-Free Synagogue. We parked easily, found our way quickly inside, said hello, made our contribution and quickly found Miriam Maccoby Netter and her family. We said hello, and eventually found a table with a couple who were around our age. After our introductions, we realized that we actually were acquainted. We had last seen the Rosensweig’s fourteen years earlier. The Rosensweig’s daughter Emily, now a rabbi in Columbus, Ohio, had been on the White Plains High School Academic team in 1994, with our son Jon, and we had spent a number of afternoons rooting on their regionally undefeated team. It seems that Emily’s family had always lived in Mount Vernon, but she attended the White Plains’ schools because her mother Susan had taught in that school system. We hadn’t seen them in fourteen years, but I clearly remembered that we had had that conversation before. Because of this serendipitous meeting we chatted through dinner like long-lost buddies. Eventually I was even introduced to another “Garfunkel” who was the widow of one Jack Garfunkel, a well-known insurance man from Mount Vernon. It seems I was always mistaken for his fictional son, and I had gone about thirty years seeking out the real Jack Garfunkel. I had called his office, missed him at political and fund-raising events, and eventually learned of his death a number of years ago. He and I never linked up, but because of the Internet and Miriam’s curiosity I wound up in Mount Vernon chatting with Sylvia Garfunkel.

 

Recently I had written this piece about some of the Jewish institutional history of White Plains, where I lived for thirty-three years, so I decided to incorporate that history with some words about Mount Vernon and whatever I knew about Mount Vernon’s synagogues.

 

Here in the United States and especially, New York, Westchester County, White Plains and Mount Vernon in particular, we as fellow Jews have been welcomed much more than in most parts of the world. Wherein Jews of the Diaspora were spread to the four corners of the planet and the Seven Seas, the violent history of the 20th Century had a way of reaching the most far-flung places. Jewish communities that had existed for hundreds of years felt the sting of anti-Semitism stretching from one time zone to the next, all over the world. This time it wasn’t the old canards of Messiah killing, or ritual murder, or being members of secret societies intent on conquering the world. This time it was the issue of racial purity promulgated by not the members of one church or mosque or another. It was being trumpeted by the new totalitarian G-d haters that emerged from the collapse of the old world order that had crumbled in the wake of World War I and the Depression.

 

In America, where Emma Lazarus penned her immortal words “Give me your tired and hungry masses yearning to be free…” which was placed at the base of Lady Liberty, the virus of anti-Semitism started to filter into the American lexicon in the first third of the 20th Century. Much of it came from a growing case of national xenophobia devolving from the inflow of immigrants from Eastern Europe before WWI, from the red scare of the 1920’s, the Crash, and the Depression. This anti-immigrant feeling harkened back to the foreigner bashing from the Know-Nothing era of the 1840’s, and was extended by later fears of Asians, resulting in the Chinese and Japanese exclusion acts of the late 19th and early 20th century. The immigration quotas based on national origin and skewed to northern and Western Europe further fueled an attitude of fortress America. Jews were certainly not immune to these newly constructed legal walls that were erected in the post World War I era. Therefore, when the Crash hit in 1929, and the Great Depression ensued, massive unemployment created conditions that did not welcome immigrants. The scourge of Nazi-anti-Semitism emerged, with legal authority as Germany officially welcomed Hitler and his fascist gang to power in 1933. Therefore, with an America, which in 1930 claimed a population of 120,000,000, of which 40% had German blood, one could easily imagine a welcoming climate for the racial theories of the so-called “new” Germany. Of course many of these thoughts had emerged in the United States and out of the mouth of Henry Ford. Also remember, it wasn’t that long before the crash that the Ku Klux Klan had marched in full regalia up Pennsylvania Avenue right to the Capitol.

 

In America, and especially in Westchester County there were many deeds of property that had caveats, which restricted many groups from ownership of land. Jews were especially not immune to this legal redlining. Therefore up until 1937 when these deeds were ruled unconstitutional, many of the towns and village of Westchester were hotbeds of exclusivity. Towns and villages like Pelham, Bronxville, Irvington, and Ardsley were unwelcoming to Jews, and only a handful of Jews owned homes in Rye, Larchmont, and Pelham Manor. But Scarsdale, unlike Bronxville, was not a planned village and many Jews were able to buy property there, and by 1925, the Jewish population reached 10% of the village, causing unpleasant reactions from many of their local institutions. In fact, The Scarsdale Inquirer accepted ads inviting people to join “desirable Christian Beach Clubs.” (From The Jews of Westchester, Shargel and Drimmer.)

 

Many of these provisions still existed in these deeds through the 1960’s, and it wasn’t too long ago that Jews could not live Bronxville, or other communities. Therefore it was up to the cities of Westchester, with more pluralistic populations to open their doors to the new teeming masses from NYC. Since new housing had been virtually stalled from the crash and through WWII, there was a crying need for housing for the new baby-boom population that merged after the war. Over-crowded apartments in the Bronx and Manhattan cried out for new areas to settle after the end of the war. 

 

The place for this new internal migration of Jews became the suburbs of northern New Jersey, Nassau County and Westchester. The cities in Westchester, like Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Yonkers and White Plains, became home to thousands of former city dwellers and also the many refugees from Europe who had escaped Nazi-persecution. Therefore the synagogue became the central place for this new suburban style of communal Judaism. It was no longer the neighborhoods like Tremont Avenue, or Bruckner Boulevard, or the Grand Concourse, or Ocean Parkway, or 13th Avenue, or Southern Boulevard, but the leafy glades of southern Westchester, where the automobile was king, and the subway and buses were vestiges of the past. The stoop where kids played with their “spaldeens” and the chalked hop-scotch sidewalks were quickly replaced by the open fields, the YMHA’s, like the one on Oakley Avenue in Mount Vernon, the ball fields at the Webb School in Hartsdale, the parks on Lake Street and Gedney Way in White Plains, and the tennis courts and ball fields on California Road in Mount Vernon.

 

In Mount Vernon the first synagogue built in 1892, was the Congregation Brothers of Israel, known by all as CBI. Amongst its congregants were businessmen from New York City who were in the garment trade. CBI eventually found a home on 8th Avenue and First Street, and remained there for many years until 1980. They had a number of rabbis, and my good friend Alan Rosenberg’s grandfather Morris J. Rosenberg, served as an acting rabbi there in the 1930’s. He also read Torah there from 1910 through 1952.

 

In the period before our entry into World War I, prosperous garment industry men like Joseph Durst, among others, were not comfortable with the Orthodox service at CBI, and they eventually looked to the newly emerging Conservative Movement. They had rejected Mount Vernon’s Reform Sinai Temple, which was established in 1906, and founded Congregation Emanu-El. They engaged the services of Rabbi Elias Margolis, who had originally been raised a in the Reform Movement, but after his marriage changed his affiliation to the Conservative Movement. He was an incredibly outspoken personality and controversy reigned at times, but he led that Congregation for thirty years until 1946. “One Kol Nidre night he chastised his congregation as ‘nothing but exalted peddlers, cloak and suiters’ and he often denounced Harlem slumlords, while a few of their number squirmed uncomfortably in expensive front pews.” (From, The Jews of Westchester by Shargel and Drimmer.)

 

Eventually there would be more departures from CBI and another branch of the Orthodox Movement established the Fleetwood Synagogue in 1956. Rabbi Gedalyah Berger currently leads Fleetwood Synagogue, and it is located on Broad Street just one block east of Gramatan Avenue.

 

CBI eventually moved from the south side of Mount Vernon and now resides in a former church on Crary Avenue and next to the old Sinai Temple location, which is also now a church. In the period of the late 1930’s and 1940’s, Rabbis Israel Klaven and Joshua Merinminsky led the Congregation. Rabbi Solomon Freilich, probably the longest serving rabbi in Westchester, has led that congregation since1953, after serving Congregation Anshe Sholom in New Rochelle from 1947 to1953. Unfortunately CBI’s future is in grave doubt as its Congregation is aging out of existence. It is being sold back to the 7th Day Adventist Church, Rabbi Freilich is retiring, and it may be closed forever or merge with the Fleetwood Orthodox Synagogue.

 

In 1906 Sinai Temple was founded as the first reform Temple in Westchester with the help of Daniel Hays. Its first Rabbis in those early days were Kohut, Warsaw until Joseph Gorfinkle, who served for twenty-one years from 1908 through 1929. It was during this period that it moved to Crary Avenue. Over the next forty years, Sinai Temple was guided by both Dr.Andhil Fineberg, who served until 1937, and then was succeeded by the great Dr. Henry Kagan who served though 1969. After Rabbi Kagan’s departure, Sinai merged with the Bronx Sinai Temple. In the 1920s a group of families broke off from Emanu-El, and eventually raised enough money to buy property on South Columbus Avenue, not far from Third Street, and they partially erected the new Jewish Center of Mount Vernon. Congregation Emanu-El continued to expand and they moved from the Masonic Temple on Crary Avenue and re-located to a new building on Lincoln Avenue in 1957, under the religious guidance of the liberal Rabbi Aaron Blumenthal.

 

But times changed, and before long that beautiful building had become almost empty. Temple Emanu-El, which was founded in 1916, had to eventually merge with the Jewish Center that was founded in 1927. It then became the Emanuel Jewish Center. Similarly, Genesis Hebrew Center of Tuckahoe, which was founded in 1936, also saw its congregation decline and disappear. Eventually all three remaining congregations merged with Shaari Tikyah in Scarsdale. It was there, about two years ago in late February that my old friend Warren Adis, a former congregant of the old Emanu-El Temple, and I went to the funeral of Walter Grossman, who had died at the age of 93. He was the father of our old school friend Joel and a pillar of the Jewish Community of Mount Vernon. It wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that he was the last of the old Emanu-El congregants.

 

Max Maccoby, the late great rabbi, was the spiritual leader of the Free Synagogue when I lived as a child in the City of Mount Vernon. Rabbi Maccoby, was a student of the late Stephen Wise, who was one of the most important Jewish leaders of the 20th century and the founder of the Free Synagogue of New York. By the time Rabbi Wise married my parents in 1935, he was famous and a confidante of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

 

The roots of the Free Synagogue emanated from the mind of Rabbi Wise in 1905. Rabbi Wise, who was from Portland, Oregon, was under consideration to be installed as the Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in New York City. When he learned that the temple’s board of trustees would review his sermons, he withdrew his name from consideration. He was interested in a “free” synagogue that would appeal to Jews from all of the then three existing movements. He started to hold services in the Lower East Side, and the Hudson Theater, on 47th Street and in 1907, at the Savoy Hotel, with hundreds of followers, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., the father of the future Secretary of the Treasury, was selected as president of the new synagogue. The Free Synagogue held services often at the Universalist Church of Eternal Hope on West 81st Street, where, in 1910, over 1000 people attended a service. Wise reached out to all of Judaism’s branches, and with his great success and message, the congregation was able purchase several brownstones on West 68th Street, before they built their new and current synagogue and headquarters there in 1950. Unfortunately, Rabbi Wise did not live to see the opening of the new location. He died suddenly on April 19, 1949, only one month after celebrating his 75th birthday at a gala diamond jubilee ceremony in his honor.

 

Of course with my parent’s connection to Rabbi Stephen Wise, along with our move to Mount Vernon and the need for a temple, my parents naturally gravitated to the Free Synagogue. By the time we moved to Mount Vernon in late 1945, the new home of the synagogue had been relocated to a wonderful location in 1939 on the old Mills’ Estate on North Columbus Avenue, not far from the Bronxville border. Rabbi Max Maccoby had founded the Free Synagogue in 1927, and it was there that I came in contact with him as a youngster in the early 1950’s. Interestingly, the new synagogue was used as a collection place and storage for arms for Israel in its War of Independence. Earlier, and before the temple was built, the location was used as a “safe” house for runaway slaves on the “Underground Railroad” route to Canada. In the winter one could sled down the steep bank of grass that was right behind the parking lot. I remember coming out on a crisp Kol Nidre night on September 21, 1955, and wondering who won the Rocky Marciano-Archie Moore world’s heavyweight title. Ironically it was the famous Brockton Bomber’s last fight, he retired April 27, 1956. It was also the last Kol Nidre for Max Maccoby.

 

Maccoby, a soft-spoken man, who was prematurely white-haired, was a wonderful storyteller and specialized in tales from Pinsk and the Pale of the Settlement. He had a wonderful charm about him, and his droll stories about “nail soup,” and the struggles of the shtetl always made me realize, from an early age, that our idyllic life in Mount Vernon was something unique in our history and not to be taken lightly. Of course the Free Synagogue was affiliated with the Reform Movement, and we did have a choir. We never saw who they were. They were ensconced in a small room above the pulpit and when they sang it was like a hearing some heavenly chant that floated down to the congregation. Of course, fifty years ago, people acted and dressed differently than today. Everyone in those days came dressed in their finest clothes, and it seemed that almost every woman had a hat and a mink stole or a fur wrap, and every man from the age of thirteen was dressed in a suit. Today, even on the High Holy Days, the dress code seems much, more casual.

 

Max Maccoby died suddenly in 1956 and his memorial service was held at the Free Synagogue just over fifty years ago on March 3, 1957. I recall vividly the sadness in the Jewish community of Mount Vernon and especially within the Free Synagogue family. This happened not too long before my Bar Mitzvah, and I never warmed up to his successor Leon Jick (1924-2005). Rabbi Jick left Mount Vernon in 1966 for Brandeis and became the Director of the Center for Jewish Studies for the next 24 years. It is never easy to fill the shoes of a legend. Just ask Harry Truman.

 

After the death of Maccoby, and with my disenchantment with Rabbi Jick, my family left the Free Synagogue. My sister had been confirmed, and my bar mitzvah was celebrated in May of 1958. My family was ready for a change. After that period, I went to High Holy Day services with friends at the Sinai Temple, the other Reform Synagogue, on Crary Avenue, in Mount Vernon. Sinai had a wonderful Rabbi named Henry Enoch Kagen, who served there from 1937 through 1969.

 

Later when the Jewish community started to shrink in Mount Vernon, the old Free Synagogue building on Columbus Avenue was do to be demolished. At about that time I strolled through the synagogue on a quiet journey through time, and looked at all the aging confirmation pictures that still adorned the walls. It was like being on a time trip back to an almost forgotten era of careless suburban life, quietly nestled in the idyllic period that was flanked by the cataclysm of the 2nd World War along with the Holocaust and the death of President Kennedy and social upheaval of the middle sixties and seventies. It was eerily silent in that aging upstairs hallway where at one day hundreds of young feet scrambled from room to room with teachers like Mr. Schachter warning them to slow down. It was up in one of those rooms that I remember first hearing of the death of Albert Einstein on April 18, 1955. That shock and the death of Rabbi Maccoby the next year were very personal to me. Einstein was the first great man’s passing that I was really aware of, and when Rabbi Maccoby suddenly died, he was the first person that I knew personally who had passed away. To me life was never-ending and he seemed immortal. It was a rude awakening that all of us on this dear earth eventually experience.

 

 Eventually the end had come to that magnificent building on North Columbus Avenue and it was leveled and most of the property was sold to Sunrise, an assisted living facility. Also the old Sinai Temple was also sold to a church group. With the planned merger of the two Reform congregations, the new Sinai-Free Synagogue congregation was relocated to a small parcel of land on the right side of the former grounds of the original Free Synagogue.

 

After leaving the Free Synagogue and during my high school years, I spent time at Sinai Temple on the High Holy Days. My parents moved from Mount Vernon in 1965 in the midst of my time in college, and I can only remember going to Boston University’s Hillel House on Bay State Road once. It was the sad occasion of John F. Kennedy’s death on November 22, 1963. I was unaware of any temple or synagogue in Boston and therefore it was only logical for me to attend the memorial service for our late President in that building. Somehow after his death and the tumultuous following days and years that followed, for me, organized religion meant less and less. For that reason, I have no distinct memory of ever attending a religious service in the mid to late 1960’s. My parents and my one grandparent were never religious, but we always had a Passover Seder. In those years from my Bar Mitzvah in 1958, to my parent’s deaths in 2005 and 2006, I never remember their mentioning that they had attended a service anywhere. The subject never came up.

 

I was married in 1969 to Linda Rosen at the Carleton House on Madison Avenue. We were married under the traditional Jewish “huppa” by Rabbi Perry Cohen. I had met him once or twice before the ceremony and have never seen nor heard of him since. In those early-married years, we attended synagogue, now and again, with Linda’s parents, Morris and Anne. Morris was one who loved tradition, was a conservative Jew, belonged to Temple Gates of Zion in Valley Stream, and was later a founder and a long-time president of the Junction Park Jewish Center, where Linda’s Israeli cousins, Ami and Nurit Raz taught. When he moved to Manhattan in 1968, he was a member of the Metropolitan Synagogue with the fiery Judah Cahn as its rabbi, who was a former president of the New York Board of Rabbis from 1976 through 1978 and the author of “A View From the Pulpit.” After moving to White Plains in the summer of 1969, we attended services at various places and with different friends and family. We finally joined Bet Am Shalom in 1978 when our daughter Dana was starting school. Both Dana and Jon celebrated their Bat and Bar Mitvahs there. As I re-oriented myself with Judaism, I began to learn a bit more about synagogue life in White Plains.

 

The first regular Jewish services of any kind in White Plains were held in 1904, at the home of Hyman Gordon, with nine other men, at 82 Brookfield Street. The earliest of the traditional synagogues of White Plains goes back to Temple Israel, which was founded in 1907 as the Sons of Israel, with the Reverend Morris Koslowsky as its spiritual leader. By 1909, its first building was located on Fisher Avenue. Six years later in 1915, a small contingent of worshippers from Temple Israel, broke away and formed the Hebrew Institute, which was originally located on South Lexington and Fisher Avenue, the site of an old Lutheran Church. By the way, not long after it’s founding, White Plains became incorporated as a city in 1916, with Pfarrington N. Thompson as its first mayor. The population at the time of its incorporation as a city was 16,000. Times were changing after the war, and even the orthodox Rabbi Samuel Feldshon, the spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute, allowed Friday night services once a month. He was succeeded first by Rabbi David Roth and then by Rabbi Murray Grauer, who served from 1951 through 1995. Today, Rabbi Chaim Marder leads the Hebrew Institute.

 

Despite some institutional prejudice, the Jewish population continued to grow the first Reform Synagogue in central Westchester, the Jewish Community Center was founded in White Plains in 1923. It was the second of Westchester’s Reform synagogues (the first was the Free Synagogue of Mount Vernon) to be inspired by the teachings and leadership of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. Its first building was on Sterling Avenue, and in 1949, the Congregation moved to its current location on Soundview Avenue. Rabbis Lawrence Schwartz (1930-1967) and Maurice Davis (1967-1986) led the large and growing JCC congregation for over fifty years. Rabbi Maurice Davis was from Indiana, and he and I worked together on the Birch Bayh campaign for the 1976 Democratic Presidential nomination. He also became nationally famous for his work against cults that had started to emerge in America in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Today the JCC has been renamed Kol Ami and it is led by one of the first women rabbis to lead a major congregation, Shira Milgrom.

 

After the war the Jewish population of White Plains increased substantially, and Temple Israel grew to over 350 members by the late 1940’s. Eventually a Reconstructionist Temple, now called Bet Am Shalom, was founded from two congregations, Bet Ami and Beth Shalom. Since 1967, with its first Rabbi Edward Neufeld, that congregation, which started in an old mansion on Soundview Avenue, with a handful of members, continues to grow exponentially. Over the years there were many rabbis, cantors and spiritual leaders at Bet Am Shalom. In the 1970’s, Bet Am Shalom, needing more space on the High Holidays, would use the JCC’s sanctuary when their congregation traveled to the County Center to hold their own services. When the JCC wanted to return to their own sanctuary, Bet Am Shalom set up tents on their broad lawn to accommodate their growing congregation and guests.  Since 1989, Bet Am Shalom has more than tripled in size and it has been blessed with the strong leadership of Rabbi Lester Bronstein and his wife Cantor Benji Schiller. Even Jewish havurat or prayer groups have expanded in White Plains with the founding of Young Israel of White Plains.

 

White Plains continues to have a thriving Jewish community with the founding of the Solomon Schechter School, in 1965, by Rabbi Max Gelb, and his wife Leah. Rabbi Gelb, at the time was the spiritual leader of Temple Israel of White Plains. He led Temple Israel from 1946 through 1972. Arnold Turetsky and then Gordon Tucker, who was once married to Hadassah Lieberman, United States Senator Joseph Lieberman’s current wife, followed Gelb. The Solomon Schechter School, which is located off Morgan Avenue, continues to grow. In fact, it grew so much that it eventually was divided between a lower school, which remains in its 1971 White Plains’ location, and a new upper school in Hartsdale, which was named a Jewish resident of that area named Isaac Hart. Hart owned quite a bit of land in Westchester in the late 18th Century and, coincidently Murray Grauer, the long-time Hebrew Center rabbi, found Hart’s marriage certificate that dated from 1810. (Our children attended the Solomon Schechter School in White Plains before attending and graduating from White Plains High School.)

 

What is the lesson of all of this? The lesson is that the Jewish people were able to rise from the ashes of the Holocaust that almost destroyed European Jewry and were also able survive the decline and destruction of their original neighborhoods in the cities of this country, where they were once concentrated, to a rebirth in the once restricted suburbs. This rebirth and renewal is a tribute to Jewish leadership in Westchester and especially to the post war, Jewish leadership in White Plains, Mount Vernon and other communities.

 

My thoughts are that Jewish education is still critical and essential to the substance of the Jewish people and family, and that the synagogue should still be in forefront of that leadership. The values of the Jewish home and institutions like the Solomon Schechter School, and the local synagogues must continue their critical role of education, values and faith in G-d. Let us never forget the past, but let us as a united community secure the future in an ever-changing community and world.

 

Therefore I see in this troubled world a sense of hope and faith that the essence of the Jewish community is still centered in education, and that the synagogue and its educational programs for young and old hold a key to that faith.

 


 

 

The Advocates- The Army's Other Crisis with Andrew Tilghman 3-19-08

 

“The Advocates”

 With

Richard J. Garfunkel

 WVOX – AM Radio 1460- 12 Noon Wednesday

March 19, 2008

All archived Shows at:

http://advocates-wvox.com

 

Wednesday, March 19, 2008, at 12:00 Noon, I am hosting my show “The Advocates” on WVOX- 1460 AM on your dial, or you can listen to the program’s live streaming at www.wvox.com.  One can call the show at 914-636-0110 to reach us on the radio.  Our special guest this afternoon is Mr. Andrew Tilghman of Washington, DC.  The subject for our forum today is “The Army’s Other Crisis, Why are the brightest young officers leaving?”

 

Andrew Tilghman is a Washington-based reporter who writes primarily about the U.S. military and national security. He is currently a staff Writer for the Marine Corps Times newspaper and has also served as an Iraq correspondent for the Stars and Stripes newspaper and written for the Washington Monthly Magazine.

 

A native of Maryland's Eastern Shore, he began writing for a small weekly newspaper in Queens, New York in 1996, covering crime and local politics. After earning a masters degree from Columbia University in 2000, Andrew worked for the Associated Press in Milwaukee, where he helped cover the presidential election of 2000. He later moved to New York's state capital to work for the Times Union where, among other assignments, he spent nearly one year on a project investigating pedophile priests in the Diocese of Albany. After moving to Texas in 2003, Andrew joined the city desk at the Houston Chronicle and spent several years focusing on criminal justice and the death penalty. In 2005, he traveled to Iraq for the first time.

 

Meanwhile, the mission of the “Advocates” is to bring to the public differing views on current “public policy “issues. “Public policy,” therefore, is what we as a nation legally and traditionally follow. Over the years, the “public policy” of the United States has changed or has been modified greatly. As an example, “free public education” is the public policy of the United States. Also, over time great struggles have ensued over the control of the direction of “public policy” For example: free trade vs. protectionism, slavery vs. emancipation, state’s rights vs. Federalism, and an all-volunteer armed forces or the “draft.”

 

One can find my essays on FDR and other subjects at http://www.richardjgarfunkel.com and one can also see all of the archived shows at: http://advocates-wvox.com. 

 

Richard J. Garfunkel

http://www.richardjgarfunkel.com

rjg727@optonline.net 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Advocates with Tom Abinanti 3-12-08

 

“The Advocates”

 With

Richard J. Garfunkel

 WVOX – AM Radio 1460- 12 Noon Wednesday

March 12, 2008

All archived Shows at:

http://advocates-wvox.com

 

Wednesday, March 12, 2008, at 12:00 Noon, I am hosting my show “The Advocates” on WVOX- 1460 AM on your dial, or you can listen to the program’s live streaming at www.wvox.com.  One can call the show at 914-636-0110 to reach us on the radio.  Our special guest this afternoon is the Honorable Tom Abinanti, who is serving his eighth term as a Westchester County Legislator. He represents the 12th District, which includes Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings, Ardsley and most of unincorporated Greenburgh. He is a graduate of Fordham College, the NYU’s School of Law. He is a practicing attorney with over thirty years of public service and community activity. Mr. Abinanti has a full understanding of the workings of Town and County government. His legal career has included serving as a prosecuting attorney for two Greenburgh villages, pro-bono work for the Westchester Coalition for Legal Abortion, and being a legislative and staff counsel to a member of Congress and the NY State Assembly and its Speaker.  

 

Today we are going to discuss the topic of “Westchester County, It’s Future, Continual Growth or Self-Division into Rich and Poor Communities.”  Along with that critical subject Mr. Abinanti, has an abiding interest in the environment and energy, and serves as the Chairperson of that County Legislative Committee.

 

Meanwhile, the mission of the “Advocates” is to bring to the public differing views on current “public policy “issues. “Public policy,” therefore, is what we as a nation legally and traditionally follow. Over the years, the “public policy” of the United States has changed or has been modified greatly. As an example, “free public education” is the public policy of the United States. Also, over time great struggles have ensued over the control of the direction of “public policy” For example: free trade vs. protectionism, slavery vs. emancipation, state’s rights vs. Federalism, and an all-volunteer armed forces or the “draft.”

 

One can find my essays on FDR and other subjects at http://www.richardjgarfunkel.com and one can also see all of the archived shows at: http://advocates-wvox.com. 

 

Richard J. Garfunkel

http://www.richardjgarfunkel.com

rjg727@optonline.net 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Advocates- The 75th Anniversary of FDR's First Inauguration-March 5, 2008

 

“The Advocates”

 With

Richard J. Garfunkel

 WVOX – AM Radio 1460- 12 Noon Wednesday

March 5, 2008

All archived Shows at:

http://advocates-wvox.com

 

Wednesday, March 5, 2008, at 12:00 Noon, I am hosting my show “The Advocates” on WVOX- 1460 AM on your dial, or you can listen to its live streaming at www.wvox.com.  One can call the show at 914-636-0110 to reach us on the radio.  Today’s topic is “The 75th Anniversary of FDR’s First Inaugural, and the Emergence of the New Deal.”  My guest this week is the distinguished journalist Mr. Milton Hoffman, who was with Westchester daily newspapers for 50 years.  Mr. Hoffman retired five years ago as senior editor with the Journal News. Mr. Hoffman joined us in August for a discussion regarding “Westchester’s Changing Political Landscape, the last 50 Years.”  We expect to spend some time talking about Tuesday’s primary results in both Texas and Ohio, and what implications these results will have on the Democratic nomination for President. We also have as our special call-in guest former Ambassador William vanden Heuval, who was a former assistant to Attorney-General Robert F. Kennedy, Chairman of the NYC Board of Corrections and Ambassador of the United Nations. He has been the Chairman of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt since 1984.

 

It was seventy-five years ago that Franklin Delano Roosevelt the 32nd President of the United States took the oath of office on a bleak March 4th day in Washington, in front of a restless crowd of anxious Americans. This was cataclysmic time for the American economy and people. The business failures in America had increased 50 % since 1928. The Gross National Product had been dropped 50% since those pre-collapse days of 1928. Unemployment went from 3% in the beginning of 1929 to 30% or more in March of 1933.

 

The scene was set for this dramatic day, and in the four long months from the time of FDR’s landslide victory over the hapless and helpless Herbert Hoover, the economy was in free-fall. With two-thirds of the banks shutting down in the United States, men selling apples in the streets, thousands lined up at soup kitchens, shanty-towns sprouting up allover the country, the Dust Bowl enveloping our farms, commodity prices at rock bottom, and the stock market with 13% of its September 1929 value, the country was teetering on either revolution or out right panic.

 

Of course, against this dramatic and frightening backdrop, Franklin D. Roosevelt made his way to the rostrum in front of the Capital of the United States to be sworn in as our 32nd President. Never since Lincoln’s time in 1861, with the onset of the Civil War, had the country been in such dire straights. With the assistance of his son Jimmy on one arm, and a Secret Serviceman on the other, FDR made his way down the special ramp constructed for him. The anticipation was incredible and quickly Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes read the oath of office and Franklin Roosevelt repeated it in his distinctive, clear unmistakable accent. With his taking the oath, “I Franklin Delano Roosevelt, so solemnly swear…” FDR entered into the exalted portals of history and the “Age of Roosevelt” began.

 

One can find my essays on FDR and other subjects at http://www.richardjgarfunkel.com and one can also see all of the archived shows at: http://advocates-wvox.com. 

 

Meanwhile, the mission of the “Advocates” is to bring to the public differing views on current “public policy “issues. “Public policy,” therefore, is what we as a nation legally and traditionally follow. Over the years, the “public policy” of the United States has changed or has been modified greatly. As an example, “free public education” is the public policy of the United States. Also, over time great struggles have ensued over the control of the direction of “public policy” For example: free trade vs. protectionism, slavery vs. emancipation, state’s rights vs. Federalism, and an all-volunteer armed forces or the “draft.”

 

Richard J. Garfunkel

http://www.richardjgarfunkel.com

rjg727@optonline.net 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FDR, Washington and Hyde Park Seventy Five Years Later -March 1, 2008

FDR, Washington and Hyde Park Seventy-Five Years Later

By

Richard J. Garfunkel

March 1, 2008

 

 

It was seventy-five years ago that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, took the oath of office on a bleak March 4th day in Washington, in front of a restless crowd of anxious Americans. This was cataclysmic time for the American economy and people. The business failures in America had increased 50 % since 1928. the Gross National Product had been dropped 50% since those pre-collapse days of 1928. Unemployment went from 3% in the beginning of 1929 to 30% or more in March of 1933.

 

The scene was set for this dramatic day, and in the long four months from the time of FDR’s landslide victory over the hapless and helpless Herbert Hoover, the economy was in free-fall. With two-thirds of the banks shutting down in the United States, men selling apples in the streets, thousands lined up at soup kitchens, shanty-towns sprouting up allover the country, the Dust Bowl enveloping our farms, commodity prices at rock bottom, and the stock market with 13% of its September 1929 value, the country was teetering on either revolution or out right panic.

 

Of course against this dramatic and frightening backdrop, Franklin D. Roosevelt made his way to the rostrum in front of the Capitol of the United States to be sworn in as our 32nd President. Not since Lincoln’s time in 1861, with the onset of the Civil War had the country been in such dire straights. With the assistance of his son Jimmy on one arm, and the Secret Serviceman Edmond Starling on the other, FDR made his way down the special ramp constructed for him. The anticipation was incredible, and quickly Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes read the oath of office and Franklin Roosevelt, breaking precedent away from the traditional “I do,” repeated it in his distinctive, clear unmistakable accent. With his taking the oath, “I Franklin Delano Roosevelt, so solemnly swear…,” FDR entered into the exalted portals of history.

 

As Arthur Schlesinger said in his award winning book, The Age of Roosevelt, The Coming of the New Deal, “Throughout the country people listened to their radios with a quickening hope, Nearly half a million of them wrote letters to the White House in the next few days. People said: ‘It was the finest thing this side of heaven.’ And, ‘Your human feeling for all of us in your address is just wonderful’; and ‘It seemed to give the people, as well as myself, a new hold upon life.”  Another wrote, “People are looking to you almost as they look to G-d.” Eleanor Roosevelt called the inauguration “very, very solemn and a little terrifying” – terrifying  “because when Franklin got to that part of his speech when he said it might be necessary for him to assume powers ordinarily granted to a President in war time, he received his biggest demonstration.”

 

This was on my mind as we made our way up the old Taconic Parkway, which was started in Franklin Roosevelt’s first term as governor of New York as an extension of the Bronx River Parkway, and continued on and off, through the New Deal to the beginning of World War II. After the war, when monies were freed up for these types of projects, its final connection to the NY State Thruway was completed in the early 1960’s. We were headed to a celebration of the 75th anniversary of this historical event at President Roosevelt’s ancestral home Springwood, at Hyde Park. As part of this wonderful and significant anniversary, the Presidential Library, designed and created by President Roosevelt, was celebrating a great new exhibit aptly named ”The First Hundred Days.”

 

The weather was bright, and clear as we cruised north on this Saturday the first of March. We had experienced snow in Tarrytown the night before, but the weather gods smiled upon us, and before very long we had reached Route 55, just west of La Grange, and turned east towards Route 9 and the Hudson River. One can easily see how the old city of Poughkeepsie has continued to grow northward past Marist College, the Culinary Institute and into the Village of Hyde Park. Today it would be hard to imagine First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt coming out of her home at Val-Kill, to old Route 9 and stopping by a fruit and vegetable market at the side of the road, to shop with her neighbors. But she did that quite often in those uncomplicated days before security became so important and necessary.

 

Not far up the long sloping road from Poughkeepsie, and past the right hand turnoff to St. Andrews Road, where one would turn to visit Val-Kill Cottage, Eleanor’s home, the road flattens into Hyde Park. Another third of a mile on Route 9, on the left, one can see the old stonewall, which marks the eastern boundary of the presidential estate. In the 17th Century, the Stoughburghs were the first European Dutch people who settled in that area called Crum Elbow Creek. In 1812, the community was officially named Hyde Park after one Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, who was a Governor of New York.

 

The home and library has a new entrance these days to accommodate the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center, which was completed to the north of the Library and the big house in November of 2003. Wallace was FDR’s 2nd Vice-President. The Wallace Family, is worth billions today because of Henry A. Wallace’s agricultural inventiveness. They therefore contributed mightily to the $4 million effort to construct this marvelous center. In the fall of 2002, I watched the early excavations of the center, when I made my weekly journeys to the mansion. I was the originator of the idea to bring back the FDR Birthday Balls that ended with Roosevelt’s untimely death on April 12, 1945. FDR had used these “Balls” to raise money for the Warm Springs Foundation, which became the March of Dimes. On January 30, 2003, the 121st anniversary of the late President’s birth, I was the co-host of that renewal event. It was a grand evening! Many thousands were raised that evening for both the Library and the March of Dimes.

One of the featured guests at this event was Mr. Jonathan Alter. He was born in Chicago in 1957, and graduated from Harvard in 1979. He is an award-winning  columnist and senior editor for Newsweek magazine, where he has worked since 1983. A Chicago native and resident of Montclair, New Jersey, he is also a contributing correspondent to NBC News, where since 1996 he has appeared on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC. In addition, he was heard frequently on the cancelled Imus in the Morning, and The Al Franken Show on Air America Radio. He is the author of The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, published by Simon & Schuster in 2006.

For a decade in the 1980s, Alter was Newsweek's media critic, where he was among the first in the mainstream media to break tradition and hold other news organizations accountable for their coverage, a precursor to the role later played by blogs. When Newsweek launched his wide-ranging column in 1991, it was the first time the magazine allowed regular political commentary in the magazine, other than on the back page. After the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, during which Alter was a consultant to MTV,  he was among a small group of reporters and columnists who had regular access to Clinton. Alter was far from a reliable supporter, particularly during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. “Alter bites me in the ass sometimes, but at least he knows what we're trying to do,” Clinton was quoted as saying, in the book, Media Circus by The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz.

Alter achieved some notoriety on Election Night 2000. During the evening, he went on NBC News to break the story of a problem with “butterfly ballots” in Palm Beach County, Florida, where many voters intending to vote for Al Gore ended up mistakenly voting for third party candidate Pat Buchanan. In the wee hours, on set with Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, he enraged conservatives by saying that recounts were “more art than science” and predicting that the Florida election was headed to court. The right-wing, felt he, placed too much weight on Gore's popular vote victory over George W. Bush. While his column has long been a bastion of center-left moderation, he became a sometimes ardent critic of President Bush, with a particular emphasis on his lack of accountability and his position on embryonic stem cell research. Alter, who is a cancer survivor, has written and spoken occasionally about his own bout with lymphoma and his experience with an adult stem-cell transplant.

It is really a small world out there and almost all of us are only “Six Degrees of Separation” from anyone and everyone. Recently through the excellent connections of my lovely wife Linda, I was able to get in contact with Jonathan Alter. He even was a visiting professor at Princeton in 1997. My son Jon was there then, and even though he was always interested in politics and government, and was elected to office at Princeton, he was too tied up with his engineering load to sit in on Jonathan Alter’s class on “Press and Politics.”

 

After learning of Alter’s new book, a few years ago, on Franklin Roosevelt, The Defining Moment: FDR’s First Hundred Days, I took the liberty of writing to him about my interest in the very same subject. Before long, I started sending him pieces that I had written on the great man. When I received, my now autographed, copy of his book on FDR, I started to read his wonderful book and sent my perspectives on some of his interesting vignettes. After I finally finished it I sent him an email regarding my thoughts on his book. By the way, here were some of the glowing reviews of the book!

“The Defining Moment is a riveting account of the first hundred days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. Working without a plan—indeed, working often with two or more contradictory plans—FDR argued, persuaded, cajoled and enticed the American people to pull out of the miserable slough of the Great Depression and to resume their natural optimism. He was, Jonathan Alter shows, a real American Music Man, capable of creating a brass band without instruments. More properly, the President was a political magician, whose supernal arts Alter shares as he bewitches readers in this fast-moving story, often poignant, sometimes funny, of how Roosevelt changed the direction of American history.”
—David Herbert Donald, author of Lincoln

“Great presidents are great politicians, artists of felling, channelers of their age. No one illustrates this better than Franklin Roosevelt, and no one understands it—or FDR and his improvised revolution of 1933—better than Jonathan Alter. In this original, often moving, and compulsively readable account, Alter reintroduces us to the original Great Communicator, at once the scourge and savior of American capitalism. Not the least of Alter’s insights is that it was the powers Roosevelt didn’t exercise that entitle him to posterity’s gratitude, for they spell the difference between democracy and dictatorship. The Defining Moment should be required reading for every president, every student of leadership, and anyone who appreciates narrative history at its finest.”
—Richard Norton Smith, Executive Director, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Interestingly, a few years ago, (the book was published in 2006) after communicating with Mr. Alter about his great book, I received a note and a separate email inviting us to the famous Colony Club for a cocktail party sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute in his honor. I called Linda, who works on 55th Street and Madison and said, “Do you want to go to the Colony Club?” and I was happy she agreed. Mrs. J. (Jefferson) Borden Harriman originally founded the Colony Club, the oldest women’s club in New York, in 1902, with help from her friends (Mrs. John Jacob Astor and Mrs. Payne Whitney.) In its second location at 564 Park Avenue, where it has stood since 1916, the Georgian-style edifice may have claimed Eleanor Roosevelt as a member. But when she and her mother-in-law, Sara Delano Roosevelt were invited to be charter members they had refused. It was built originally on 120 Madison Avenue, from a design by Stanford White (remember him from Ragtime, when he was shot and killed by Evelyn Nesbitt’s estranged husband, Harry K. Thaw, in the roof garden of the old Madison Square Garden!)  Delano and Aldrich, who also built Kykuit, in Sleepy Hollow, the home of the Rockefeller dynasty that overlooks the Hudson and the Palisades, designed the present building. William Adams Delano (1874-1960) of the Massachusetts Delano’s, and Chester Holmes Aldrich (1871-1940) were Beaux Arts architects and designers for elite clients in NYC.

I made excellent time from Tarrytown and before long I was exiting on the FDR Drive at 71st and heading east to Park Avenue. I decided to look for a parking space anywhere I could find one. But luckily, as I approached 63rd Street going south on Park, a Rolls Royce, mind you, pulled out of a space almost directly in front of 564 Park. How fortuitous, no less convenient. I parked, walked 50 feet to the building, was checked in by the doorman and sent up to the 7th floor outside patio. I was the first one there and eventually Linda came in with Chris Breiseth, a member of the Roosevelt family and a Roosevelt Institute senior board member. We had met when I helped chair the revival of the famous Roosevelt Birthday Balls, which we again held on January 30, 2003 at the Culinary Institute and Hyde Park. (FDR and Dana Garfunkel were born on January 30th!) Not long after that our guest of honor arrived along with other Roosevelt aficionados. Jonathan Alter quickly felt right at home with his admirers and captivated the group with stories from his book.

It was a grand time, with marvelous canapés and drinks to satiate the digestive tract and lubricate the palate. I brought along a few FDR items from my collection and along with Linda, Jonathan Alter and the son of John C. Winant, who was a two-term Governor of New Hampshire and our wartime Ambassador to Great Britain, we tried to identify some of the dignitaries in a picture with FDR. So the book is The Defining Moment; FDR’s Hundred Days, and if you want to enjoy a very readable book that chronicles FDR’s pivotal roll in the saving of America, please read it this summer.

 

Later on I received the following email from Mr. Alter:

Hi, Richard…. It was so wonderful to get your missive this morning. I hope to sell the book to lots of people who don't know much about FDR, but I actually wrote it looking for the approval of people like you–who have read so much about him. It was very difficult deciding what to keep and what to cut–I cut more than 25,000 words out of the book at the suggestion of my editor, who argued, rightly, I think, that a shorter book would work better. But it was painful. You mention Warren Delano, for instance. He was a great character and much that I learned about him was left on the cutting-room floor. (Though you might have noticed that there's practically another book entirely in the End Notes!). I'm not sure I agree that FDR should have served a fifth, sixth and seventh term had he lived (and I think he would have gratefully retired to Hilltop after his fourth). But I agree that Leuchtenberg's book on his legacy is marvelous. We ALL live in the shadow of FDR!!

A question for you: How do I get the word out about the book among people old enough to remember him? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.-Jon (from Jonathan Alter, May 22, 2006)

Upon visiting Hyde Park on January 30, 2007, the 125th anniversary of FDR’s birth I wrote this email back to Jonathan Alter.

 

Noting the occasion of the upcoming 125th Anniversary of the birth of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on January 30th.

 

I read Robert Rosen's masterful book, and we have talked many times about his work. I sent him my paper on “FDR and the Jewish Community” and he graciously said “you should have written this book 10 years earlier!” I'll be up there and I hope that his book will eventually reverse the FDR hater's effort to continue to sully his great name and legacy. Any one who is interested in this most important period of history should get his book and learn the real truth regarding FDR's efforts for Jewish survival and humanity's triumph. James McGregor Burn's calling FDR the “Soldier of Freedom” was right on the money decades ago. Without FDR, the author of the “Four Freedoms,” the “Atlantic Charter,” and “Lend-Lease,” the architect of the “Arsenal of Democracy,” the creator of the United Nations, and the leader of the Free World, we would not be here today. No man in history, in the words of Winston Churchill, who was referring to the RAF's heroic defense of England, in the Battle of Britain, could be more associated with his quote, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” In that sense humanity owes its survival in a world of light, as opposed to darkness, to the “few” of whom one, Franklin Delano Roosevelt stands out above all. 

 

As Churchill stated in a speech to the House of Commons on April 17, 1945, “He (FDR) died in harness, and we may well say in battle harness, like his soldiers, sailors and airman, who side by side with ours are carrying their task to the end all over the world. What an enviable death was his.”

 

Of course in honor of his birth, one must also recall again Winston Churchill who said, “Franklin Roosevelt was the greatest man he had ever known.” President Roosevelt's life, he said must be regarded as “one of the commanding events of human destiny.”

 

Richard

 

Of course, back to the festivities at the Wallace Center at Hyde Park, one of the other featured guests and luminaries, was Ambassador William vanden Heuvel, whom I had met through local politics many, many years earlier. I went out to a symposium held at Hofstra University on Eleanor Roosevelt in late September of 1999, and I was able to strike up a conversation with him and his lovely daughter Katrina, who was and is currently the editor of The Nation magazine. I was able to continue our relationship though mutual correspondence and a few years later, because of our talk, and a number of letters, I was able to convince Ambassador vanden Heuvel, and the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, which he headed, to revive the FDR/March of Dimes Birthday Ball celebrations Eventually with enough prodding, a committee was formed, and I was made the vice-chairman. The celebration and dinner, which I mentioned earlier, were eventually held on January 30, 2003, the anniversary of FDR’s birth at both the Roosevelt Library and the Culinary Institute of America on Route 9, in Poughkeepsie. It was the first “Birthday Ball” since FDR’s death in 1945. It was great fun and an aesthetic and financial success.

 

Poughkeepsie, which is the county seat of Duchess County, where Hyde Park is located (9 miles up Route 9), was founded in 1687 and incorporated as a city in 1854. For a short time it was the capital of New York (1777) and its population (in 2000) of 29,871 is only slightly more that it was in 1900 (24,029). The Poughkeepsie Journal is the 3rd oldest newspaper in the United States and it is the home to Vassar and Marist Colleges.

 

I met the Ambassador again at his offices on 5th Avenue in New York, and I suggested a future meeting with two of my colleagues, regarding the expansion of our Birthday Ball effort. In the course of my conversation I learned that the Ambassador was quite well connected with General William Donovan, the legendary head of the OSS, during the 2nd World War and a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at the Argonne Forest. He was awarded the Medal of Honor while serving as an officer with the 165th Infantry, formerly known as the Fighting 69th, which of course was part of the famous Rainbow Division. It was nicknamed the “Rainbow Division”, because it was the first division composed of men from all over the United States. This division was home to the famous fighting Tennessean, Sgt. Alvin C. York, who captured and knocked out 20+ German machine gun nests, single-handedly and captured over 130 of the enemy himself.

 

Of course the, the Fighting 69th of New York, was a famous regiment made up of many Irish-Americans from New York City, including Father Francis Duffy, for whom Duffy Square in NYC, is named, and the heroic Sergeant Joyce Kilmer, author/poet of “Trees”, who was killed in action in the same campaign, along with 644 others. (William Donovan, was former law school classmate of FDR, a GOP candidate for Governor of New York, head of FDR’s special intelligent unit, and the first head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), America’s WWII spy agency and the forerunner of the CIA.)

William Vanden Heuvel was born in Rochester, New York and attended public schools in New York. He is a graduate of Cornell University. At Cornell Law School, he was editor-in-chief of Cornell's law review. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1952. He joined Donovan, leisure, Newton and Irvine as an Associate in 1952, his first law firm.As an early protégé of Office of Strategic Services founder Wild Bill Donovan, vanden Heuvel served at the U.S. embassy (1953-1954) in Bangkok, Thailand as Donovan's Executive Assistant. Afterward, in 1958, vanden Heuvel served as Counsel to New York State Governor Averell Harriman.

He became U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's assistant in 1962 and was involved in Kennedy's 1964 and 1968 political campaigns. As special assistant to Attorney General Kennedy, vanden Heuvel played the key role in court orchestrating the desegregation of the Prince Edward County school system in Virginia. This action expanded the scope of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.[In 1965 he joined Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, as Senior Partner, where he practiced international and corporate law. He is currently Senior Counsel to the firm. In the 1970s, vanden Heuvel, as Chairman of the New York City Board of Corrections led a campaign to investigate conditions in the city’s prison system. He has had a lifelong involvement in the reform of the criminal justice system. He served as United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations and as Ambassador to the European office of the United Nations in Geneva during the Jimmy Carter Administration.

Vanden Heuvel has held directorships in a number of public companies. They include: the U.S. Banknote Corporation, Time Warner, Inc., and the North Aegean Petroleum company, and others. Since 1984 he has been a Senior Advisor to the investment banking firm Allen & Company.    

Currently he is a director of the American Austrian Foundation and Co-chairman of the Council of American Ambassadors. Since 1984 vanden Heuvel has been Chairman of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a Governor and former Chairman of the United Nations Association, and has written extensively on the United Nations and American foreign policy.

Back in 2003, I came across an article in the NY Times about the late and former Governor and United States Senator Herbert Lehman, who was related to both the late Elinor Fatman, Henry Morgenthau Jr.’s wife and the late Barbara Tuchman, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian. Bill vanden Heuvel was mentioned quite prominently and I penned this letter to him at the time.

            February 27, 2003

 

Dear Ambassador vanden Heuvel,

 

I hope that this letter finds you and yours quite well. I had the pleasure reading about the Herbert Lehman symposium in yesterday’s NY Times. In reading the article I was reminded of Governor Lehman’s decency regarding the Gubernatorial campaign of 1934. In that race Herbert Lehman, who was elected to his first term in 1932, faced a very tough opponent with the candidacy of Robert Moses, the State and City Park’s Commissioner. Of course the campaign waged by the aggressive Moses was vituperative and insulting and resulted in the greatest numerical landslide in the history of the state or any state of the Union. It even broke FDR’s record landslide numerical victory of 1930. Lehman won by 808,091 votes, and Moses 35% of the vote was the lowest total for a major party in the 157- year history of NY State elections. In fact, the GOP lost both Houses of the State Legislature for the first time in 21 years. Within a year the GOP won back the assembly and didn’t lose it back for another 29 years until LBJ’s landslide of 1964.

 

The following is from Robert Caro’s book The Power Broker.

 

On Election Night, (Robert) Moses was careful to show an elaborate disregard of the vote. Reporters ushered into his apartment at 7 Gracie Square saw him poring over a map of the city “outlining park and playground prospects, while he whistled softly” and “giving only perfunctory attention, apparently, to the election returns relayed to him.” I haven’t the slightest regrets in any way, shape or manner,” her. “I’ve done the best I could. I’ve conducted an honorable campaign and adhered to my convictions. That is all there is to it.” And he said that he was planning to return to his park job the next morning.

 

There was no question about his returning to his city job, of course, but the fact that he included in the statement his state park work showed that he knew Herbert Lehman much better than his campaign attacks on the Governor would have made it appear. For Lehman’s treatment of Moses after the campaign was the definitive word on the Governor’s character.

 

Lehman was bitterly hurt by Moses’ charges, but he would not allow personal feelings to interfere with his duty. “We have differed in the past and probably in the future, but in planning and administration of parks, parkways and recreational facilities, Bob Moses has no superior on the face of the world,” the Governor announced. Moses would continue to head the state park system as long as he was Governor, he said. “He was terribly sensitive because he said that I called him a liar in the campaign,” Moses would recall, but “I found him a very nice fellow to deal with. A very decent, honorable, honest fellow, he always supported me when he was Governor.”

 

Moses should have known that Lehman would support him. After all, the “cowardly, sniveling, lying weakling” had always supported him before.

 

What a strange world we live in, when whole generations of young people have collective memory loss. I don’t know whether it is a matter of the teaching of history, or the fault of all of our institutions. Of course it isn’t restricted to one race, or class or religious group. I can clearly remember when one of my daughter’s friends from Scarsdale, was interning at the law firm Dewey, Ballantine, and did not know who Thomas E. Dewey was, and frankly had never heard his name! Therefore, as one who is interested in history, I was gratified to hear that there was a symposium on Herbert Lehman, and his illustrious career.

 

I hope we can talk one of these days. I will be in the city on Wednesday March 12th. Maybe we could have lunch together.

 

Regards,

 

Richard J. Garfunkel

One of the most interesting guests at Hyde Park was Henry Morgenthau III, who is the son of the late Henry Morgenthau Jr, FDR’s long-time friend, Hudson Valley neighbor and was longest serving Secretary of the Treasury. ( He served from 1934-1945, 11 years, 6 months, and the next longest serving Treasury Secretary was Andrew Mellow 1921-1932, 10 years, 11 months) , and the late Elinor Fatman, a Lehman and a Vassar College graduate. Morganthau’s grandfather, Henry, Sr., (1856-1946) was the American Ambassador to Turkey from 1913-1916, and it was he who had a great deal to do with revealing the truth about the Turkish massacre of the Armenians. He was also the grandfather of the late Pulitzer Prize winning historian Barbara Tuchman, (1912-1989). Morgenthau is the brother of the famous United States prosecutor and current Manhattan District Attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau (1919-) who has served in that office for 33 years. Morgenthau defeated Richard Kuh, for that post, who was then the interim Manahattan DA, after having succeded the legendary Frank Hogan, who had served 32 years until his stroke and resignation in 1972.

Henry, who is now 91 (born in 1917, just nine months after his parents wedding in 1916) was a television producer for twenty years in Boston, and produced numerous documentaries and talk shows, including the Eleanor Roosevelt: Prospects for Mankind series. His shows won Peabody, Emmy, UPI,  and numerous other awards. He was once a program manager at WNYC in NYC and was also a producer on the three major networks. He was the author of the Morgenthau family history, Mostly Morgenthaus.  In November of 2002, at the Boston Public Library, he met my son, Jon, another Princton graduate, and gladly and graciously autographed his award winning book for Jon. I had a chance to remind him about meeting my son and seemed to recall the evening and Jon’s talk with him. By the way he’s in pretty good shape. Of all the vistors at Hyde Park that day, only Henry Morgenthau III was actually there in person at the 1933 Inauguration.

On that day on the 4th of March 1933, when FDR was sworn in by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, the Morgenthaus were seated with the official party – the Roosevelt family and personal friends. At sixteen years old, Henry the III and his brother Robert were packed in at the front of the crowd directly facing the players on stage. The Morgenthaus were now part of history, but Henry, in his heart, echoed the insecurities of his father and family.  He knew, though they bet everything on FDR and they had won, they had no “real” power, and if they faltered in their resolve in their service to him, only for a moment it seemed, there were always others waiting, eager, and able to replace them in the starting lineup. It was part of the anxiety and pressure of the times. In a sense with Henry Morgenthau, FDR’s friend, and sometime confidant, if that was really possible, this feeling of insecurity would last until FDR’s death.

Meanwhile, a few years later, Henry entered Princeton University in 1935, after attending Deerfield Academy. Most Princetonians, according to Morgenthau, in his book Mostly Morgenthaus, saw FDR “as a threat to to the sacred free enterprise system. They resented his tendency to play up to the masses, and denounced him as a traitor to his class.” Of course, as many generations have learned since those days, Princeton “were men of heritage and ambition.” In fact, my son, Jon, Class of 1998, met many entrepenuer types, and was always impressed by their economic drive and capitalistic ingenuity. Many of Henry the III’s contempories were heirs to great American fortunes. There was always great representation among the Du Ponts, Firestones, Rockefellers, and the heirs of the presidents of  companies like Borden Milk and Hershey Chocolate (not a bad combination) . There were even many descendents, in his class, of Martha Washington, Henry Clay, Robert E. Lee along with sons of Wendell Willkie, John L. Lewis  and and a nephew of John Foster and Allen Dulles. Even young Jack Kennedy was in the Henry’s freshman class before illness forced him out and eventually over to Harvard. 

Of course Princeton, as Morgenthau has written, did not have a sign out NO JEWS NEED APPLY, but few did. As in Jon’s time one of the keys to life at Princeton was the “eating clubs.”  On a special night, after weeks of “bickering,” (in other schools, in the Greek tradition, “rushing” students)  “callers” came, to supposedly each student’s room to knock on one’s door, and invite them to be a member of an elite, or even the middle tier club. Of course no one knocked on Henry’s door. In fact, the bottom rung clubs, Court, Gateway, and the Dial Lodge had not called either. Henry, along with some others, who were not in clubs by choice or other reasons, formed a small group that contracted for meals at the Peacock Inn. Six years earlier, Henry’s cousin, Barbara Tuchman had discovered at Swarthmore that the sororities did not rush or pledge Jews. Because of this, she left at the end of the year and transferred to Radcliffe, which had no discernible structured social life. Barbara was now happy with her new circumstances, though there was some awkwardness about going out on social encounters along with her floormates, she endurred quite well. Henry the III finally got some respect from the clubs as he worked with a friend to collect excess food from these elite houses. They distributed it to the poor and hungry families living in Princeton, of whom many were black. One of the most dedicated of this tiny group was Clairborn Pell, whose grandmother was a friend of Sara Delano Roosevelt. Pell’s father was a New York Congressman and the NY State Democratic Chairman, and Henry and Pell became friendly as they ran together on the cross-country team.

 

Claiborne Pell (born, 1918, went to Princeton, Class of 1940 and was a member of the Colonial Club) retired from the United States Senate in 1997 (He served from 1961-1997, the longest of any previous Rhode Island U.S. Senator!). The Newport Bridge was renamed in his honor. That was a nice touch. He was quite well liked and was largely responsible for the educational “Pell” Grants (1973). His fore bearers went way back to colonial times, and he is a descendent of a number of Congressmen, at least two Senators, and is the great, great grandnephew of Senator and Vice-President George M. Dallas, a Democrat, who served as Vice-President of the United States with James Polk, from 1844 to 1849.

 

Henry even was able to meet the great Albert Einstein, who lived in a non-descript wooden house on Mercer Street. His grandfather, Henry Morgenthau the First, who frequently visited the campus, and had remarkable connections, was acquainted with the renowned math and physics genius, and was able to take him over to meet the great man. Of course, Henry’s class of 1939 was the last to graduate before the onset of another world war. When the question was posed to the class about fighting, in a poll, “Would you fight for you country at home? 431 said yes, 20 said no.” When the question was asked about fighting abroad, “141 voted yeas, and 247 said no!”

 

It seems that one of the highlights of Henry’s college days, was the New Year’s Eve celebration of 1938. After dining at the Sulgrave Club, in Washington, he and his brother Robert escorted young Eleanor Roosevelt, a niece and the namesake of the First Lady, and Ms. Eleanor Flood to a dance given by Mrs. Demarest Lloyd for her daughter Angelina and four hundred other guests. (Of course, on the afternoon of April 12, 1945, Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was lunching at the same Sulgrave Club next to Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, when a note from Presidential Press Secretary Steve Early was handed to her, asking for her return to the White House immediately! She arose quickly, said quietly to Mrs. Wilson that she must leave, caught a taxi that was called for her and headed for the White House alone. On that ride back to the White House, and in a the family living quarters, she anxiously awaited, and with great trepidation, the news she feared from Warm Springs.)

 

The historic Wadsworth House, now the Sulgrave Club, was completed in 1902. It was built for Herbert and Martha Wadsworth of the Genesee Valley in New York and was one of the largest and grandest of the new residences on Massachusetts Avenue. The house remains an enduring reminder of refined Washington society at the turn of the century.

Under the leadership of Mabel Boardman, a group of prominent women preserved the historic mansion by purchasing the Wadsworth House and establishing the Sulgrave Club in 1932. The Club was formed for literary, musical, artistic and social purposes. From the beginning, the Sulgrave Club has maintained a tradition of fine dining, captivating programs and elegant entertaining

 

After the dance, the brothers Morgenthau slipped away to the White House, in one of the two Cadillacs assigned to their father as the Treasury Secretary. They were not asked for identification at the White House gate, but questioned in depth by the Secret Serviceman assigned to protecting the President. After they all entered the Presidential mansion, and were escorted upstairs to the family residence, they met their father, who was a bit agitated. It seems that a sixteen-year-old Washington high school student, his date, and his fourteen-year-old brother had been at a party, and had accepted a dare to go to the White House and get autographs, from the president and the first lady. They managed to drive right up to the main entrance at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in their family car, where the young man told the policemen that they wanted to see the President. They were mistaken for the Morgenthau sons, and they were ushered upstairs. Amazingly it seems the President didn’t seem shocked by their appearance, but the Secret Service was, and they immediately rushed in and escorted them out. Mrs. Roosevelt wasn’t terribly happy about their intrusion and wrote about this surreal incident in her “My Day” column.

 

Of course one can learn a great deal more about Henry Morgenthau III and his remarkable family by finding and reading Mostly Morgenthaus Over three generations they have known the great and near great of the 20th Century.

 

The last fascinating guest at Hyde Park was Mr. Edward Hermann, the wonderful actor who became quite famous playing Franklin D. Roosevelt in the award-winning 1976 television production of Eleanor and Franklin.  Mr. Hermann who mastered that demanding role at the tender age of 34, has been in numerous productions, over 100, and even played FDR in the film version of Annie. Ed Hermann is a big man to say the least. He’s 6’ 5” and at age 65 he has put on a more than a few inches around his waist. But he is personally charming, and like all of who were there, he has had a lifetime interest in Franklin Roosevelt. His contribution to the day was to deliver FDR’s 1933 Inaugural Address.

 

After enjoying some marvelous and filling canapés we all went from the marvelous center hall of the Wallace Reception Center, where there is a wonderful mosaic tiled map of the region in the center of the floor, to the center’s theater. We entered the theater and the scene was set for the emergence of Franklin Roosevelt. We all watched in stony silence a film that chronicled the Depression and its effect on the country. The Dust Bowl, which replaced the abandoned farms, the breadlines stretching for blocks, the shuttered factories, and the broken men and women who littered our social landscape, starkly told the story of the crash and the subsequent collapse of our economic world.

 

Ms. Cynthia Koch, the long-time director of the FDR Library, introduced Mr. Chris Breiseth, the President of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI) and William vanden Heuvel and Jonathan Alter, who both eloquently framed the conditions that surrounded the 1932 Democratic National Convention, the presidential campaign, the March 4th Inauguration, we were honoring, and the famous “First Hundred Days.”  Finally Mr. Hermann entered the stage and strode to the podium as the film of Franklin Roosevelt’s Inaugural speech was shown.

 

Mr. Hermann’s assignment was to deliver that famous speech, and he delivered it with the same strength, enthusiasm, and vigor that only an FDR could really accomplish.

 

President Hoover, Mr. Chief Justice, my friends:
 
  This is a day of national consecration, and I am certain that my fellow-Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision, which the present situation of our nation impels.
 
This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly.  Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.  This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear... is fear itself . . . nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
 
In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding
and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days. In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties.  They concern, thank God, only material things.
 
Values have shrunken to fantastic levels:  taxes have risen, our ability to pay has fallen, government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income, the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade, the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side, farmers find no markets for their produce,
the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
 
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment. Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.
 
Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failures and abdicated.  Practices of the
unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
 
True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition.  Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored conditions.  They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
 
The moneychangers have fled their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit. Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow-men. Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be values only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit, and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.
 
Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance.  Without them it cannot live. Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This nation asks for action, and action now.
 
Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accompanied in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our national resources.
 
Hand in hand with this, we must frankly recognize the over-balance of population in our industrial centers and, by engaging on a national scale in a redistribution, endeavor to provide a better use of the land
for those best fitted for the land.
 
The task can be helped by definite efforts to raise the values of agricultural products and with this the power to purchase the output of our cities. It can be helped by preventing realistically the tragedy of the growing loss, through foreclosure, of our small homes and our farms.
 
It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act forthwith on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. It can be helped by the unifying of relief activities, which today are often scattered, uneconomical, and unequal. It can be helped by national planning for and supervision of all forms of transportation and of communications and other utilities which have a definitely public character. There are many ways in which it can be helped, but it can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act, and act quickly.
 
Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order: there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people's money, and there must
be provision for an adequate but sound currency.
 
These are the lines of attack.  I shall presently urge upon a new Congress in special session detailed measures for their fulfillment, and I shall seek the immediate assistance of the several States.
 
Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are, to point in time and necessity, secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy.
 
I favor as a practical policy the putting of first things first. I shall spare no effort to restore world trade by international economic readjustment, but the emergency at home cannot wait on that accomplishment.
 
The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in and parts of the United States. . . a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer. It is the way to recovery.  It is the immediate way.  It is the strongest assurance that the recovery will endure.
 
In the field of world policy I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor. . .the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others. . .the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.
 
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other: that we cannot merely take, but we must give as well, that if we are to go forward we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because, without such discipline, no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective.
 
We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline because it makes possibly a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes
will hind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife. With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people, dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems. Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of government, which we have inherited from our ancestors.
 
Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.
 
It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us.  But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for un-delayed action may call for temporary departure from that normal balance of public procedure. I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these courses and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me.
 
I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis. . .broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe. For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less. We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity, with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values, with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike.
 
We aim at the assurance of a rounded and permanent national life. We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership.
They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I will take it. In this dedication of a nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us!  May He guide me in the days to come!