The Sixth Month Letter 10-14-05

Richard J. Garfunkel

2801 Watch Hill Drive

Tarrytown, NY 10591


October 14, 2005


Dear Friends,


Just in case you don’t have e-mail or haven’t read my e-mail lately, I thought I could give you a New Year’s update on what has been going on in our little corner of the world.


It’s been a very busy past half year. After months of unusually dry and hot weather of this endless summer, and just when our previously full reservoirs were starting to suffer, the rains from the south’s latest tropical event hit the metro area. One of the reservoirs in New Jersey increased its volume 50% in a few days. So with all this rain the hot weather has dissipated, and the sun has not been seen in quite awhile.


Of course five months ago my father, who lived deep into his 100th year, and only a few weeks before my parent’s 70th anniversary, unfortunately developed pancreatic cancer. When Linda and I were in Freeport celebrating my 60th Birthday with Dana and Jon, my sister Kaaren was in New York and happened to be spending some time with my parents. She told me that his skin looked a bit yellow. When I came home that Saturday and saw him, we immediately went to his doctor. Within three weeks of his eventual diagnosis he was gone. In spite of all the predictions that my mother, who wasn’t in the best shape of her long life, and was over 97 years, would quickly deteriorate, those thoughts were proven incorrect.  She did not fall apart or sink into an unrecoverable or irreversible depression. In a stretch one could say that “Mourning Became Electra.” My mother never really changed, is a bit lonelier, but has none of the tension and angst that characterized and came with their unique relationship over the years. Of course most people’s relationships are unique and probably a book could be written about each marriage. I am sure thought that few would read any of those books because most would not want to relive someone’s daily struggles, silliness, and heartaches. So my mother eats well, gets out once in a while has round the care, and watches oodles of movies from Turner Classic. I don’t know which are her favorites per say, but anything with Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, Rosiland Russell or Carole Lombard captures her fancy. She has had a life-long distaste for Wallace Beery, Joan Crawford, and Ethel Merman.


The Passing of Milton Garfunkel May-2005




This morning, my father, who was few months’ short of his 101st B-Day, passed away quietly at his home. He was assisted by hospice, but for the most part by his very dedicated caregivers, who have been helping both my parents for a time now. Miriam, who was with my parents for five years, helped manage their needs and supervise their overall care. Doxie was marvelous with both my parents for over a year. My father had been driving up to two weeks ago and had devoted all of his energies to my mother's well being, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a two weeks ago. He obviously had it for a while, but once the symptoms were manifested and he was diagnosed, his decline was quite rapid. He had a great powerful heart and I wasn't surprised that he was able to hang on for days. He was kept quite comfortable by hospice and passed away peacefully. We all should have his luck! He lived a very pleasant rewarding life, and was able to accomplish and witness whatever he wished. He enjoyed sports, especially golf, cards, especially gin and pinochle, and food, especially sardines, a kosher salami or corned beef. He was very proud of his strong athletic shape that he maintained throughout his life. He was originally a NY Giants fan, and always asked my what was wrong with the Yanks? The Yankees could have been in first place by 10 games, and then had lost one or two and he always asked that question. My father's family was in the clothing business and he loved to dress up. He owned a closet full of marvelous suits. He was always trying to get my son Jon to take them. But unfortunately my father's build and great shoulders were too wide for Jon. He had gotten those massive shoulders from years of championship handball at Manhattan Beach in the early 1930's and from being a great swimmer.


He was a moderate Democrat; he had no prejudices other then vestigial elements of his class and time, and always believed sincerely in equal rights and opportunity for all people. He was against our foreign intervention without provocation, and hated to hear of young men and women being lost overseas. But he was a realist and understood that there were no easy answers. He admired Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton, but was never a hero worshipper. Both my parents, and my sister Kaaren were great readers and I was lucky to have that habit passed to me early on.



As the summer moved into high gear I took on the role as chairperson for the re-election of Paul Feiner, the long-time Democratic Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh. We live in the unincorporated part of that town and our post office is Tarrytown. Town demographics are a bit complicated, but Greenburgh, which has a population of over 86,000, is made up of the Villages of Irvington, Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Elmsford, Tarrytown and Ardsley along with a larger unincorporated area that has areas called Hartsdale, Edgemont, Greenville and etc. These areas have their own post offices linked with Scarsdale and White Plains. Why that happened I cannot tell, but it is certainly confusing to most. Paul, in his 7th term, was faced with a primary challenge, and was not designated by the Democratic Party of Greenburgh. Though he had no Republican opponent for the November general election, in heavily Democratic Greenburgh, he was challenged in the Democratic Primary. Even though he was previously a great vote getter, who had won 14 previous races, which included three other primaries, four for County Legislator, and seven for Supervisor, this race, in retrospect, became his greatest challenge. So with a large number of volunteers and the hard work of a core of loyalists, we beat back the well-financed challenge and won by about 4%. I was very happy with the campaign, but the relative low turnout of 5600 Democrats of 28,000 registered benefited his opponent who had organizational support, and the endorsement of all the newspapers. Of course a win is a win! We were the victims of an 11th hour slam of slanderous and mischaracterized literature. This campaign sleaze of false accusations kept the vote total down and we felt it made the race much closer than it should have been. Immediately after, we filed charges against our slate’s opponents to the Fair Campaign Practice Board. We made and won our case with two of our three claims, but the damage was done and Paul’s running mates were narrowly defeated. But all that is now behind me, and it is what it is.


In between all of this, and for ten days at the end of August, Linda and I had a great trip to Madrid, Barcelona, and a cruise of the Mediterranean. The weather was sensational and I cannot recommend more highly a trip to Spain and a visit to the beautiful and remarkable city of Barcelona. Its architecture, wide boulevards, sidewalks, shops, Olympic site, and museums are all first rate and world class. The amount of young beautiful people, from all over Europe and Spain, that could be seen strolling along Las Ramblas, that remarkable street that stretches from the Port to the massive Catalunya Square, were remarkable. The crowds must have been in the hundreds of thousands. Besides wonderful Barcelona, we loved seeing Marseille, Villefranche su Mer, St. Paul du Vence, and of course Florence and Rome. We had been both in Italy back in the 1960s. I was there with my grandfather, John Kivo in the summer of 1966. I can tell you with authority that the same buildings are still there. Those cities, except for Naples are much cleaner than I remember 39 years ago. The streets were packed, and southern Europe was enjoying a boom despite the high prices and the weak dollar. The Euro has made currency exchange quite simple, but has raised prices all over Europe. Exchange is as easy as finding one of the numerous ATM machines and pushing in one’s credit card, and voila the Euros appear as if by wizardry! So I took hundreds of pictures, two-thirds with my new digital camera, courtesy of my son Jon, and the rest with my trusty SLR Pentax. All in all, they came out great, and have provided us with wonderful memories. 




Madrid to Barcelona to Naples and Back –August 2005


Just returned from a fantastic time touring Madrid, Barcelona, cruising the sunny warm Mediterranean from Barcelona to Naples, with stops in between at Marseille, Nice, Livorno/Florence, Citiavecchio/Rome, and Naples. We loved Barcelona and I recommend that city for a must see. I took 325 pictures on my new Canon E05 Rebel, care of the generosity of son Jon, and also snapped another 120 on my trusty, now old, 35mm SLR fabulous Pentax.


We met some lovely people aboard the magnificent, 76,000 ton behemoth, “The Splendour of the Seas.”  I ate like a savage but only gained 3 lbs, must have burned off all those calories with our extensive walking along the beaches at Villefranche and Marseille. Linda, who eats “right” all the time, lost 4 lbs! Wow! Meanwhile the beaches are an incredible eyeful and one has to admire the French boldness. My new digital camera was quite handy in capturing the wonders of geological and human splendor and development.


The ruins, historical sites the churches are the same in Florence and Rome, as always, from my early trip with my wonderful Grandfather in 1966. Linda also went to Italy in 1967 and had the same comment. I am still in awe of the utter mindlessness of the Victor Emmanuel II monument as I was 39 years ago. The sites are in great shape considering the traffic, pollution and general wear and tear of the public. The crowds in Florence, in and around the Ponte Vecchio, were immense. But don't buy gold there, go to 47th Street. The dollar doesn't have the punch it had in 1967, and I don't have my Grandfather's bank account. Meanwhile the Euro has made it quite easy going from country to country, but all in all it has raised prices considerably in Europe and there are local complaints.


Barcelona is magnificent and beyond my description here. I will write a long piece, when I have time, and send it out and post it on my blog/website. I created an extensive travel journal, which has given me great pleasure. I will tell you all about meeting a high school wrestling coach, on board ship, that does a travel journal with water colours. What a great guy. He's a school administrator in Monterrey, who taught, history and art. Lo and behold he's from Pacific Grove, Calif, and knows Lighthouse Avenue quite well, where my great friend, the late and beloved Henry Littlefield, lived, with his wonderful wife Madeline, for many years. Of course he heard of Henry, who ran the York School for many years, before he taught at the fabulous Robert Louis Stevenson School, on the 17 Mile Drive. That was some co-incidence. Of course he also remembered the great and famous John Irving's citing of Henry in one of his books. The amateur wrestling community is still quite intimate and almost every one of a certain age gets to know everyone else. I told him about when Linda and I went to the Columbia-Cornell dual meet at the NYAC, a few years ago with Doug Garr and his brother, which was the 100th anniversary of collegiate wrestling, and I met Dan Gable, the legend of all grappling legends and Andy Fitch, Henry's old friend, who was a 2-time NCAA champion and an Olympian.


Meanwhile the cruise ship was great, the sea was smooth, the food was plentiful and excellent, the weather was sunny and hot, hot, hot, and there was great fun had by all. I even won a medal, with 5 others for “best legs” (male that is) on the ship. Of course Linda persuaded me to join the fun with about 30 other “extremity” wannabees.


The trip back was long, don't fly Iberia Airways if you can help it. The airport at Madrid is too too large, and the service on Iberia is lacking. But the Airbus they use took off and landed, and that counts more then anything. We disembarked from the ship in Barcelona and stayed in a lovely Atrium Hotel, spent Saturday walking around, and then we were picked up and taken to the airport for a 50 minute flight to Madrid for our trans-Atlantic connection. All in all, I have no real complaints about the four fights, to and fro. Considering the conditions that exist today, I have no complaints about extra security, or waiting a bit to err on the side of caution.



Upon our return it was back to politics and tennis. We joined a new club in Armonk and we kept busy all summer with new friends and competition. In the interim our children, Dana and Jon, after living together in Brookline for seven unanticipated years, decided to part company and find their own places. Jon bought an apartment in Brighton (part of the city of Boston) just across the street from Brookline and off Beacon Street, and Dana moved to Arlington, on Massachusetts Avenue a suburb of Boston northwest of Cambridge and just down the road from historic Lexington and Concord. Both apartments are quite nice and we were happy that their split and dissolution of their old apartment was quite amicable. We have been lucky over the last 9 years or so that Charlesbank Capital Partners, where Linda works, has a large office in Boston, and therefore whenever her firm has an event, we combine business and pleasure. This past September Charlesbank had a great party celebrating the closing of one of their funds, and we stayed in the Jurys Hotel and partied at the Excelsior Club. Again, a great time was had by all!


On a more somber and tragic note, Linda’s niece, Sarah Rosen, the eldest daughter of her brother was killed in a car accident at the tender age of 28. She was a graduate of Tufts and had spent the last few years working in Washington in political offices. Recently we learned that she was working as a lobbyist for the distilling industry and was on a business trip to Kentucky, when a truck hit the car she was riding in. Her funeral was at the Shaarey Tefila Synagogue on 79th and 2nd Avenue in NYC, the day before Rosh Hashanah! It was a sad day for all. Linda and I had not seen the Rosen’s in many years, and had not seen Sarah since her late teens. Sunday, on our way out see Linda’s Aunt Syd who lives in an assisted living facility in West Orange, we visited the Rosen gravesite at Beth-El Cemetery on Forest Avenue in Paramus, NJ.  We arrived after the office was closed and frankly didn’t remember the Rosen-Kulick gravesite. But we drove around for a few minutes and systematically went up and down each row until I spotted the location. Most of the graves were maintained, but some were not. The Kulick’s were not kept up properly and in bad shape and we don’t know where their children are. Originally, with regards to the Rosen section, Linda and her brother had agreed to divide the upkeep. Unfortunately only the part that Linda was responsible for was being cared for, and she immediately called the cemetery and learned that her brother had not paid his share in six years. We assumed that when he had moved the invoices had not caught up with his new address. Linda informed them of his new location and hopefully the maintenance will be brought up to its proper level.


One always receives a reality check when one makes a visit out there. Nearby Sarah’s new grave was a marker for a Jennie Meyerowitz (1867-1972). Quite a difference!


On a happier note we were able to go back to our old synagogue in White Plains, Bet Am Shalom to hear the famous British historian Martin Gilbert talk on the history of Israel. Bet Am has finally opened again after a devastating fire a few years ago. It’s been re-built and I am quite happy for the Congregation and their great Rabbi Lester Bronstein, who we had first met 16 years ago when he conducted the funeral for my father-in-law Morris. Ironically he was the assistant Rabbi at Shaarey Tefila when Sarah Rosen was a young student there.


Sir Martin, as he is now known, is one of the world’s leading experts on the Holocaust and is Winston Churchill’s official biographer. Of course he is not limited to those two areas, and has written 72 books on a number of subjects; including, Israel, World War II, and the Righteous, a story of many of the known cases of how righteous gentiles helped Jews in World War II. His excellent book, the Allies and Auschwitz contradicts David Wyman’s attack on FDR in his book the Abandonment of the Jews. Gilbert, a Jew, who is intimately associated with Israel, wished that Auschwitz would have been bombed, has analyzed systematically how few Jewish lives would have been saved. Recently I have also read a collection of essays in the book, The Bombing of Auschwitz, edited by Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum that includes fifteen experts and historians from Henry Feingold to Walter Lacquer to Deborah Lipstadt to Martin Gilbert to Gerhard Weinberg. Most of these historians side with Gilbert’s perspective on Auschwitz and the lack of feasibility regarding the bombing, and disagree with Wyman’s accusations. Meanwhile Sir Martin gave an excellent encapsulated history of Israel over the past 100 years since Theodore Herzl had started the Zionist movements with settlements in 1905. It was also gratifying to hear Sir Martin mention the name of the late Brigadier Orde Wingate, a heroic British soldier who helped build the Jewish military forces in Palestine before and during the early days of World War II. Wingate lost his life in Burma, while in command of his famous Chindit Force that effectively worked and fought behind Japanese lines. He has recognized as a hero in Israel and has been honored by their postal service with a stamp. Of course Sir Martin, who worked at the United Nations, was able to reveal and recall many of Israel’s difficulties with that institution. But he was very upbeat regarding their future at the UN and enlightened us, and the overflow crowd of listeners, with good news about their greater acceptance by that world body. Later I was able to say hello to him and remind him of our correspondence over the last five years. I had met him at Manhattanville College, when he was doing a lecture on the Auschwitz bombing question. I was able to send him some material, and later I sent him my recent paper, “Franklin Roosevelt and the Jewish Community.” He was able to associate my name with my face, as we had last seen each other in 2000. 


June 2, 2003


Dear Sir Martin,


I hope that this letter finds you and yours quite well. After recently finishing your massive work The Second World War, and The Righteous, along with seeing you on C-Span, I decided to send you a letter of thanks. We had met a couple of years ago at Manhattanville College, after you gave a lecture regarding the Allies knowledge of Auschwitz. At that time we talked extensively and I was able to forward to you some documents regarding John J. McCloy’s response to Joseph Pehle’s request for the bombing of the railroad tracks to Auschwitz.


I am part of a standing committee to re-institute the celebration of FDR’s birthday in combination with the March of Dimes. In fact, on this past January 30th, FDR’s 121st birthday we held our renewal birthday ball at the both Hyde Park and the Culinary Institute of America. Over the years I have collected thousands of FDR artifacts and continue to lecture around Westchester County on the subject of his life and the study of history through collecting. Similarly I have collected and read many hundreds of books on World War II and have become known, in my circle, as one who has an abiding interest in that horrendous event. Also I read very carefully, and I must note, but not in criticism, that on page 510 of your history of WWII, you state that 724 crewmen of the Franklin drowned. They were actually killed by the fires resulting from a kamikaze attack and the inadvertent turning of the ship into the wind. The resultant flames and smoke enveloped the hanger deck and caused the high number of casualties. The Franklin, like the Bunker Hill suffered tremendous casualties from suicide attacks, but survived the war in the Pacific and made it home under their own steam.


Most importantly, in your history of World War II, you do something that I have never noticed in any other general history of the war. You sight constantly, in parallel, to the incidents of fighting, the atrocities committed by the German and Japanese forces. In almost the six years of warfare, or over the period of 2190 or so days to VJ Day the civilian death total in the Allied nations, or the overrun countries exceeds 25 million souls. Most of these people were murdered in one way or another. Many were starved deliberately or died from the strain and deprivation of forced labor, or malnutrition as a result of appalling conditions. But many, like the Jewish population of occupied Europe, or the Poles, or the Serbians, or the Gypsies, or other peoples who were political dissidents were murdered as part of Nazi war goals. In other words the activity resulting in Judenrein, was the national policy of Nazi Germany and their fascist allies from all over Europe. This massive, an unprecedented criminal act of wanton murder, no less, rape and robbery is discussed at length in the many treatises and studies regarding the Holocaust. Lucy Davidowitz’s book, The War Against the Jews, as for example,chronicles in depth the massive state sponsored criminality of the Nazis. But you, unlike most of the other historians of this calamitous event, bring into focus the daily atrocities along with the military strategy, tactics, and results. The persecuted millions count the same as the military casualties when it comes to being “dead.” One just has to divide the 6 million Jewish deaths by 2000 days or so, and realize that over 3000 people must be murdered, each and every day to reach that catastrophic number. Therefore you have contributed an important element to that chapter of World War II, which is often forgotten, or conveniently ignored. There is nothing romantic about war in general, and the clinical approach that many take to the study of war quite often removes the ugly and most inhumane nature of it all. It’s fine to digress about troop movements, and logistics and ordinance, but when one stops to mention, that the innocent are being murdered and raped all the time, the true picture of war is really seen. War is an atrocity in itself, but we, the free peoples of the world, are forced, at times to defend ourselves and practice the art of war to survive when “the barbarians are at the gate.”


Also, I appreciated your recent publication, The Righteous. You have told the story of the many Europeans from almost every nation, who risked their lives to save Jews. That activity was incredibly dangerous, and the fact so many would risk their lives is quite remarkable. Obviously, as you so eloquently state, there are countless untold stories that have been lost to history of personal bravery and sacrifice. I am quite sure, that all who read The Righteous, will have a new appreciation of the struggle that existed in Nazi-occupied Europe to save a “marked” people. My sense is that if the Jews have learned anything from history, it is the lesson to be strong, vigilant and politically involved. No ally, no scrap of paper and no guarantee is as strong as a unified people. Jews must be ever vigilant. They must never let “the big lie” be perpetuated into the common culture. Today, as in no other time since the World War II, has there been a constant unanswered drone of anti-Semitic rhetoric. We must answer those slanders with all our power.





Richard J. Garfunkel


Basically, after all of that, we are off to Arizona come mid November, and upon our return the heating season will be upon us. It is not hard for most of us to recall Jimmy Carter sitting in front of the fireplace at the White House, in his sweater, and discussing the consequences of being dependent on foreign sources for oil. Of course that was many was many years ago, but unfortunately the problem has gotten worse over the last 25 years. Yes we have created much better efficiencies, and yes the rest of the world is paying much higher amounts for their oil and gasoline, but we are much more dependent on oil and with our population only 6% of the world’s total we are using between 20-25% of the world’s fossil fuel resources. With only a 1% increase in demand coming from India and China, our current worldwide production will peak in 2017. Unlike the 1970’s, most of the world has been geologically mapped with much more sophisticated technology. Therefore the specter of large new “finds” to fuel energy growth far into the future are bleak. So our current administration has another problem to deal with.


Ms. Dowd,


Read your excellent piece in the Sunday Times. This is my take on this Bush 2’s place in the modern history of the Presidency. Unfortunately your colleagues and generally the Democrats have given this guy a free pass for years. I have been a “political person” on the local level for 36 years, and spend some of my off time lecturing on FDR and the New Deal in front of anyone who invites me! We need a more critical press who should start looking at the fetid underbelly of this country with regards to: jobs, education, healthcare and housing and how their runaway costs are bankrupting the middle class. Let’s start focusing on “core” issues or one day we are all going to wake up and find our selves like Humpty-Dumpty, and all the kings horses and men won’t put old Humpty back together again!


Richard J. Garfunkel


September 4, 2005


Bush is the Real Disaster!


In the modern age of the Presidency, from Theodore Roosevelt to today, we have had many Presidents: the good, bad and ugly. We have had abject failures like Harding and Hoover, mediocrities like Taft, Coolidge, Carter, Ford and Bush I, and unpopular ones, that history may or may not re-evaluate, like Truman, Nixon and Johnson. All in all, in this tumultuous past century, our leadership may have made mistakes from bad judgment, lack of intellect, greed, or downright incompetence. But today we have unquestionably the worst President of the whole lot. He has squandered our goodwill and sympathy from most of the world that came our way after 9/11. He has dissipated the surpluses left to him by a previous administration with adventurism and tax giveaways to the rich and to the powerful military industrial- complex, and he has pandered to the flat-earth society with his support for “creation science.” He is the worst President, by any measuring standard, on the environment since Teddy Roosevelt established the National Park system. Instead of quashing terrorism, he has allowed it to grow and blossom all over the world. He has fought a war with under-armed and undermanned forces. He has ignored the plight of the mourning families and has underserved the wounded, while letting many of our veterans become impoverished by their service to our country. We have fought this war on the “cheap” with huge deficits placed on our progeny, while our ordinary civilian National Guard and Reserves take the brunt of the pain, and our oil prices soar out of control. Now we see the results of FEMA cutbacks regarding the disaster in New Orleans, and other Gulf coastline areas. Under this President little has been done about our deteriorating national infrastructure including the strengthening of the levees protecting New Orleans. This shortsighted thinking has led to a $200 billion disaster. This is not a question of the right or the left. This is not a question of liberal or conservative. This is the reality of malevolent incompetence. Now with the rise of nuclear terrorism emerging from N. Korea and Iran, we have a President who cannot even pronounce the word “nuclear.” With all this in mind, we need a change in Washington starting in 2006.



Richard J. Garfunkel


Of course the above letter to Ms Dowd and the NY Times reflects my current and ongoing view of this President and his administration. Hopefully the public will learn the truth about Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, the Valerie Plame leak, the incompetence regarding New Orleans, the cronyism rife in Washington, the gerrymandering of Congressional Districts, the religious right and its Creation Science, just in time for the Congressional elections in 2006. Then, if there is no substantive change, we only have ourselves to blame.


Well baseball is officially over for New Yorkers now that the Yankees have folded their playoff tent. It was a frustrating season, and even though the Yanks narrowly beat out their Boston rivals for their 7th Division title in a row. Frankly they had played sub par baseball a good part of the season. Their pitching was a disaster, and their clutch hitting was non-existent. One would think with all their high-priced all-stars they would have come through against a mediocre Angel team. But again they played badly with running mistakes, poor fielding and the lack of timely hitting, especially by their big bat Alex (A-Rod) Rodriguez. It could be that this long run of winning from 1994 until this season is starting to wane. Look for big changes in the coming season, but frankly it has to be young, hungry players to help resurrect that winning synergy.


So stay well, have a happy New Year, and get involved! Without your effort you/yours will get what you deserve. So contribute to what you believe in and volunteer your time.











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