Saturday, August 5, 2017

Thank you, Bill Freund

Monday, July 31, 2107
Today's paper has an interesting article about New Yorkers growing food right here, often items not native to the Holy Land.

Besides the energy and resourcefulness of these farmers (what else should we call them?), the story conveys a very interesting statistic, "[a]bout 3.2 million New Yorkers, or 38 percent of the city’s population of 8.5 million, were born in other countries."  This is not an historic departure for us.  In 1910, just after the Goldenbergs settled in, New York's foreign born population was just under 41%.  See a century's worth of statistics at

This profile of mongrelization seems to terrify folks beyond the Hudson River.  On the other hand, it wasn't people with 212 area codes who bought my "Hamilton" tickets for $1,200 each.

Tuesday, August 1, 2107
The Boyz Club met at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, to have a farewell lunch for Anthony Scaramucci.  It was a somewhat emotional affair.  Mooch, we hardly knew ye.  Our grief was substantially mitigated by the good food that we shared: 
Fried crispy noodles
Cold sesame noodles
Beef chow fun
Beef with scallions
Shrimp with lobster sauce over shrimp fried rice
Honey crispy chicken
Pork fried rice
It cost us $15 each including our normal 36% tip.
. . .

I was reminded of George Carlin's infamous seven dirty words when I read about (Red) China's "seven unmentionables," officially labelled as "Noteworthy Problems Related to the Current State of the Ideological Sphere."
The Chinese dirty words include "universal values," "Western Constitutional Democracy," and "freedom of the press."  As this week's New York Times Sunday magazine reported, Chinese human rights lawyers are being systematically harassed, jailed, and brutalized.

The Carlin case did not have the grave implications of the Chinese situation, but it set a constitutional standard for (un)free speech.  In 1972, Carlin released a comedy album entitled Class Clown containing "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television."  Later, he produced another version, "Filthy Words," which was played on WBAI-FM, a decidedly countercultural, non-commercial New York radio station.  Very conveniently and very suspiciously, an active opponent of pornography and obscenity was driving around with his teenage son, who should have been in school, when he tuned to WBAI just in time to hear the recorded Carlin routine.  The father complained to the Federal Communications Commission, which ruled against the station.  On appeal in 1978, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the FCC did not violate the First or Fifth Amendment by punishing the use of the filthy words.

Today, 39 years later, the words are still not heard on network television, bleeped when uttered, but are commonplace on cable television and some even were printed in the New York Times when reporting the Scaramucci Soliloquy.  I wonder how long it will take for the Chinese to air their unmentionables.    

Wednesday, August 2, 2017
I have a problem with the list of the supposed 50 best college town food purveyors.  Akin to the Electoral College, it reserves space for each state.

If, in fact, the Moscow Alehouse in Moscow, Idaho, home of the University of Idaho, is one of the country's best, OK.  But there are "57,799 full time students, [in] the 17 colleges and universities of Idaho" to be fed.  
By contrast, the millions of students at the 761 four-year colleges and universities in Illinois, Texas, New York and California get one superlative choice per state.  On the other hand, this might be a form of affirmative action.  
Thursday, August 3, 2017
The White House press secretary announced yesterday that a 10-year old had volunteered to mow the White House grass.  At first, it was thought that the child volunteered to cut the president's hair.
. . .

An obituary today for a founder of Costco said that "[t]he company’s unusually generous salaries and benefits for workers rankled Wall Street stock analysts."  After all, according to a current New York State survey, "the average Wall Street[er] made $388,000 last year, or five times the average of what workers in all other industries got paid."  If we can drive down the pay of Costco employees, our deserving friends on Wall Street will have a greater multiple than they do now.

Friday, August 4, 2017
Nancy Freund Heller recently accompanied her 90-year old father to Germany, where he was born.  He was invited to speak to high school students by the Jewish Museum Berlin.  I think that it is important to read a portion of his journal as some in Washington yearn to launder the stream of immigrants seeking entry to our shores.  Also, just as German students heard about the events first hand for the first time, we might be hearing about them first hand for the last time.

I met with three high school classes over three days with each session lasting more than three hours. The students were 15 to 18 years old. Some had studied the 
Holocaust; all would eventually, as it is required in German high schools. None admitted to having heard about the Holocaust from their parents or grandparents. For the students, six million murdered Jews, and millions of other victims, seem to have been just data points, abstract numbers that don't spark an emotional reaction. Hitler is just a character from a history book, like Napoleon or Otto von 
Bismarck. It takes a personal witness to bring history alive, to help young people reflect on what really happened. 

Each class sat in an informal circle. I told them about long-standing Jew-hatred in Germany, about the annual Nazi party rallies in Nuremberg, about the Nuremberg laws that stripped Jews of rights and citizenship, and about my personal experiences. What happened to me as a kid interested them most. 

I told them how I was chased down a street by a gang of boys shouting "Jewish pig". When they caught me, they shut me in a wooden crate used to store sand for slippery winter streets. The lid was too heavy for me to lift. I banged on the lid 
frantically until a passerby helped me escape. I never got over the trauma.

I talked about happy vacations with my grandmother in the small town of Miltenberg. I told the students that my family had lived in Germany for 500 years and that we considered ourselves thoroughly German, until the Nazis arrested my 
father and beat him so badly that he knew we had to leave our homeland or die. I described what a near thing our emigration was, hinging on my father passing a medical exam (he never fully recovered from the beating the Nazis gave him) and providing an affidavit from a US resident to ensure that we would never become a “public charge”. Fortunately, my father had a generous cousin in the US.

I talked about settling in New York City’s Washington Heights, which in the 1930s was a magnet for German Jews. Our family of four arrived with furniture, clothing, and seven dollars in cash. My parents found menial jobs, my mother on the line in a lipstick factory, my father wheeling carts in a hospital morgue. I shined shoes on the street and delivered meat for a kosher butcher. Times were hard for Americans, too, but I wanted to be American. I stopped using the German-sounding “Kurt Wilhelm” and called myself “William Curt”, which I 
officially adopted when I became an American citizen in 1944.

Before leaving Germany, my resourceful mother Paula bribed a pastry chef to teach her to bake lebkuchen, the Nuremberg Christmas cookie shipped all over the world. Our family could not start a business on arrival since we had no capital, spoke no English, and knew nothing of business practices in the U.S. Nor could we compete with genuine lebkuchen imported from Nuremberg. However, when war started in Europe in 1939, Germany could no longer export the product. And so 
the Freund family rented a store, produced the cookie in quantity, and sold it to fine stores under the name Paula's Lebkuchen. We succeeded beyond our expectations, especially after a leading newspaper featured our shop in a big story. After the war, Nuremberg resumed exports and Paula sold the bakery and recipe. My father had died. I earned a PhD and eventually became a professor of economics and chief economist of the New York Stock Exchange. I told the students that success is the best revenge. (I wrote up this story in an illustrated children’s book sold on Amazon.)

In answering the students’ questions, I told them that our family brought German culture—cuisine, homemaking, music, habits—to America. The Nazis exploited a German history of Jew-hatred to expel me and all other Jewish kids from public 
school, rob me of my home and my childhood friends, and kill or exile my entire extended family. But in America, we adapted and thrived.

The students told me that they never had asked their grandparents and great-grandparents about what their families had done during the war, except for one student who said part of his family had gone to Argentina. It seems that I was the first person to give them a personal story of life under the Nazis.

1 comment:

  1. Two very good items: the Costco vs. Wall St business and the Freund piece.

    But they don't relieve you of the infamy of writing