interview with arthur goldberg side a q. this is tina isaacs interviewing dean arthur ......
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Interview with ARTHUR GOLDBERG December 15, 1976 By Tina Isaacs
Interview Tape 1 Side A
Q. This is Tina Isaacs interviewing Dean Arthur Goldberg. 11 m in Dean
Goldberg 1 s office and it is December 15th, 1976. Okay, this seems to be
working. Testing one, two, three, four. Okay.
A. 11 11 try to talk into the mike.
A. Alright, go ahead.
Q. Mr. Goldberg, could you please tell me where you were born and when, if
you 1 i ke . . . if it 1 s not personal .
A. I was born in the Bronx in New York City in 1933.
Q. Okay. And when your family ... were both your parents American?
A. Well, my mother was born in this country and my father was born in Russia;
arrived here about age eight or nine, I guess. They both grew up here.
Q. Do you know why he left Russia? (Laughter) That 1 s a silly question!
A. (Laughter) The Ukraines, the Cossacks were coming; the pogroms were
coming. The people decided it would be a good idea to leave.
Q. And did they settle into New York?
A. Oh, yes. They settled into New York and New Jersey, and New York again,
and moved on. If you 1 d 1 ike, I can give you a sort of biographical, auto-
biographical, rundown of myself, my family, and Judaism, which makes an
exercise in itself.
Q. Oh, fine! That 1 s much better than me asking silly questions.
A. Alright. Both my sets of grandparents were Orthodox Jews from Russia.
Russia ... Poland. Right in along that Russian Polish border. As I
said, my mother was born in this country, but she is the youngest child.
All of her sisters and brothers were born in Europe. Both sets of grand-
Interview with Arthur Goldberg Page 2
A. (Continued) parents were very active in their respective synagogues. My
mother's father was cantor of his synagogue and my father's parents were
very active leaders in their little synagogue, both of them very orthodox.
And my mother's ... my father's mother ran a sort of refugee center dur-
ing the second World War and just before it, and brought a great many ortho-
dox Jews over here, including rabbis, several of whom are today fairly big
wheels in New York City rabbinical.
Q. Excuse me if I interrupt you. Were these refugees mostly from Eastern
Europe or were they from Germany?
A. Mostly from Europe. Almost all of these people were Slavic Jews, Russian -
Polish Jews .. 11 licvacs11 (?) But during the war people weren't all that
fussy, and in fact, as you may know, the flow of Jews through Europe quickly
went from Poland to Germany and out. So there were some German Jews. But
mostly they were Slavic and mostly they were very orthodox. The rabbi whom
I remember and whom Rabbi Karp probably knows, is named Garelick. When I
first met Garelick, thought he was a very old man because he had a beard.
Garelick was probably thirty at the time. I was a very little boy at the
time. There is some interesting stories associated with that, which maybe
make sense in this context and that is the context of assimilation. A very
funny kind of problem that all of these people faced, in that they were
orthodox and strong about it, America .was a land of opportunity and it only
had a few requirements for making it economically in the city. And those
were: one, that you work on Saturday. That was really a very strong require-
ment, particularly in those pre-union days. Second, was sort of that
uh, you not wear a yarmulke. If you wanted to, it depended on how strong
you were and how much pushing around you could take, nobody was going to kill
Interview with Arthur Goldberg Page 3
A. (Continued) And then the kosher food question: the upshot of all of that is
that ... all of my father's brothers ... they're all pharmacists, except
for my father. Big value on education, everybody supposed to get an education.
My dad didn't go to college because he was the oldest and he had to work to
help the others; nevertheless, he had a great respect for education. My
father's father was a building contractor and he didn't work Saturdays. His
father was a carpenter. He held to it, but his sons were never able to do
that and yet they remained involved with his synagogue for many, many, many
years, into their forties ... well, one of them is still involved. They
kept their businesses open on Saturday, they kept kosher home, they ate out
at non-kosher restaurants, they didn't flaunt it in their parents face .•
a standard practice. A very close-knit family. Everybody got together on
Sunday, High Holidays, everybody stayed, nobody rode, all this kind of stuff.
There was even a fairly rich kind of intellectual overlay in all of that.
There were real arguments about ethics and values as they spun off from
talmudic learning and the trade off on practice. Interesting enough, my
parents generation were quite ambivalent about which way it wanted to go in
this world. A very revealing exercise, which would embarrass my parents
today, I'm sure, is that when I was very young, I wanted to go to yeshiva in
New York. I wanted to go to yeshiva not because I was strictly orthodox, but
because my good handball playing buddy went to the yeshiva, and we had to
break up our handball game when he went to school. Little kids in New York
in those days played handball and not basketball. There were walls all over
the place and you played handball, that's all. My grandfather, my father's
father thought it was a lovely idea. My mother's father died when I was very
young and that's why he didn't enter into this. My father's father thought
that this would be a terrific idea. My father didn't nor did my mother. They
Interview with Arthur Goldberg Page 4
A. (Continued) were really afraid that I would grow up orthodox, pious, and all
the things that would be frightening to people. And so, somewhat sadly,
continued to go to pub] ic school and 1 ive in a very Jewish neighborhood. For
a large part of my life, I assumed there were only two kinds of people in
this world: Jews and Italians. The Italians were fine. My father thought
the Italians were just like Jews except they ate pasta. You walk into an
Italian house, you walk into the kitchen, the mama is there and the whole
thing. We then moved when was about ten to Connecticut.
Q. Are you an only child?
A. No. have a younger brother. When we moved to Connecticut, my parents
became fearful. We were moving to the land of the Gentiles. And that was
really funny because in Hartford, Connectibut, there 1 s an enormous Jewish
community. But coming out of the Bronx, where in the course of five blocks
you'd pass four 1 ittle synagogues, these were all shtitel, they were orthodox
predicated on the notion that no one could drive on the Sabbath, you had to
walk, so they were all within walking distance. They come up to Hartford,
Connecticut which is the place to which we went, it was really a radical
change. It is a smaller community and it's a much more assimilated com-
munity, with a big, strong German-Jewish base and a big Reform Temple that
predates the second World War and that was a whole new land for us. At that
point, they became very worried about us, I think. With only a 1 ittle
prompting from the leadership of the local yeshiva, enrolled me in the
going to pub! ic
was about age, guess was maybe eleven. had been
) you know, three times a week, whatever.
Terrible exercise in New York City, just absolutely terrible. The only
good thing about it ... it was terrible educationally, in terms of what you
Interview with Arthur Goldberg Page 5
A. (Continued) learned from the book. It was very good in terms of human
). A lot of human access back and forth. Anger, love, but it
was very genuine. Nobody ever heard of (unintelligible) anything and people
put there souls on the 1 ine for whatever they were worth, good or bad, they
laid it right out. And you got used to doing business 1 ike that and that's
probably a good thing in itself; but ih terms of how much Hebrew and Talmud
I learned, very little: which put me at an enormous disadvantage in this
little yeshiva, which was a very 1 ittle yeshiva. It was just beginning. It
was maybe five, six years old when I entered it. It was a beat-up old house
in the downtown, dilapitated part of Hartford, Connecticut. It had maybe a
hundred students, I don't know. I doubt it. I admit, I was way out-of-wack,
because was a second-grade (unintelligible) student in that school. made
many good friends on the faculty who are friends of mine even now. Even
though I was their worst discipline case in years. I'm gonna jump the story
some because that yeshiva today is a multi-million dollar enterprise. My
father was the treasurer of that yeshiva. My mother was the chairman of the
Q. Your parents still 1 ive in Hartford then?
A. They still live in Ha