Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Saturday Nov 8

At Down Town Zionist
meeting at Jewish Centre
where Maurie Samuel and
Mr. Zeldin Spoke.


We last heard from Maurice Samuel in January when Papa booked him to speak at a meeting of the Zionist Organization of America's First District, one of its downtown chapters. The First District was having membership woes at the time, and Papa expected Samuel, a noted writer and activist, to be a draw.

Since then, Samuel's stature had increased considerably with the September release of his book You Gentiles, a provocative examination of the differences between Jews and non-Jews, which Samuel considered irreconcilable. (As we've previously noted, some consider Samuel's later work to be more important, though anti-Semites like to recirculate the more strident passages from You Gentiles as evidence of Jewish aggressiveness and implacability.) No latecomer to Samuel's party, Papa is comfortable enough with him by now to call him "Maurie." (Could Papa be showing off a little? That doesn't seem like his style.)

I'm not sure how well Papa knew "Mr. Zeldin," though I think I know who he was: Morris Zeldin, a Russian-born Zionist leader who would go on to help found the United Jewish Appeal of New York. According to Zeldin's 1976 obituary in the New York Times, "he was a close associate of many national and international Jewish leaders, including Chaim Weizmann, who became the first President of Israel in 1948." But wait: If his friends referred to him as "Maurie" as well, wouldn't that have let to many mildly comic moments when he appeared at the same event as "Maurie" Samuel? Do you think Papa ever tried to get Samuel's attention by calling out "Maurie," only to find Zeldin turning around instead? And what if Zeldin didn't like being called "Maurie?" Would he have gotten mad at Papa, and forever thought of him as "that guy who kept calling me 'Maurie'"? Important questions.

Meanwhile, I'm still not sure what happened to the First District or whether it's the same Z.O.A. chapter that Papa refers to in this, and other entries, as the "Down Town Zionist" district. The Jewish Centre he mentions here could be the same "Downtown Zionist Centre" on St. Marks Place that we discussed a few days ago; I'm going to take a gamble and say it is, so I'll add it to the map of Where Papa's Been.


Note: I'm missing the scan of today's diary page (and yesterday's as well) so I've stuck a sketch of Papa that we found among my grandmother's photos in its place. I'm not sure if this sketch is a self-portrait or not, but in any event I love it and think it would make a great tattoo.


New York Times References for this post:


  1. Matt,
    You're right it would make a great tattoo!! Do you ever watch Miami ink? At any rate, the sketch looks like one that I have seen of my grandfather from the same time period. His was done as a cut paper silhouette and there is a companion one of my grandmother. Perhaps the genre was something that was created on the boardwalk -- kind of like the quick, comic sketches that people can sit for in Central Park.


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