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Former Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir with Harry Rosenfeld

Former Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir with Harry Rosenfeld

 

My Uncle Harry Rosenfeld turned 91 years old this month.

His is a remarkable story that constantly reminds me why I value the message of the Statue of Liberty so much.

Harry was born in Berlin, Germany in 1929, eight years younger than his sister, my mother Rachel. Their father, Sam, was an uneducated Polish immigrant who became a very successful furrier in Berlin. After Hitler came to power, Jews were not allowed to go to public school. Before Krystallnacht happened in 1938, Sam was arrested in the middle of the night and deported to Poland along with other Polish Jews living in Germany.

The Rosenfelds had applied for entry to the U.S. in 1934, but did not receive permission until 5 years later. At that time, Sam was permitted to return to Berlin to accompany his family to America—shortly before War broke out with Germany’s attacks on Poland.

They came to New York City. Rachel, lacking a high school degree, worked in her parents’ new fur shop right on the same block as Alexander’s Department store in the Bronx. Harry got to go to elementary, junior high and Stuyvesant high school. Upon graduation but before going to Syracuse U, Harry got his start in newspapering at the New York Herald Tribune, as a shipping clerk.

He worked there summers and some months after he graduated from Syracuse, and before being drafted and sent to Korea during the war.

When he was discharged, he again returned to the Trib, working his way up from typist, to copy editor, and then becoming Managing Editor of the paper’s news service, the youngest ever to hold that job. In time, he became the Trib’s foreign editor.

That led me to my second job in journalism—the first being a paperboy when I was 10 years old. During one summer when I was in college, Uncle Harry got me a summer job putting up signs on lampposts in Manhattan heralding the column by Jimmy Breslin.

Harry worked for the Herald Tribune for over 18 years if you subtract the four he spent in college and the two years in the Army. When the paper folded, he was hired by the Washington Post to help run their foreign operation and he eventually became Metropolitan editor overseeing the local news. As an assistant managing editor, he oversaw Woodward and Bernstein during the Watergate Investigation. But there was no path to a promotion at the Post because Ben Bradlee was firmly ensconced, so Harry took a job as Editor in Chief of the two Albany, New York daily newspapers, the afternoon Knickerbocker News and the morning Times Union.

And there he still sits. He’s emeritus and is a member of the editorial board of the surviving Times-Union, and his mind is extremely active and he has written two great autobiographies, one about the years at the Trib and the Post and the other about the Albany years.

I was headed across the country to surprise him for his birthday but Covid put the damper on that plan so we have to settle for schmoozing on the phone. My wonderful aunt Annie is also very healthy and they have three wonderful daughters who have them surrounded, Susan in Boston, Stefanie in New York City, and Amy in Chicago.

Journalism is literally in my blood, thanks to Harry, and by hook or by crook, I’m going to get myself to Albany sooner than later.

Sometimes the Yiddish language delivers the perfect word and right now that word is “naches”.

Naches (pronounced nachiss) is defined as the joy a child gives a parent and Susan and I are feeling particularly joyous these days about the accomplishments of our youngest son Charley.

Charley is touring with the Sharon Van Etten band, playing keyboards as well as guitar. They appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show, were interviewed on NPR, and then hit the road for a 7-month worldwide tour with many venues already sold out.

Susan flew to see him in New York City and I’ll be seeing him this coming weekend in Vancouver, BC or Seattle. One brother and his sister will see him in Portland and his other two brothers will see him in Los Angeles. His French cousins will see him in Paris. I might try to see him in San Francisco at the hallowed Fillmore and if time and work allow, I might even fly to Madrid to see him play.

One of reasons we are so proud of Charley, who turned 30 last week, is that he toured recently with Milo Greene playing the bass guitar and now he’s playing keyboards as well. He didn’t study piano as a kid, and only in the last couple of years started taking piano lessons.

Obviously, the kid has a gift and he’s written and recorded some wonderful songs of his own, but this is also a testament to very hard work and perseverance. He had an excellent role model in his oldest brother Luke, whose band Box Violet, including his wife Margot, played in Europe and at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas back in the day.

We were on a family ski trip many years ago and we told the kids that the most important consideration in a career choice is not money or prestige, it’s finding something that makes you excited to go to work. All of our kids have managed to do that, Luke has a very successful audio-visual business, Sarah and Nick work with very challenged kids in Portland, and Michael works for a major talent agency while honing his skills as a sculptor and animator.

So much naches, we are just bursting with parental pride as Charley is following in their footsteps, making his dreams come true.

Sharon Van Etten band and Charley