Tag Archives: victor rabinowitz

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Vic-Bookjacket.jpgToday, July 2nd would have been my father’s 98th birthday and not a day goes by that I don’t miss him. Every day, something flashes through my mind, across the computer screen or on TV that makes me, just for an instant, think I should call dad. But I can’t. He’s been gone a little over a year and a half and it doesn’t yet seem real. How can someone so huge in life, so forceful, so robust, so devoted to the betterment of the world no longer be around, fighting the good fight? It’s not fair. The world is a poorer place.
That said, his progeny and grand progeny are carrying on his legacy as best we can. We’re not a large family by most standards but what there is of us is pretty special in that there are really no “black sheep” in the family, politically speaking. You hear about apples falling far from the tree but we’re all clustered around the trunk.
Dad was an amazing man by almost any measure. He stuck to his principles even when doing so cost him his place at the law firm he had built for 40 odd years. He was a defense attorney who specialized in civil rights, labor and international law and counted Dr. Benjamin Spock, Dashiell Hammett (dad referred to him as “Dash”), Jimmy Hoffa as clients and friends and was a frequent chess partner of Che Guevara. He represented the government of Cuba, Papandreou’s Greece, Angola and the Nicaraguan mission to the United States under Ortega, among others. He defended countless nameless teachers, union workers and anti-war demonstrators though the McCathy 50’s, the 60’s and the anti-Vietnam War 70’s with courage and conviction, although many were pro bono and none brought him fame or fortune. He was truly an inspiration.
He and mom dragged me around the world as a kid and as such, gave me my wanderlust but I think he was happiest digging in the garden of our house in East Hampton. Summer, winter, hot or cold, you could find dad in East Hampton every weekend and most holidays. If it was too hot or too cold to work in the garden he just sat on the couch and read or on the deck and watched the squirrels try and get at the bird feeders. I think he would be very happy that I’ve moved out here. I don’t have my feeders up yet, but I will. There will be seed in the summer and suet in the winter and if I can help it, the neighbor’s cat won’t get any of my birds or rabbits. Dad protected his birds, too.
Happy birthday, dad. I miss you.

Victor Rabinowitz, 1911-2007-One Year Later

Vic-Bookjacket.jpgOne year ago today, November 16th, 2007 my father Victor Rabinowitz passed away at the age of 96. I was in Denver, where I am again heading in a few days. My friends there helped me through a rough night and the following morning and I’m looking forward to seeing many of them again and raising a glass to my dad.
He would have been proud and amazed at what this past year has brought. One of the most amazing political campaigns in history culminating in the election of the first black president and likely, the first time in world history that a majority has elected a minority to lead a country. Truly remarkable.
He spent his his entire life working towards justice for the oppressed, including spending quite a lot of time in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. He was a hero of a magnitude rarely seen these days and had he witnessed the election of Barack Obama it would have warmed his heart to no end.
Here’s what I wrote at the time. It’s been a very fast year and I miss him every day.
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A Memorial Meeting For My Father, Victor Rabinowitz

Vic-Bookjacket.jpgYou are invited to join me, my family and friends as we celebrate and remember the life of my “unrepentant leftist” father, Victor Rabinowitz (July 2, 1911 – November 16, 2007) on Saturday, January 12th, 4pm at the NYU Law School, Tischman Auditorium, 40 Washington Square South, between Macdougal and Sullivan Streets.

Victor Rabinowitz, 1911-2007

lawyer600.jpgOn Friday night, November 16th my father, Victor Rabinowitz, passed away quietly at home. He was 96 and to say he had lived a full life would be a vast understatement. He was a truly great man of integrity who taught me appreciation for many things including politics, baseball, gardening, photography, chess, Shakespeare and classical music, among others. It was also because of him and my mother that I was able to travel at an early age and develop a love for other countries and cultures.

Despite my early (and continued) support for the dominant New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, I was taught that in most situations, the underdog was to be supported and that those less fortunate deserved respect and wherever possible, a leg up. Among those items in the above list, “politics” is probably his lasting legacy to me, because it was through leftist politics that I learned an appreciation for all those things in which any good progressive believes.

Social programs designed to help the poor and infirm; the need for universal healthcare; the right of citizens in a so-called free society to speak out against the government when necessary (and even when not…it’s one of those rights that works both ways); that people should be paid a fair living wage for a day’s work and anything less than this is exploitation, regardless of the country in which it occurs; that the US is not the boss of the world and it is not our business to poke our nose in where it’s not wanted simply to make a few rich, white Americans even richer (they can’t get any whiter, trust me).

We spent endless hours discussing the miracle that is baseball. We both had an unending curiosity and appreciation for the sport and could watch it and talk about it for hours. His was such a long life that he once saw Ty Cobb steal home at Fenway Park and went to the 1928 World Series. I can only imagine what it must have been like. He also drove a Model-T Ford at summer camp (it was actually an old car at the time) and rode a trolley past dairy farms in Brooklyn to visit his grandfather in the early 1900’s. I can’t really imagine any of that, either. When he was born there were no commercial airplane flights and a short 58 years later (and 3 days after my birth) a man walked on the Moon. He saw both the rise and fall of the Soviet Union but missed the last Cubs World Series win by only 3 years. During his life there have been 17 presidents, from Taft to “W” and I dare say dad made some trouble for a few of them and they deserved it, too.

During the past few years of his life, his eyesight and hearing were in pretty bad shape, so much so that he could follow almost nothing on TV. As a result he was limited to C-Span, CNN and baseball games. Victor was such a principled and caring man and it’s a real shame that aside from the midterm elections of 2006, recent years held little succor for a man of his politics and temperament. Despite huge gains in said election, the senate continues to be soft and tame under the flaccid “leadership” of Harry Reid and the lunatic, often racist ramblings of Lou Dobbs on CNN drove him batty. Even the Mets failed him this year, performing the worst collapse in baseball history.

He was ready to go, I think. None of us were ready for him to leave, of course, but you never are, really. I never got to show my dad my “chops,” professionally, at least not in full. He was many things, but a man of the Information Age was not one of them. 11 years ago he published his memoirs and wrote them out longhand, on a yellow legal pad. This was not a man to whom it was easy to explain blogs or even indieWIRE, really. He was concerned about my ability to take care of myself financially, of course but I think he was most concerned and eventually pleased and proud, that I, along with my brother and sister, had grown up as a “good person.” I like to think I have a good moral compass, positive personal values and goals and a healthy and appropriately concerned outlook on the world. It’s to his and my mother’s credit that they really never gave me anything to rebel against and as a result, the apple couldn’t have fallen closer to the tree.

He was and remains, my hero. I miss him, greatly.

Here are a few obituaries that have been running over the past few days:
New York Times
International Herald Tribune
East Hampton Star
Time Magazine
Marjorie Cohn: The Huffington Post
Photo, L to R: Victor Rabinowitz, Dr. Benjamin Spock and Leonard Boudin © The Associated Press