In Memoriam: Aristide R. Zolberg

John Torpey, editor of the Press’ Politics, History, and Social Change series, writes a tribute to Aristide Zolberg, who passed away on April 12.  The Press published Professor Zolberg’s book, How Many Exceptionalisms?: Explorations in Comparative Macroanalysisin 2008.

Ary Zolberg changed my life.  I was working on a book about the history of passports which, although addressing migration issues was not my primary purpose, forced me to learn something about migration.  I knew nothing about the topic at the time, so I cast about for some guidance in the literature.  A book called Human Migration: Patterns and Policies, and edited by the distinguished world historian William McNeill, seemed like a good place to start.  I read a few of the papers in the volume, feeling relatively unmoved, until I read the 45 pages under the name Aristide Zolberg, of whom I had then never heard.  It was a tour de force, unlike anything I had read in a long time: enormously erudite, gracefully written, immensely illuminating.  I quickly sought out other writings of his, which often were buried in edited volumes and not necessarily easy to find.  They were all like the first paper I had read – clear, insightful, powerful.  This Zolberg guy was someone I had to get to know.

ImageThen, as fate would have it, I did have the good fortune to get to know him – in a two-installment, transatlantic seminar that spread over two years in the mid-1990s.  He led the seminars with great charm and wisdom.  But then there were the parties.  Here was this, well, not young guy wearing unbelievably cool African print shirts, dancing with the girls, and telling great stories.  My favorite was this: Ary came to the United States shortly after World War II and promptly went into the army.  He was shipped off to El Paso, Texas, where he had a lot of time on his hands as a resident of the base.  So, he thought to himself, “I’m in the military.  It’s time to read War and Peace.”  So he did, carrying it around the base with him to take up in spare moments.  “But most of the guys with whom I was in the service,” he said, “had never seen any book that big that wasn’t the Bible.  So they called me ‘the Preacher’.”

That was especially funny to me because, soon after we first met, he had described himself as my “co-religionist” (I was raised Catholic).  And I’m thinking: How could this guy, who just had to be Jewish, be my fellow Catholic?  Well, that’s a longer story, about being a “hidden child” (from the Nazis, of course) in Belgium during World War II.  As part of his “cover,” he would indeed eventually be confirmed in the Catholic Church – along the way learning English by Imagereading National Geographic with the German soldier billeted in the town where he was “hiding.”  Did the German soldier know?  Ary thought he did.  Far from a hardened Nazi, the guy had been living in the United States and only conscripted as a result of an ill-fated return to Germany during the war.  Another great story, full of the strange twists and turns of history and fate.  Ary understood – from hard-won personal experience and from a lifetime of learning — that history was like that.

Indeed, given his personal history, it’s hard to see how his scholarly work and his life can really be separated.  He was personally insulted by racial discrimination and animus, but also had a more level-headed view about what to do about them than many people preoccupied with the problem.  He was always a source of wisdom, whatever the topic.  He was a humane, wise, generous scholar, the like of which we do not see much anymore.  I will miss him, but I will certainly not forget him.

Advertisements

Philly’s Hoop History Commemorated

This week, Larry Needle, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Sports Congress and author of Homecourt: The True Story of the Best Basketball Team You’ve Never Heard Of, a new children’s book about Red Klotz and the SPHAS, writes about hoop dreams and memories.

With the unveiling of a historic marker commemorating the legendary SPHAS basketball team at the site of the old Broadwood Hotel April 14, the hoop memories run deep.

Memories of the SPHAS (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) teams of the first half of the 20th century, who made the Broadwood their home and helped to show the world that an all-Jewish basketball team could compete with the very best in the land.

MOGUL comp smallMemories of “the Mogul,” Eddie Gottlieb, who founded the team in 1917 and coached them to multiple championships in the Eastern League and American Basketball League over three decades (including seven titles in 13 years from 1933-1946), before going on to be one of the founders of the NBA and owner of the Philadelphia Warriors NBA franchise.

Memories of the SPHAS winning in the toughest of environments, against nasty, often anti-Semitic crowds, in gyms from Cleveland to Brooklyn, and Harlem to Trenton.

Of course, there was the scene at the Broadwood every Saturday night in the 1930s and ‘40s, fans dressed to the nines for the game and the dance that followed on the court immediately afterwards, with SPHAS player turned bandleader Gil Fitch often playing both roles.

Men paid 65 cents for their tickets and women 35 cents.  Hot dogs were a dime.  During games, another legend in the making, PA announcer Dave Zinkoff, would give away a salami and a $20 suit to Gerson’s department store.

And there were, of course, the SPHAS players. Names like Lou Forman, Shikey Gotthofer, Cy Kaselman, Inky Lautman, and Temple legend Harry Litwack.  And of course there was Red Klotz.

Growing up in South Philly, Red’s legendary set shot would help lead him on a career from South Philadelphia High School to Villanova University, and championships with the SPHAS in 1942 and the NBA’s Baltimore Bullets in 1948.

At 5-7, he was usually the shortest player on the team, but that didn’t begin to measure his heart or his passion for the sport of basketball.  Because that NBA championship wasn’t the end of his basketball career, it was merely the beginning.

Homecourt CoverRed would go on the become the founder and owner (as well as player and coach) of the Washington Generals, the team that would play foil to the Harlem Globetrotters over the next 60 years.  He became one of the sport’s great ambassadors, bringing basketball and smiles to millions of people around the globe, as well as lessons of sportsmanship and tolerance.

Of course, his legacy of winning would turn to one of losing; more than ten thousand games of losing in fact, but always with dignity and grace.  Of course, there was the exception, that one night in Martin, Tennessee, when Red hit the jumper to seal the Generals last recorded win against the Globetrotters in 1971.

Globetrotters legend Curly Neal recently said this about Red: “He may have been on the losing end of the scoreboard many nights, but the laughs and thrills that we brought to audiences all over the world is what makes Red a winner every single day. “  He called Red “the little giant with the timeless two-handed set shot and game-winning smile.”

Despite Red’s phenomenal career and contributions to the sport of basketball, he has yet to be honored by the Basketball Hall of Fame.  Just this week, the 2013 inductee class was announced, and Red was again sadly denied his rightful spot in the Hall.

Red is now 92, and lives with his wife Gloria in Margate, surrounded by family, friends and rooms full of basketball memories that he helped to create.

Of course, there is still room on the shelf for the one missing piece; what should be the crowning achievement to a career dedicated to playing the game the right way, and teaching those lessons to countless players, coaches and fans over the decades.

Red’s story is one of many in an incredible legacy created by the SPHAS, a legacy that will forever be honored with the new historic marker.

Why do we reflexively include a woman in an artistic rendering of a kitchen?

In this blog entry, Krista Jenkins, author of  Mothers, Daughters, and Political Socialization: Two Generations at an American Women’s College addresses how women’s roles have changed–or not–over the decades.

I’m endlessly interested in the state of gender relations in the 21st century. The women’s movement remains with us, but its revolutionary panache has dissipated as gender equality sounds more passé than novel. Women are encouraged to live lives unconstrained by traditional gender roles, and yet when it comes to who does the lion’s share of domestic work even in households with working moms, it’s the women who remain the go to sex for cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, school volunteering, and the like. Look at the statistics. A recent Pew Research and American Time Use Survey found that within dual income households, working women spend almost twice as many hours engaged in housework and child care than their spouses or partners.

Not a big believer in stats? Ok, then consider the following: Back in April of 2010, Time Magazine included an article entitled “The Hazards Lurking at Home.” The story was about environmental toxins found in everyday household items, and was accompanied by a drawing of a home. Each room had items to identify its purpose, such as a crib in a baby’s room and television in the family room. The kitchen had the obvious items – refrigerator and sink, for example, but it also had a woman. The takeaway from this? Kitchens are unthinkable without a woman firmly ensconced in its environs.

So, what gives? If we’re almost four decades since the heyday of the modern women’s movement and women can be found in areas of life that were virtually unthinkable a generation ago, why does  a glass ceiling persist? Why are women disproportionately absent from certain high paying and high powered professions? Why do women with ambitious career goals choose to walk away once children arrive?  Why does dinosaur-ish behavior in the form of discrimination and harassment remain a part of the workplace for so many? And why do we reflexively include a woman in an artistic rendering of a kitchen?

To answer these questions, I did what social scientists often don’t do. That is, look at the forces in an individual’s life that are operative at the micro level. “Large N” surveys are the tool that’s most often used to examine the how and why behind a variety of political and social phenomenon. Although an invaluable tool, all too often we overlook what goes on at the micro level which, in the case of my book, means the influence of a mother on her daughter’s political development. Or, more specifically, what I consider in my book Mothers, Daughters and Political Socialization: Two Generations at an American Women’s College is the extent to which a mother influences whether her daughter accepts or rejects traditional gender roles.Mothers_Daughters_sm

My research is based on 23 paired interviews with mothers and daughters, both of whom attended the same women’s college a generation apart. They were selected because 1) their experiences at a women’s college should have made them especially receptive to the tenets of the women’s movement and 2) the mothers came from a cohort who were interviewed 25 years earlier while they were college undergraduates and experiencing the women’s movement during the peak of its heyday.

Ultimately, what I find is that mothers play an important role in how their daughters approach their understanding of gender roles. So, for example, I find a good amount of consistency between how a mother approached questions of professional and maternal responsibilities and how her daughter envisions her own life unfolding. If, despite her early career ambitions, a mother decided that caregiving was preferable for a variety of reasons to pursuing her professional goals, it was likely that her daughter would echo similar sentiments in her long term planning. This is just one of the interesting insights that I discovered through speaking with these smart, engaged, and verbose women.

Also considered is the role of coming of age during different political climates which, for the mothers, was an environment steeped in a revolutionary ethos while, for the daughters, post-feminism reigns. However, a central takeaway from my book is simply this: When it comes to the acceptance or rejection of traditional gender norms in one’s life, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

%d bloggers like this: