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Remembering Ira July 19, 2008

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Susan Gebel (daughter Ruth’s longtime friend)
Brooklyn, NY

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I remember Ira as a kind yet very strong person. He was not a big man, but there was conviction in his gaze. He had a knowing look about him and he made you feel that he really cared about you. He didn’t always say that much when there were family gatherings at his daughter Ruth’s house, but if you were to have a conversation with him, you had to be on your toes because he was so knowledgeable! Ira wanted to know how things were going with you and really took an interest in you. What I remember most about Ira were his hugs. He may have been wiry and thin, but he gave the best and strongest hugs I’ve ever had. Ira, you will be missed!

John David, Manila, 1946 July 19, 2008

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Erwin Marquit

Minneapolis, Minnesota

As members of the U.S. émigré/deportee community, Ruth and I were good friends in Poland from the time of her arrival until I returned to the U.S. in 1963. My wife and I were in  contact with her during my sabbatical in Copenhagen in 1971/72. Ruth would often take care of our teenage children when we traveled without them. I then met her occasionally in New York at the annual Socialist Scholar’s conferences.

I first met Ira in June 2000, when I interviewed him in connection with a history I was writing about the G. I. demobilization demonstrations in January 1946. He was one of the principal organizers of the demonstrations in Manilla (I had taken part in the demonstrations in Hawaii).

If I were able to attend the memorial, I would recount one rather surprising exchange with him, considering his age at the time of the interview. At the end of the interview, he asked me, “Who are you going cite as the source of this information?” “You, of course,” I replied. “Oh, no!” he said, "I’m still practicing.” 

When I published the history in the journal Nature, Society, and Thought (Vol. 15, no. 1 [2002], pp. 5-39), I referred to him only with the pseudonym “John David,” explaining in a note that he did not want to be identified by his real name. Hero to me that he remains, I assume there will be no objection to my publishing an “update” note giving his true name so he can have full credit for his contribution to the demonstrations.

Let Aaron be gathered to his kin… July 19, 2008

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Josh Lipschutz
Bala Cynwyd, PA

Sitting in Shul two weeks ago with my parents, Mike and Linda Lipschutz, my wife Lisa and our three children, Hannah, Benjamin, and, as of one month ago, Jacob, I was inspired by a passage. I hadn’t planned on saying anything today, content to let my mom, Ira’s niece, the daughter of Ira’s sister Beatrice, represent the family; however, I think this is worth telling.

The section of the Bible we were reading two weeks ago was Hukkat, and there were several notable deaths in that chapter, including Miriam, Moses’s sister, and Aaron, the high priest and Moses’s brother. As it is written in Numbers 20:24, when the Israelites reached Mount Hor, which was next to the Promised Land, which neither Moses nor Aaron were going to be allowed to enter, G-d said to Moses and Aaron, “Yaasafe Aaron el-Amo”. The Hebrew is translated as, “Let Aaron be gathered to his kin…” The commentary in the Etz Hayim Chumush interprets this as “Let his good qualities now enter the souls of those living who knew him, that those qualities not be lost after his death.” And I think that’s what we are doing here today. We are letting the good qualities of Ira and Ruth now enter the souls of those who knew them, that these qualities not be lost even after their deaths.

And what are those qualities? I’ll mention a few that stand out for me. I remember Ruth as a woman who loved the world. It has been said that anybody who is not a Communist at age 18 doesn’t have a heart. Ruth had a great heart and, I believe, remained a Communist, in the best sense of the word, long after age 18. I remember telling her after 9/11, that I was joining the army, and her getting very upset and crying. Even though I was joining as a doctor, she hated the concept of armies and war. The world needs people like her.

And Ira, ah, so many good qualities. To mention a few, he was a brilliant thinker and the father of a new field of law, Immigration Law, which I’m sure others, who are expert in this area, will tell you more about. Ira was also a dedicated family man and always kept in close contact with the exiled Indiana branch of my family. Though advanced in years and somewhat frail, Ira and Ruth made the trek to San Francisco for my wedding in December of 2000.

Interestingly, sometimes public and private worlds collide. At our wedding, my wife’s Aunt, Barbara Hines, who is a Professor of Immigration Law at UT Austin, met Ira and remarked that it was like meeting a legend. So to paraphrase that greatest of books, the Bible, “Yaasafe Ira Varut el-Amo.” Let Ira and Ruth be gathered to their kin.

Ira was a true mentor July 19, 2008

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Sue Susman, New York, NY

Dear Ruth [Gollobin-Basta],

Ira was a true mentor to me — encouraging me to go into the field of immigration law, and requiring — as a condition of his tutoring me — that I learn to eat fish and tofu at a particular Chinese restaurant every Tuesday evening. I learned from him legally, politically, culinarily, and otherwise. I may still have his book on the Committee for Protection of the Foreign Born.

You may have heard the tale that he told. While he was having dinner with me each Tuesday evening for many months, your mother Esther was telling him she had met a terrific young man at the U.S.-China People’s Friendship Association — my husband Sekhar; so we “double-dated” a few times for dinner. In the years after he married Ruth, he seemed content with her. We met them for dinner once or twice as well and sat next to them at Guild dinners.

I was sorry to hear of Ruth’s death, but was devastated to hear of Ira’s. I had somehow assumed that with all of his running, swimming, and healthy diet, he would live forever. You have had a wonderful father, mother, and stepmother for a wonderfully long time. I hope Ira left this world peacefully.

Truly Beautiful and Loving Folks July 19, 2008

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Yuka Hirata and Mark Blackshear
Brooklyn, NY

Ira and Ruth were indeed like my and my wife Yuka’s surrogate grandparents. They always treated us kindly. We remember and appreciate the few times we met them for lunch or dinner, as well as the hospitality extended to us at their home. They witnessed our wedding ceremony in December of 2002, and we considered it a great honor.

Ruth was a photography student, and I loved the glee she expressed showing off a portrait of Ira she had taken by a lake at a country retreat. She and Ira were rather proud of it. I totally enjoyed it when Ira would start telling some of his stories; the tales regarding his legal exploits were priceless. I regret the fact that I can no longer enjoy his oral history lessons and his gems of enlightenment.

We remember Ruth and Ira as truly beautiful and loving folks. Yuka and I shared a genuine fondness for them. They made us feel like they felt the same for us — by the way they always smiled and often laughed when we were with them.

Uncle Ira July 19, 2008

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Michael Lipschutz, Radnor, PA

We had some wonderful interactions with Uncle Ira and his family over the years, but unfortunately fewer than we would have liked because we lived in Indiana for 43 years (plus Bern, Switzerland, and Tel Aviv) until May of this year. One of the most recent, and therefore the freshest in our recollection, occurred about two years ago, when he and Ruth visited us for almost a week in Indiana. The purpose of the trip was to go to Springfield, Illinois, to visit the new Lincoln Museum and Library, and see other sites there, associated with Abraham Lincoln.

As most of you may know, Ira was particularly passionate about Lincoln and his deeds. To be able to show Ira and Ruth the house and neighborhood where Lincoln lived, his law office, and his personal possessions was the greatest of privileges. It was fascinating and truly moving to hear Ira describe Lincoln’s actions and decisions, as we were surrounded by Lincoln’s physical and spiritual possessions.

When my wife Linda photographed Ira beside Lincoln’s life-sized statue, we almost felt that the two were meeting. And that would have been a meeting of two equally great minds.

Concrete and Precise in His Thinking July 19, 2008

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Mahmoud Sayratiezadeh
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Ruth [Gollobin-Basta],

Forgive me for writing late to you to extend my sympathies. Nothing I could say could soothe your loss. Your father was a remarkable human being. He was knowledgeable and competent about his profession, helpful to people who required his help, and he did it with understanding, sympathy, and wit. His sense of humor reflected his humanity and also his great intellect. He knew much of world history, philosophy, and science. He was concrete, precise in his thinking, and yet dialectical as he explained his thoughts. Ira was cultured and respected and enjoyed all cultures. And all peoples. He was one of the few people one meets in a lifetime whom one cherishes having known. Please accept my condolences for this great loss.

Highlights of My Uncle Ira July 19, 2008

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Linda Lowenthal Lipschutz, Radnor, PA

“Highlights” because he was truly one of the two most radiant stars in my personal universe. The other is my husband, Mike, who has a planet, 2641 Lipschutz, named for him.

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From My Childhood: My first recollection of my Uncle Ira was in his army uniform, in 1942, when he came home after being drafted. His hugs for me were huge, and they have been bear hugs ever since. Uncle Ira was my mother Beatrice’s (Basha’s) baby brother. She adored him — for his sweetness and for his intellect. When Ira and Ruth married, on June 11, 1994, it was Bea who walked Ira down the aisle to join his bride.

Bringing Up Three Sons in Indiana: Middle-school boys from the Midwest, visiting their Cousin Ruthie alone in the BIG city: this was ENORMOUS. As a parent, I knew that my Uncle Ira and Aunt Esther had raised two incredible daughters.

More Recently: When our oldest son, Josh, married Lisa Hines, in San Francisco, in 2000, Ira and Ruth came all the way across the country to be with us. In June of last year, they came to Indiana for a slew of family celebrations, including Ira’s ninety-sixth birthday. Ira told me at that time that he was taking his role as “family patriarch very seriously.” Mark, our second son, his wife Stephanie, and their twin children, Jackie and Sara, have come from San Diego, CA, to be here today because Uncle Ira was so important to them. Jonathan, our youngest son, and his wife have a new baby, or they would be here also. Jonathan loved Uncle Ira very much, too. As an audiologist, he was able to help Ira with his hearing aids.

The National Lawyers Guild NYC Chapter, 68th Anniversary Dinner, Honoring Ira Gollobin (and Saluting the Chapter’s Immigration Lawyers and Advocates), 2005: With perhaps, and I’m guessing, 500 people in attendance, including many in our family, it was a culmination of my Uncle Ira’s lifetime of brilliant legal work on behalf of immigrants, perhaps the most vulnerable sector of our American melting pot. I videotaped Ira’s entire keynote address to the Guild and guests. It was a magnificent address in which he presented his philosophical views of civil liberties, and of how “basic human values [tie in with] cherished national traditions.” Ira’s daughter, Ruth, has the video tape, and would gladly lend it for viewing.

Uncle Ira was the last of my parents’ generation: for me, an extraordinary and profoundly good group of human beings.

My Memory of Ira and Ruth Gollobin July 19, 2008

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Drs. Amir and Halel Ansari and Family
Pleasantville, NY

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Ira was my “American Dad.” He was my immigration lawyer when I was in residency at Methodist Hospital in 1994. We soon became close friends. Ira and Ruth came to my wedding in 1998. We visited each other at my Westchester home or in the city a few times a year. When my father came to America, I introduced Ira to my father as, “my Dad in America.” He was a great and caring man. Ira went beyond what he needed to do to help others. For instance, it was in the middle of the summer on a hot and humid day. I informed him that I needed to go to the INS to give them a copy of my documents. Despite knowing that this was a simple issue, he left his office practice and walked with me to the INS! He wanted to be sure the job was done. I will always remember his compassion.

Ruth was an exceptionally knowledgeable and wonderful person. However, the one thing I will never forget is how she interacted with my children. When Ruth was surrounded by children she was passionate, sensitive, patient, kind, and a good teacher.

We feel that we were lucky and honored to know these two wonderful individuals.

Lawyer’s Hero, Ladies’ Man July 19, 2008

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Janet Higbie, Chelsea, NY

I came to know Ira and Ruth fairly recently, when I was in my last year at New York Law School, and he was a young man of 93. I was researching Kong Hai Chew v. Colding, one of Ira’s greatest cases, and I was fascinated to listen as he talked for hours about his life and work. One line in particular has stayed with me from those talks.

ira-higbieIra, like others in the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born and the Lawyers Guild, represented clients called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington and its New York State counterpart in the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. There was a continuing debate among the lawyers about how to handle their clients’ predicament: If they testified that they had done nothing wrong, they would be jailed for perjury; if they refused to answer certain questions, they would be found in contempt; if they invoked the Fifth Amendment, they sounded like criminals.

Ira and some of his allies came up with a strategy that essentially turned the tables. Since the committee was ignoring the principle of relevance, they would too. At mock hearings, they prepared their clients to confront the committee members with questions about their voting records, lectures on the Constitution, and free-association riffs on any question they were asked. One client, asked to state his name for the record, answered, “My mother named me Patrick, because St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland!” This would enrage the committee, and Ira would be asked to control his  client; he would just shrug and try not to laugh. Eventually, the client would claim the Fifth, but not without lecturing the committee on its purpose, to protect people from false accusations.

Ira summarized the HUAC-baiting strategy with a wry rhetorical question. “It’s a game of cat-and-mouse,” he said, wagging his finger. “But who is the cat and who is the mouse?” I love that line, and find inspiration in it, because it encapsulates the determination, resourcefulness, and humor that carried him through dark times.

My other favorite memory is more recent. When Ruth fell ill, Ira, then 96, threw himself into caring for her, approaching the problem like a legal case — reviewing the options, researching the medical aspects, conferring with experts, and hiring a top-notch lieutenant, Wendy Clarke. Still, he found the energy to keep up his reputation as a ladies’ man, though in actual practice that involved nothing more than heavy-duty flirting and big hugs to friends of any gender. One day this January, I was at St. Vincent’s, where a small crowd, including Jocelyn McCalla, the long-time Haitian rights advocate, had gathered to try to help Ira help Ruth, who was barely conscious. After a half-hour, I headed down the hall with Jocelyn to go out for a bite to eat and some computer advice. Ira, feigning envy, waved his hands in the air and called after us, “Oh, to be 90 again!”