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Not Just Another Customer July 19, 2008

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Karen Mallinger
Negaunee, MI
www.allgoodegifts.com

In business, there are some customers who just seem to leave a lasting impression. Ira Gollobin was one of those people.

I first “met” Ira several years ago when he phoned my business. I’m an herbalist, and he was looking for something natural to help with some heart issues. From the very first word, I kept referring to him as “Mr. Gollobin,” as something in his voice just seemed to warrant that level of respect. We talked a little while and I explained to him the traditionally accepted properties of hawthorn and some other herbs that might help him. Always the learner, Mr. Gollobin questioned me about the herbs, how long I’d been in business, what went into the making of an herbal tincture, and all manner of things herbal.

After over an hour of conversation, he asked me the price. When I told him, he chuckled and said, “Karen, you’ll never become a millionaire that way!” I responded, “Well, Mr. Gollobin, that’s not really why I’m doing this. I’m doing it to educate people in alternative ways to stay healthy.” There was a short pause, a soft chuckle, and he said, “Karen, you’re wonderful.”

I didn’t hear from him much after that, but stayed current on his condition via one of the best gifts he gave me — a relationship with his lovely daughter Ruth. Every time we spoke, I asked about her father, and she would give me the latest reports. My life is much richer for having experienced Ira Gollobin, if only for a short time. And the world is a little less wonderful without him in it. Godspeed, Mr. Gollobin.

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!

A chance meeting at the grocery store… a lifelong friendship July 19, 2008

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Birgitte Spoorendonk
Vamdrup, Denmark

Dear Friends of Ruth,

According to Ira, I must have meant something to Ruth at a time when she had difficulties with her life. I did not do much but I happened to be at the right place at the right moment. We met at the grocery store. She was looking for sauerkraut. This is not a common dish in Denmark so I told her to look in a shop for specialties. We had a little chat, but I felt she needed a bit of comfort, so I asked her to come and see me, which she did. She met my dear husband, children, and their fiancés. When my daughter married, Ruth was going to attend, but she took a train and didn’t find the church. So she came to our home bringing a gift: six small glasses of her own, probably from Poland or the U.S.

In the meantime Ruth lost her mother and her husband left her. She had some Greek and Danish friends who were involved in Greek politics. She had to move several times. Even if her belongings were few, I remember once when my husband was helping her, he complained about her many books. I remember taking her to Hamlet’s castle in Kronborg with a group of Danes. (I was a guide back then.)

Ruth returned to New York. In 1980 my girlfriend Agnes and I made a trip to America. We were supposed to meet Ruth at LaGuardia Airport. We waited and waited; but finally I had to call. “Oh dear, didn’t you get my message?” Ruth had bought a couch for our arrival but it could be delivered only at the same time as we were arriving. She had called the airport and asked the information desk to tell us to take a bus. I had paid no attention to the loudspeaker since they are so difficult to understand. It was quite late when we arrived at Ruth’s flat. “What would you like to eat?” she said. “Well, what have you got?” “I am going to get something,” was the answer. “Now? At this time of day (10 pm)?” “Birgitte, you are in America!” Ruth declared. In Denmark, shop hours were from 8 am until 5:30 pm and Saturdays to 2 pm. Other hours were unthinkable.

Ruth was a good host. She took us by hand around Manhattan, and to the Empire State Building where she worked, and one day we toured with her friend Paula Gronska. She enjoyed having us and wanted to show us that she could manage her life again.

My beloved husband passed away February 17, 2007, exactly a year before Ruth. I wish those attending the memorial a meaningful day.

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.

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.

Remembering Ira Gollobin July 19, 2008

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Peter A. Schey, Los Angeles, CA

President & Executive Director, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law

[The following was distributed widely via Peter’s email list.]

Ira Gollobin, a renowned civil rights and immigration lawyer, who practiced law in New York City for over 70 years, acting as attorney in many high-profile immigration and extradition cases from the 1950s to the 1980s, passed away peacefully this morning in New York, following several days of hospitalization for a staph infection. He was 96 years old.

Ira served on the Board of Directors of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law for 25 years. He was a long-time active member of the National Lawyers Guild. He will be deeply missed by those who were honored to meet and learn from him along his 96-year life journey.

Ira wrote numerous periodical articles on immigration policy, dialectics, East Asia, and Marxist theory. He is the author of Dialectical Materialism: Its Laws, Categories, and Practice (1986), and Winds of Change: An Immigration Lawyer’s Perspective of Fifty Years (1987).

Ira’s epic book on dialectical materialism is a comprehensive review of Marxist philosophy, integrated into subjects ranging from workers to politics to human consciousness. For those interested in the relationship between history, philosophy, politics, consciousness, and the struggle for freedom, this is a book you want to read. If you use a highlighter, forget it. You’ll want to highlight the whole book.

Ira served as general counsel to the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born throughout the McCarthy period. During the Cold War witch-hunt to identify and deport immigrant “communist sympathizers,” Ira and the American Committee coordinated the legal defense of immigrant workers, labor leaders, authors, and others for their real or perceived communist beliefs or associations.

In 1980 Ira put together a team of lawyers including Ira Kurzban, Rick Swartz, and me to work on the Haitian Refugee Center v. Smith case. Under his guidance, and with the help of many others, we won a major class-wide injunction that blocked an “expedited deportation program” initiated by the INS headquarters to quickly deport over 5,000 Haitian refugees deemed a “threat” to South Florida. After a class-wide permanent injunction that we won was upheld in the Court of Appeals (Haitian Refugee Center v. Smith, 676 F.2d 1023 [1982]), the first Haitian adjustment act (which Ira and Rick helped draft and get enacted) granted all class members permanent resident status. Ira was the architect of this victory. In the last chapter of his dialectics book, a chapter on wisdom, Ira wrote:

Class society places its imprint on wisdom. The musings of the sage. . . and the guile of the rulers. . . have been acclaimed as wellsprings of wisdom, while the masses’ hard-earned experience and insights, gained in labor and class struggle amid a multitude of afflictions, have been denigrated by oppressors as responses, sometimes docile, sometimes violent, of beings little above the level of brutes. On the contrary, as regards the oppressed, those with the most practical experience are the wisest and most capable. All wisdom comes from the masses. . . . The wisdom of tens of millions of creators creates something incomparably higher than the greatest prediction of genius. (Quotations and citations omitted.)

Ira was a unique intellectual adventurer and a lawyer whose passion for justice was easily matched by his clients’ love and affection for him. We will miss him, and his guidance, very deeply. We will always treasure what he brought to each of us and to humanity’s struggle for emancipation.

Soft and Gentle July 19, 2008

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Genevieve and Ken Knoblauch and Family, Lyon, France

We will always remember Ruth as someone very soft and gentle, yet with strong opinions.

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.

Vignettes of Ira, Characteristic of Ruth July 19, 2008

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Freda Birnbaum, New York, NY

Vignettes of Ira

Ira was a man of many quotations. He would sprinkle them through a conversation to light up a subject or clarify a point in a rather impressive way. I relished the way he dipped into his memory bank and came up with an apropos quote.

Sometimes Ira would take off on a subject about which he was passionate and go on and on and on, little tuned in to the capacity of his listener to grasp what he was expatiating upon or promulgating. It was all so clear to him, and I could be left behind befuddled in the intellectual dust clouds he had bestirred.

Ira and I talked every day in the last couple of months of Ruth’s life. When I asked Ira one evening how he was doing with sleeping, he said that if he had any trouble falling asleep he recited the Gettysburg Address to himself. Before he reached the end of it, he’d be asleep.

A Characteristic of Ruth

People talk at funerals about “a woman of valor.” I think of Ruth as “a woman of fervor.” She was fervent about what she didn’t like as well as what she did like. Often her warm excitement about a musician or a political commentary was contagious so I’d find myself wanting to hear the artist play or to read the brilliant analysis of the admired thinker. Her eagerness to share her experience was intense.