Brandeis Magazine

Winter 2023/2024

Letters to the Editor

Cover of the Magazine's 75th Anniversary issue
Celebrating 75 years of Brandeis

Congratulations to the Brandeis Magazine staff on the wonderful 75th-anniversary issue (Summer 2023). From the opening photographs of Brandeis then and now, to the reflective 1968 letter by President Sachar reproduced on the back cover, the issue conveys the qualities that have made our alma mater unique, adaptable, and enduring.

I enjoyed every article, particularly “Object Lessons,” which depicts the artifacts of a university I had thought of as being without a history when I graduated.

I also appreciated “Winning Isn’t Everything,” the portrait of an athletics department that has risen from the ashes of a defunct football program, not to mention a basketball team that, in my day, played an entire season without winning (under the unforgettably named Philip Philip, nicknamed “Coach Coach”).

The Sachar letter provides a time capsule, but the issue as a whole takes us proudly into the future.

Lloyd Michaels ’66
Emeritus Professor of English
Allegheny College
Meadville, PA

The 75th-anniversary issue, in conjunction with my turning 70, prompted me to reflect on how Brandeis helped me find a life path shaped by tikkun olam, the Jewish value of repairing the world.

Rewind to spring 1974. I had checked off almost all the boxes for application to top-notch graduate schools in clinical psychology. Good grades, ample volunteering, an internship in a relevant field, a double major — all completed. All I needed were reference letters. I asked my faculty adviser, James Roff, one of the many people at Brandeis who had personally invested in me, for a recommendation. “Michael, I’d be doing you a disservice by writing your reference letter,” he candidly told me. “With your skills and nature, you strike me more as an advocate or a policy change agent. Think about law school, politics, social work. Not clinical psychology.”

My ego bruised, I graduated, feeling rudderless and without a clear plan. Eventually, I realized that Professor Roff “got me,” and I followed his advice. After law school, I built a successful career as a health-care attorney and hospital executive, always devoting time to doing volunteer legal work.

In retirement, I am dedicating myself even more to helping others, and I’ve been recognized twice by the Washington State Bar Association for my pro bono service.

Brandeis truly opened doors and helped shape me.

Michael Goldenkranz ’74

All things considered

I enjoyed seeing the photo of Leonard Bernstein’s piano in “Object Lessons.” But this is not the Bernstein piano I practiced on in the music building in the 1970s. That was a baby grand, with a plaque that said something like, “This piano, which served Leonard Bernstein in his youth, was donated by his mother.” It had more cigarette burns than any piano I have ever seen.

Bernstein’s mother made an impact on me in another way. One afternoon, just after Bernstein had been honored in a ceremony at the music building, two fellow students and I went over to invite him to a barbecue in Ridgewood Quad. “We have steaks and beers next door, and we’d be honored if you would join us,” I told him.

He mulled it over and seemed favorable. Just then, an elderly woman pushed her way toward us. “Oh, no, he is not going with you students,” she said. “I am his mother, and I have him today!”

Mike Smith ’75
Mesa, AZ

As I helped my second-oldest daughter move into her dormitory for her final semester, your story “Object Lessons” — particularly, its blurb on parietals — came to mind. Until the early 1960s, the dormitories at Brandeis were all single-gender, and men and women could meet only in a common room, and only for a few hours.

My daughter attends Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, in New York City. The only time men are allowed in the dorms is on move-in day. For the rest of the year, no men, not even family, are allowed up.

And I am OK with that. Not every college student dated in high school. Not every college student is ready to explore intimacy; some want to wait until marriage. And many students may not be comfortable with using a mixed-gender community bathroom.

Adam L. Moskowitz ’88
Cedarhurst, NY

The discussion of parietals brought back many memories of my time at Brandeis. Social critic Paul Goodman’s philosophy, outlined in his critique of higher education, “The Community of Scholars,” was nurtured on campus and believed in by students. When President Sachar, with the backing of major donors, made his decision about room visitations, the student body fiercely opposed it. After all, we were a part of this community, and our opinion mattered. Or so we thought.

Yes, there were class strikes and student meetings, but, in the end, our views did not matter. When threatened with mass expulsion, the opposition crumbled.

The Golden Rule had been proved: Whoever has the gold makes the rules. Even if that’s a lesson that needs to be learned, the one who teaches it is never forgotten. To this day, and for this reason, I have not donated to Brandeis.

Dr. Robert P. Andelman ’67
Corpus Christi, TX

Liberal spirit of leadership

The 75th-anniversary issue of Brandeis Magazine included a wonderful piece on Dr. Abram Sachar (“The Last Word,” Summer 2023). When I was researching universities to attend, Brandeis’ nonsectarian Jewish heritage was most appealing to me. The traditional, cherished Jewish values of scholarship, inquiry, freedom, and respect matched the value of “the free and responsible search for truth and meaning” in my own Unitarian Universalist faith.

Dr. Sachar did more than just proclaim this vision of a liberal liberal-arts institution — he opened himself to the voices of others. At times, the traditions of Judaism and the promise of a nonsectarian university would collide. On more than one occasion, I found myself in Dr. Sachar’s office, in conversation with him about such challenges. I always found him to be a respectful recipient of my concerns. I have rarely, if ever, found that truly liberal spirit of leadership in any other academic leader.

His legacy would be best honored by keeping alive his ability to balance tradition with vision, in search of the larger good.

Rev. Dr. Randolph W.B. Becker ’68
Ridgefield, CT

First Amendment tradition

Robert Kuttner’s essay on American democracy in the “Past as Prologue” feature (Summer 2023) reflexively charges one of our major political parties with “extremism” — including, in some cases, the “frank” admiration of “neofascism” — and asserts it is out to cut Social Security. I have been receiving Social Security benefits for 18 years. Last year, I received my largest-ever annual increase as a Social Security beneficiary. As a Republican, I do not fear GOP assaults on the source of my income.

Professor Kuttner’s name-calling attacks do not resemble the rational, free-wheeling discussion of public issues that prevailed on campus during my years there. But, alas, these are times when the term “disinformation” is hurled to censor dissenters, to the detriment of the First Amendment tradition of free inquiry that was proudly defended when I was a politics major at Brandeis.

David R. Zukerman ’62
New York City

‘A singularity once taken for granted’

My former professor Stephen Whitfield’s assessment of Brandeis as a “singular experiment in higher education” (Perspective, Summer 2023) was thought-provoking. As Whitfield, GSAS PhD’72, now the Max Richter Professor of American Civilization, Emeritus, points out, Brandeis has maintained an unshakable commitment to the Jewish heritage’s “love of learning, devotion to social justice, [and] the appreciation of difference itself.” President Jehuda Reinharz, GSAS PhD’72, H’11, he notes, even made “strengthening Jewish communal connections one of four ‘pillars’ of the university’s mission.”

Yet Whitfield acknowledges that the share of Jewish students at Brandeis has declined, that the university’s “Jewish legacy is bound to become more elusive, and a singularity once taken for granted is more difficult to define.”

This is both sad and lamentable. I hope it will be addressed by President Reinharz’s successors.

Rita N. Silverstein ’73
West Caldwell, NJ

A forgotten first?

As a former member of the Brandeis sailing team, allow me to add to the Top 10 moments in Brandeis athletics history (“Winning Isn’t Everything”). On Oct. 25, 1981, in its third season, the Brandeis sailing team, co-captained by me and coached by Bill Upthegrove, won its first regatta, at the Stonehill College Invitational.

Clearly, this “first” legitimized Brandeis’ sailing program, which still exists today. I wouldn’t expect an Athletics Hall of Fame induction for the sailing team, but a mention would have been appropriate.

David Paris ’85
Bowdoinham, ME

Whiz kids rule

If Brandeis didn’t exactly excel at sporting competitions back in the day (“Winning Isn’t Everything”), it was a major force on the “G.E. College Bowl,” a TV show that pitted four-person teams from various colleges against each other in a contest of general knowledge. Brandeis was slated to appear on the show during the 1967-68 season. Along with about 250 other students, I took the qualifying test to become a team member.

I did well enough to make the B-team the Brandeis A-team practiced against. We generally got destroyed. The A-team had an English major, Eric Wexler ’70, who I don’t think ever missed a question.

Everyone on campus tuned in on Sunday, April 28, at 6 p.m., for the team’s first “College Bowl” appearance, taking on the returning champs from the University of Chicago. It was a reasonably close match: Brandeis won by about 75 points.

Then Chicago disputed an answer (had Wexler said “Dufy,” or “Buffet,” or “Dubuffet” in his answer to a question about French painters). The match was voided, and the two teams were slated to square off again the following week.

Chicago should have quit while they were ahead. In the rematch, they lost 380-155.

Brandeis not only ended the “College Bowl” season undefeated, they were the only team to ever win six matches, and their 515 points against Arkansas State was the highest total ever.

The show is, of course, long gone. I wonder what that says about America — an unending stream of fake reality TV, but not one opportunity for whiz kids to strut their stuff.

Howard Levine ’69
Payson, AZ

Puzzling it out

I always look forward to receiving Brandeis Magazine. However, the anniversary issue was very special because it included a Brandeis-themed crossword puzzle — a challenge this inveterate puzzle lover hastened to accept.

As an 85-year-old mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, I am happy to say I was able to complete the puzzle with only four incorrect letters. It’s always so reassuring to know those little brain cells are still doing their job after all these years. Thank you for encouraging me to test them.

Arlene Schwartz Titelbaum ’58
Peabody, MA