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October 14, 1960 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1960-10-14

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Purely Commentary

John Gunther's Magnificent Story of the Life of
Albert Lasker; Advertising Genius' Interest in Israel

Exciting Career of Al
Lasker, World 'Famous

Advertising

Executive

By Philip

SiOrnOteitZ

Joseph Goer Visits
Detroit Next Week

refused; immigrants became citizens at once, and were rehabili-
tated if necessary ('Even if you're a leper, you can come in');
the task of making the country homogeneous was going forward
calmly and with complete confidence. Fourth, there had been a
"war and 800,000 Jews had beaten to a frazzle Arab forces repre-
senting thirty million people. How was this possible? Because
the Jews had something real to believe in. 'In the Israeli bal-
ance sheet,' Lasker wrote, 'you have to include the spirit of man.'
Also he made a neat little prediction—that if war came again,

John Gunther pays so warm a tribute to his friend. the late
Albert D. Lasker, that the biolgraphical sketch of the advertis-
ing genius, published by Harper under the title "Taken at the
Flood," emerges as one of Gunther's outstanding, works and as
a most fascinating biography.
It is the story of a great newspaperman, of "the father of
modern advertising," whom Gunther describes as "a remarkable the tiny Israeli army could easily 'take Cairo' in a week, which
human being—a `character' in the full sense of that overworked indeed it almost did in 1956."
word."
This, too, is only part of the story- of Lasker's concern
"Anecdotes clung - to him like burrs to tweed," Gunther that there should be justice for the Jew everywhere. He "had
states. As "the father of modern advertising," we are told, "few become a serious anti-anti-Semite." He "was always a good
merr have ever done more to change American social patterns
Jew, but he never carried a chip on his shoulder about Jew-
and buying habits."
ishness and was never in the least self-conscious about being
Gunther also writes about Lasker that he was "a very rich
Jewish. Actually, in a curious way he was not particularly pro-,
man who did fantastic things with money . . a person who Jewish; but he detested anti-Semitism. His attitude was based
impugned on an astonishingly varied number of elements on
not so much on race or religion, but on standards of behavior.
the American scene—politics, shipping, baseball, golf, govern-
He hated to be pushed around; he hated to take second place.
ment, show business; Jewish affairs, merchandising, public rela- Here again may be seen an example of his romantic approach.
tions, aviation, civil liberties, art, philanthropy, and, above all, Anti-Semitism was a personal plot against HiM." •
medical research."
"The atmosphere of Chicago, heavily spotted with anti-Semitism," con-
,Gunther's account of Lasker's life is studded with anecdotes. tributed profoundly to Lasker's sensitiveness about his Jewishness. Gunther
relates
that "he had been blackballed by a Jewish downtown business-
There are many :ricidents in the rich life of the, great advertis- Men's club."
It "wounded him a good deal; but it had the paradoxical-
ing executive that "Taken at the Flood" is as entertaining as effect of making him more Jewish than before. Jews could do no wrong,
even
if
they
did
wrong him ! Meanwhile, being a proud Jew, he continued
it is informative. Regarding Lasker's abilities, and his accumu- to loathe apostate
Jews and, above all, those whom he called `Kared' or
lated wealth, it is worth quoting the following from the Gunther `ashamed' Jews. Once, in later years, he told one of his sons-in-law „good-
humoredly, "The trouble with you is that you are not Jewish enough!"
story: .
He once was asked by a non-Jewish associate to renounce
"Lasker went to work for Lord & Thomas, an advertising
agency in Chicago, in 1898 for $10 a week, and left it in 1942, the Jewish faith and to join his. Lasker thanked him for the
compliment and said: "It so happens, my mother, and my
a multi-millionaire. During most of these 44 years he was its
mother's mother, and her mother's mother before that, all rise
sole proprietor, and it betame - the biggest and most fanious as
out of the same strain, and stem from the same tradition. I
well as the, most prosperous advertising agency in the world.
-cannot break it. But I can tell you this: when it comes time for
He took more money out of the advertising business than any-
you to be taken from us here on earth, you will be welcome in
body who ever "lived—more than $45,000,000—or anybody who
our heaven."
ever will live. He made fabulous sums, spent fabulous sums,

and lost fabulous sums. When he died he left only $11,500,000-

a pleasant fortune certainly but a pittance to what, for ex-

ample, contemporary oil men have. Most of the rest he gave
away—to his family,- friends and multitudinous charities. But
the most interesting thing about Lasker's money is that it all
came out of his head. He made $45,000,000 by sheer brain
power. His fortune did not come from inheritance (although
his family was by no means poor), nor by the mass production
and sale of some such commodities as automobiles, nor through
speculation, •nor by the lucky ownership of property bearing
oil or some similar natural resource. He made the bulk of his
fortune by communicating abstractions—by ideas."

Lasker's numerous and varied interests continue to draw
so much attention that a review of his life's story would require
a great deal of space. His attitudes on Jewish questions require
special notice. Writing about the Lasker family, Gunther tells
about the civic and philanthropic activities of Etta Lasker, who
"became the wife of a legal scholar, the late Samuel Rosensohn,
who was known as a 'lawyer's lawyer'." Gunther tells about the
very interesting activities of the three sisters of Lasker, and
about Etta he states: -
Mrs. Rosensohn, who still clings nicely to her childhood
Texas accent, was for years (and still is) a passionately dedi-
cated Zionist. She has done much work in Israel, which she
visits every year, and was once head of Hadassah."
At 70, in 1950, Lasker decided to go to Israel. His sisters,
Mrs. Rosensohn and Loula Lasker, who also was deeply devoted
to Israel and to Jewish affairs, and Emery Reyes, accompanied
him. The trip "was one of the most profound emotional experi-
ences ever to come to Lasker." In a letter to Dr. Eli Davis, direc-
tor of the Hadassah Medical Organization, on May 26, 1950, he
"called it seriously 'the high spot' of his whole life."
Lasker was fascinated by the State of Israel. "A reason for

his exhilaration was that he, who had always felt a kinship
for American and European Jews, now discovered that he
was also part of a politically conscious Jewry that embraced
men and women who seemed alien to him beyond speech—
orthodox Jews with their hair in oily ringlets, Yemenite Jews,
and Jews out of the gutters not merely of Warsaw and Poznan
but of Baghdad, Fez, and the deserts of Arabia. One after-
noon he clambered up the hilltop leading to a church behind
the King David Hotel. Part of the way he had to scramble on
his hands and knees. Around him were hundreds of newly
arrived Yemenites—wretchedly backward, destitute, diseased,
filthy, illiterate. He sat down to rest, and his face, as one of the
sisters put it, started to 'work' furiously. He conquered his
emotions and said, 'For the first time in my life, I know what
the expression "the Jewish people" means.. These are my
people, and I am part of them!' "
This is only part of the story about a great man who was
so deeply devoted to his people that he often became very emo-
tional- about his love for his kinsmen. He was not a Zionist,
he looked upon himself as a "non-Zionist," and upon Palestine
"not as a national home, but as a place of refuge." To quote
from Gunther's account again:
Lasker "had been willing to give money, but not to take
part -in the Zionist movement. His emotions were charitable,
not political. He was American. Then came Hitler. Millions of
Jewish refugees—those who managed to survive the Nazis—
had to have a home somewhere. Nobody would take them in,
in any number, and Lasker recognized the tragic .desperate-.
ness of their situation. Mrs. Rosensohn, a dedicated Zionist,
began to influence him. Suddenly, in January, 1949,. Albert
called her and said that he and Mary (his wife) wanted to
give :$50,000 to Hadassah, the Zionist medical organization.
Mrs. Rosensohn suggested that this sum should be ear-
marked for building a children's clinic and he agreed that
this would be a good idea. The clinic was promptly established
in Jerusalem under the name Lasker Mental Hygiene and
Child Guidance Center .. ,"

Incorporated in the Gunther story is the full text of a letter
Lasker wrote to President _Franklin D. Roosevelt about "some
fellow Jews" who felt that the appointment of another Jew
to the Supreme Court would be unfortunate. There was talk
then of Frankfurter's appointment, with Brandeis still on the
High Bench. Lasker wrote to the President: "Even though I
thought it would kindle the flame of anti-Semitism for a Jew
to be appointed to the Supreme Court at this time (which
I do not) I would still feel that an infinitely greater hurt would
be done that an American should be deprived of the 'privilege
of serving America because he is a Jew."

In his "friendly reply," Dec. 27, 1938, Roosevelt did not
commit himself, but Frankfurter's appointment was announced
Jan. 5, 1939.
Lasker challenged an article by Milton Mayer, a part-time
University of Chicago employee, in the Saturday Evening Post,
under the title "The Case Against the Jew." He resigned as
trustee of the university in protest. Lasker demanded, and suc-
ceeded in receiving, a retraction and an apology from the Post
for the title of the article which was to have been "The Wonder-
ing Jew."
Lasker's was a most interesting life. He made indelible
contributions to many causes, especially in advancing medical
services. He died in .1952, at the age of '72. He left a noble
heritage. Gunther's story does justice to his memory. "Taken
at the Flood" should be widely read—it is so magnificent a biog-
raphy of a truly great man.

JOSEPH GAER

Joseph Gaer, distinguished
author of a number of books
dealing with the Bible and Jew-
ish history, who is executive
director of Jewish Heritage
Foundation, with headquarters
at 2152 Westwood Blvd.; Los
Angeles 25, will be in Detroit
during the coming week to in-
terest local leaders in the ex-

pansion of the Foundation into
a nationwide cultural movement.
The Jewish Heritage Founda-
tion sponsors symposia, public
lectures and broadcasts and
plans to publish a series of
books on the Talmud and Jew-
ish philosophy.

Eisenhower Appoints
Maurice M. Bernbaum
Ambassador to Ecuador

WASHINGTON, (JTA)—Presi-
dent Eisenhower has appointed
Maurice M. Bernbaum as Ambas-
sador to Ecuador.
Bernbaum, a 50-year-old career
diplomat, has served since last
year as counselor and deputy
chief of mission at the American
embassy in Argentina. He joined
the foreign service in 1936, _after
being a social worker as a young
man. He has been assigned a
number of posts in Latin America
and elsewhere.
The ambassador has an aunt
and uncle in Detroit, Mr. and
Mrs. Hy Silverman, 20102 Strat-
ford, although most of his family
reside in Chicago. The Silver-
mans are formerly of Chicago.

Noted Speakers to Address Labor Zionist
Annual Convention in Detroit Oct. 27-29

MRS. GOLDA MEIR

VICTOR REUTHER

AVRAHAM HARMAN

_MORDECAI STRIGLER

BEZALEL SHERMAN

MORRIS LIEBERMAN

While in Israel, Lasker met with President Weizmann and
Distinguished personalities will address the national convention of the Labor
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. "On four separate scores
be decided that Israel was. a 'Miracle.' • First; this was the Zionist Organization of America, to be held in Detroit Oct. 27 to 29, at the Statler
only community in the world where Jews never felt that they Hilton Hotel. Israel's Foreign Minister, Mrs. Golda Meir, and Victor . Reuther, noted

`had _to -keep looking back over their shoulders a little bit.'
Second, there was a feeling of 'belonging to each other' on the
part of citizens unmatched anywhere else on earth. Third, the
country - had absorbed 300,000 immigrants in two years, which
was as if the United States had taken in sixty million; these

labor leader who recently returned from Israel, will speak on Oct. 27. Avraham
Harman, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, will address the convention
banquet on.. Oct. .29. An- Oneg Shabbat, Oct. 28, will be addressed by MordeCai
Strigler and Bezalel Sherman. Morris Lieberman is Detroit convention chairman.

.

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