From the High Schools of Brooklyn, NY, USA. Please pardon me if the buttons pop off of my Jewish vest – except for Bernie Sanders

From an article by: Mark Schulte

The Jewish Press
May 27, 2016

Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders (class of 1959) and my late father, Barney Schulte (class of 1932), both graduated from Brooklyn’s James Madison High School. Press accounts about Sanders and Madison have overlooked the fact that it was a nationally ranked academic and athletic high school between its founding in 1927 and the 1960s.

Four Nobel laureates were Madison graduates: Stanley Cohen (class of 1939, medicine), Robert Solow (class of 1940, economics), Gary Becker (class of 1948, economics), and Martin Perl (class of 1941, physics).

Other distinguished Madison Jewish graduates include Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), former senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Marvin Miller, the first president of Major League Baseball’s players union, singer-songwriter Carole King (born Klein), sports and entertainment entrepreneur Sonny Werblin, and Sandra Feldman, the former head of the American Federation of Teachers.

Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a graduate of Wingate High School (class of 1958), is a third Brooklynite currently serving in the U.S. Senate alongside Sanders and Schumer.

Madison’s four Nobel laureates matches Manhattan’s Stuyvesant HS for second place among American high schools in producing winners of this prestigious international prize. Ranking first with eight laureates is my alma mater, Bronx High School of Science. Unlike Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, and Brooklyn Tech, which can draw their student bodies from the five boroughs, Madison has always been a neighborhood high school.

As of 2016, the Nobel contingent from New York City public high schools stands at 42 (37 of them Jews). Thirty-one of the laureates won in the three natural-science categories – physics (14), medicine (12) and chemistry (5).

In total, 11 Jewish-American laureates graduated from a Brooklyn public high school. The seven from schools other than Madison are Jerome Karle, Paul Berg, and Arthur Kornberg (Abraham Lincoln HS); Arno Penzias and George Wald (Brooklyn Tech); Isidor Isaac Rabi (Manual Training); and Eric Kandel (Erasmus Hall).

Former New York Times reporter Joseph Berger’s 1993 book The Young Scientists: America’s Future and the Winning of the Westinghouse documents that 11 of the top 15 producers of semifinalists between 1942 and 1990 were New York City public high schools, and three other Brooklyn schools – Midwood, Brooklyn Tech, and Lincoln – ranked in this elite grouping. (For the last 18 years the contest has been sponsored by Intel.)

Like the Kandel family, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn and his wife, Chaya Mushka, escaped from Nazi-occupied and Vichy-controlled France, arriving in Crown Heights in June 1941. The future Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe also felt immensely grateful to his new homeland, and he used his electrical engineering training to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II. (His father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, had been rescued by the American government from Nazi-occupied Warsaw and arrived in New York City in March 1940.)
Elliot Willensky, in the aptly titled When Brooklyn Was the World: 1920-1957, points out that “327,000 men and women from Brooklyn had fought in [World War II]; 7,000 of them had died in it.” No county in the United States sent more its sons and daughters off to World War II than Kings County (Brooklyn).

A good estimate is that more than 100,000 Jewish Brooklynites – out of a population of approximately 900,000 Jews living in Brooklyn at the time – served our country during the war.

The most famous cigar-smoking Jewish Brooklynite was probably the late Red Auerbach, out of Williamsburg and Eastern District HS, who led the Boston Celtics – as coach, general manager, and president – to an unprecedented 16 National Basketball Association titles. Between 1957 and 1966 he coached them to nine NBA titles in ten seasons (including eight straight), and Red would triumphantly light up a cigar in the closing minutes or seconds of a game when victory was assured.

A high school buddy of Auerbach’s was the late Victor Hershkowitz, who between the early 1940s and the 1960s won 23 national amateur handball championships. Both Auerbach and Hershkowitz were World War II veterans, and Hershkowitz also worked as a New York City firefighter.

Another Jewish Hall of Fame coach from Brooklyn is the late Red Holzman, out of Brownsville, Franklin K. Lane HS, and CCNY, who coached the perennially second-rate New York Knicks to the team’s only NBA championships (in 1970 and 1973).

Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s socialist senator didn’t play basketball for Madison HS, but was a miler and cross-country runner. However, the school’s most famous track star was Marty Glickman, who was supposed to run one of the four legs of the 400-meter relay for the U.S. track team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics final. But Glickman and another Jewish sprinter, Sam Stoller, were removed from the team for the medal round by Avery Brundage, head of the U.S. Olympic Committee and an outright anti-Semite. Just before Glickman died in 2001, the U.S. Olympic Committee apologized to him and to the family of Sam Stoller, who had passed away in 1992.

Glickman was also a star halfback on Madison HS’s football team and at Syracuse University. In 1994 the football field of Erasmus, Madison’s neighborhood arch-rival, was named for Sid Luckman, the Hall of Fame quarterback for the Chicago Bears and Columbia University. Luckman told The New York Times he had “chased [Glickman] all over the field and couldn’t catch” him in the 1934 Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) championship game.

Neither the great Luckman nor Times sportswriter Ira Berkow mentioned that the only Americans who were faster than Glickman in the mid-1930s were Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games, and Ralph Metcalfe, the silver medalist in the 100-meter dash at the 1932 and 1936 Games. The two African-American sprinters replaced Glickman and Stoller on the victorious relay team for the final round, despite Owens’s protestations to “let Marty and Sam run.”

Additionally, the silver medalist in the 200-meter dash in the 1936 Olympics was Mack Robinson, the older brother of the legendary Jackie Robinson, who shattered Major League Baseball’s apartheid policy with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field in 1947. Willensky’s When Brooklyn Was the World ends in 1957, when the Dodgers deserted the borough and relocated to Los Angeles.

There has been much press commentary, most of it comically exaggerated, about Bernie Sanders’s prowess as a high school athlete. The candidate preposterously boasted to CNN’s Chris Cuomo in a televised town hall discussion in Iowa in late January: “I was a very good athlete. I was a pretty good basketball player. My elementary school in Brooklyn won the borough championship – hardly worth mentioning, but we did. And, yes, I did take third place in the New York City one-mile race. I was a very good long-distance runner – not a great runner, but I was captain of my cross-country team.”

Those claims deserve a closer look.

First, an article earlier this year in The Washington Post, “The Untold Story of Bernie Sanders, High School Track Star,” noted that the winning time in the one-mile race in which Sanders placed third was a mediocre 4 minutes and 37 seconds.

Second, Marc Bloom, a well-known track writer who ran for Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay High School at roughly the same time as Sanders competed for Madison, pointed-out in a 2012 New York Times article that the scholastic record for the 2.5 mile course at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx was held in 1966 by Marty Liquori, a future Olympian, at 12 minutes and 23 seconds, nearly two minutes faster than Sanders’s 14 minutes and 16 seconds on the same course in October 1958.

Thus, an impartial evaluation of Sanders’s track talent is that he was an average athlete who was not good enough to win a college scholarship.

His claim of being a “pretty good basketball player” is even more delusional. Beginning in the early 20th century and extending into the 1980s, New York City produced the world’s greatest basketball players and coaches. The PSAL was founded in 1903, and the city’s first hoops hotspot was the Jewish Lower East Side, which produced Hall of Fame players Nat Holman, Barney Sedran, and Marty Friedman.

Playing for Brooklyn high schools when Sanders was a Madison student in the late 1950s were future Hall of Famers Lenny Wilkens and Connie Hawkins of Boys High School and Billy Cunningham of Erasmus. Thousands of other New York City hoopsters in the late 1950s received college athletic scholarships. The passion for basketball among Jewish teenagers in the 1950s is exemplified by the fact that Sandy Koufax, who went on to become a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, starred in basketball as well as baseball for Brooklyn’s Lafayette High.

Sanders is quoted as having disrespectfully dubbed Krinsky “Nat The Nose” in an article last summer in Tablet, an online Jewish magazine. “Straight Outta Brooklyn by Way of Vermont: The Bernie Sanders Story,” by Jas Chana, misspells the coach’s name as “Crinsky” and the author and her editors were apparently unaware of Krinsky’s athletic renown and that his two sons attended Madison and became successful professionals – Rear Admiral Paul Krinsky is the retired superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and Edward Krinsky captained Harvard’s basketball team in 1954, became a winning high school coach on Long Island, and headed the United States Basketball League..

Sanders has the dubious distinction, shared by a number of other Jewish males who came of age in New York City in the 1950s or 1960s, of having an inflated sense of his intellectual and athletic abilities.

By contrast, Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen, who graduated from Brooklyn’s Fort Hamilton High School in 1963, resembles the truly accomplished Brooklynites from the World War I, World War II, and Korean War generations. With a Ph.D. in economics from Yale and a husband, George Akerlof, who won the Nobel in economics, Yellen has an infinitely more sophisticated grasp of the world economy than Sanders, the socialist luftmensch who has spent most of his adult life on the government dole as a politician.

Like an old-time Coney Island carnival barker, Sanders travels the country and beguiles many Generation Xers and Millennials with pie-in-the-sky promises of free college tuition and a harsh comeuppance for the nation’s wealthiest one-percenters.

Perhaps Bernie should schedule a one-on-one economics debate, at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who grew up in Brownsville and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1971. Sanders and Blankfein, who swam for his high school team, could donate the proceeds to the PSAL, which would be greatly appreciated by the current generation of scholastic athletes.

Mark Schulte

About the Author: Mark Schulte is a prolific writer whose work has appeared in a number of publications including The Weekly Standard, New York Post, New York Daily News, and The Jewish Press.

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