January 30, 2008

by Reb Yudel
Friends of Dorothy Epstein in the New York Times

Activist Dorothy Epstein led a high-power life -- so it's no surprise that two people close to her appeared in The New York Times earlier this month.

Henry Foner, who edited her memoir A Song of Social Significance (Ben Yehuda Press, 2007) was in the hospital for hip replacement surgery. This is the story he told the Metropolitan Diary:

Dear Diary:

The morning after I underwent hip replacement surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, I was visited in my room by the surgeon. I expected the routine inquiry about my condition and almost fell out of my bed when he asked me, as though he were talking to my body, ''Which side are you on?''

Since this is the title of one of the great songs in our country's labor history (''My daddy was a miner, and I'm a miner's son.''), I recovered my senses long enough to point to my left side.

Meanwhile, Marilyn Gelber -- companion of Dorothy's son Robert -- showed up in a Jan. 22 article on the petty vindictiveness of Rudy Guliani:
“There were constant loyalty tests: ‘Will you shoot your brother?’ ” said Marilyn Gelber, who served as environmental commissioner under Mr. Giuliani. “People were marked for destruction for disloyal jokes.”
(Gelber was fired by Guliani, apparently for attacting too much personal publicity for her landmark work in negotiating a landmark agreement with upstate governments to preserve the watershed that drains into New York City's water supply.)

A week later she appeared in a happier report: The story of how a kid from the projects of Brooklyn made it to an upstate, small-town college -- thanks to the foundation that Gelber directs.

Dorothy Epstein, who never relaxed her gratitude for the free public education she received at Hunter College during the Great Depression, would be very proud.

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