Gary Bretton-Granatoor Interview Transcript

MATT JACOBSON: OK, if you would, just say and spell your name while I get the levels right here. GARY BRETTON-GRANATOOR: Gary Bretton-Granatoor. G-A-R-Y. B, as in boy, R-E-T-T-O-N hyphen G-R-A-N-A-T-O-O-R. MJ: Great. OK, as a start, would you mind just giving me the brief autobiographical sketch -- who you are, where you've been, where you're from, what you're doing now? GBG: OK. I'll try my best. I'm a New Yorker by birth, proudly so. Born in the Bronx. Raised in a middle-class Jewish family with warm relations with my grandparents when they were still alive. My parents quickly moved to Westchester, making the forward movement from immigrant status. MJ: Your grandparents were from where? GBG: My grandparents were originally from Russia, Poland and Austria, when I think of all four of them. My grandparents were all born outside of this country, but immediately, when they were very, very young, came here. So they had very little memory of old country. They considered themselves American-born because they never remembered anything else. Jewish family, obviously. I grew up in this upwardly mobile middle-class family. My grandfather on my father's side was a pharmacist. He owned a 24-hour pharmacy in the Bronx. In fact, he had a PhD in mathematics. And he was known by everybody as Doc during the Depression. Because people couldn't afford to go to medical doctors, my grandfather had an examining room in the back of his drugstore. And he served as the medical point of interest for everybody in that community during those years in the early '30s. MJ: Was that largely for an immigrant community? GBG: Largely immigrant Jewish community in the Bronx -- in the south Bronx. My father followed in my grandfather's footsteps and also became a pharmacist. Went on and first had a small store in the Bronx. And when he aspired to move up to Westchester, he and an army buddy from the Korean War -- I use that term loosely because neither of them ever fought in the war, they actually tested urine samples at Whitehall Street for new recruits, because they were both trained as pharmacists. They never got farther away from home than having to take the subway downtown. But then the two of them bought a larger drugstore in Westchester. And that's when my parents moved up to Westchester. MJ: OK, so how old were you when you made that move from the Bronx to Westchester? GBG: I was rather young. My father finally bought the pharmacy when I was in about sixth grade. But we had already, at that point, lived in Yonkers. So I was going to school in Yonkers. And when it came time for me to think about junior high and high school -- I was an intellectually precocious kid-- The school system in Yonkers was less than stellar. And I had aspirations of grandeur, so I demanded that I wanted to go to Horace Mann or one of those snooty Ivy League schools. MJ: Which you did? GBG: Which I did. I applied and got into Horace Mann and did the reverse commute. I went from Westchester back down to the Bronx every day. And did my high-school years at Horace Mann. Was very much a child of the '60s and the very early '70s. For fun, we would take the subway down to the Columbia riots, though we were in eighth and ninth grade at the time. We knew what was going on. Involved in all the Vietnam War protests. In fact, we were among the last people to get draft numbers. MJ: So you did get a draft number? GBG: I did get a draft number. It was the last year of the draft. I got a rather low number, meaning -- a high number, so low probability. But I did have friends who had higher numbers. Although, there was no way in the world we were going to get drafted. There were several of us who planned an exodus to Canada. And I was involved in a lot of Marxist politics at the time. MJ: Describe that. Well, first of all, you graduated from high school in -- GBG: '74. MJ: '74. OK. Describe to me your coming to political consciousness. GBG: It was very, very young. My parents and grandparents were never outwardly politically involved. I mean, my father was a lifelong Democrat. And that was basically where the Jewish community was. Around the time that I became politically aware, I did talk to my grandfather about his politics and very early on, probably by seventh grade, knew that my grandfather was a longstanding Communist and a member of the Bund. He was a Bundist. My grandfather -- this is the one that owned the 24-hour drugstore -- obviously, in the '50s, kind of hid that when McCarthy was out. But that's where his heart was. And therefore, he never really talked about politics openly until I pressed him on it. And I became very fascinated by all of that -- by the fact that that was his religious expression. Because he would never set foot in a schul [synagogue]. MJ: I was curious about that. Your understanding of his politics -- was his route to that through a kind of Yiddishkeit [Yiddish for “Jewishness,” denoting here the sensibility and worldview of Eastern European Jews]? GBG: That was his expression of Yiddishkeit. It was Communitarianism. If I were to look at what Communitarianism is all about now, he was expressing it in his own way. It was really about the community. To some people, obviously, within the religious community, the schul served as the point of focus within the community. But here's a guy who was dealing with the community from a medical point of view. He really just cared about balancing the scales for the community. Because he saw rich and poor alike in his community. And there was a sense that his religious expression was his political expression. It was just getting involved in the community and taking care of everybody there and feeling that the disparity between great and small was something that, in his own small way, he could try to level by the way he treated the people in the community. MJ: So you find your way to him, or to that dimension of his life as a young man. Was that a really special connection? GBG: Yeah. Actually, I was very close with both of my grandfathers. On my mother's side, my grandfather on my mother's side was in the schmatta [garment] trade. He made women's sportswear. Again, he spent the better part of his early years as a traveling salesman for a company and then finally found a partner. And they built their own manufacturing facility here in the city. And, again, his religion was his work. He was not religiously motivated. The interesting thing about all of this -- and this is how I get in the back door -- his father was a schneider, was a tailor, from Russia. And he was alive until I was 14 years old. And because I was the first child of his favorite granddaughter -- so I was the first great-grandchild in that whole new generation of people -- he would call my mother up. From the time I was like eight years old, he would say, drop the bocher [lad] off for Shabbos [Sabbath]. And the only religious person in my whole family, the only memory of deeply religious stuff in my whole family -- my grandfathers were not religious. They never set foot in schul. I don't ever remember going to schul with them. But my great-grandfather, I remember being dropped off Friday afternoon, having Shabbos dinner with him, going to schul, coming home, going to schul in the morning. I often tell the story jokingly that as a child, being bored to tears Shabbat morning. He was a short little guy, but I wasn't a whole hell of a lot taller. I would hide under his tallis [prayer shawl]. And out of boredom, I would start to tie knots, which is a prohibited activity on Shabbos. And I would often say that I got religion because of every time he slapped me in the back of the head when I was doing that. You know, I would see stars. But I have a profound religious connection with my great-grandfather. The other very profound memory that I have is, while he was alive, this whole wide, disparate family of various cousins that, to this day, no longer really get along. But while he was alive, he pulled them together. And I remember Seders in the Bronx where it would pour out of his apartment, down the hallway, across the hall to our other various aunts and uncles who lived across the hall from him. And the table would just go across the hallway in the apartment building into the next thing. And I remember him sitting there, leading the service. And once, long after he died, we tried to resurrect that family Seder. It was a bust. It was not as powerful as when he was there. But he was my source of religious connection. My parents and my grandparents were not religious at all. MJ: OK, I want to kind finish filling out this portrait, getting us from the 1970s to today, just in a kind of thumbnail sketch. But I am curious about the relationship, then, between-- we've talked about your coming to consciousness in the political realm and also spirituality-- what is or what was the relationship of those two things when you were a very young man? GBG: I would say that they were completely related. Because I saw religion and politics as how one navigates the world around you. As I said, I was intellectually precocious. I read stuff that my parents weren't reading. I remember reading Karl Marx probably in seventh grade, eighth grade. I remember reading Plato's Republic. Interestingly enough, I had a history teacher, who long ago died. And it was a devastating thing because he was a very close friend. He got me through some very tough times. In seventh grade, I should say, my father had the second of two very serious heart attacks. And were it not for this particular history teacher and other people, I would have been really at wit's end. But at that time, I showed an interest in history, politics, things like that. And I remember him calling my mother and saying, I'd like him to read Plato's Republic. Is that OK? He was afraid that the homosexuality and things like that in Plato's Republic, for an impressionable seventh grader, was going to be devastating. But my mother said, I don't even know what he reads most of the time. Let him read whatever he wants. Early on, both my fascination with religion and politics were pretty fully formed. And I just felt like I had a responsibility to a wider world. And that's why when the Vietnam protests were going on -- I can't find it, but there's a picture of me at age 16 with long hair, wearing a big, floppy hippie/cowboy hat, as a moratorium march marshal on the March on Washington. With the armband and the whole bit. One of my first political campaigns is I campaigned for Shirley Chisholm -- a black woman from the South. MJ: What was that like? GBG: I just thought she was fascinating on so many levels. First of all, here was a black woman from the South, with a distinct accent. She usually talked like that. She had a really interesting accent. But she talked about the responsibility of, again, dealing with the poor, dealing with -- kind of leveling the playing field. And I just felt that there was such a spectrum of people and a stratification of people. It was both right to left in America. And it was vertical. With people in power, who had money, sending off to war people who didn't have money, for the most part. I mean, I was aware that even if I got an unbelievably low draft number, as a person of quote, unquote privilege, I could have gotten out of it. And that was so apparent. I was watching, and I knew the people who were going off to war. They were the people who we knew back in Yonkers, who never could escape Yonkers. Even though I still lived in Yonkers. And it wasn't until much later that my parents moved to a wealthier community of New Rochelle. It was the year that I graduated high school when they finally moved. MJ: They moved to New Rochelle. GBG: They moved to New Rochelle. But my best friend had an apartment in the city that he had to keep because his aunt had vacated it. And she was one of the original co-op owners. So they wanted to keep it in the family. So my senior year in high school, he and I basically lived in that apartment. So I never actually made the transition to New Rochelle. But I also knew that there were people in Yonkers who were not as privileged as we were. And these were the people who were getting drafted because they didn't have money. And all that kind of bothered me. So I would say, that's when I got deeply involved in religion, even though it was within the Reform Jewish setting. That's also when I got very involved in politics and later on supported Barbara Jordan when she was doing her run. This was all in the early '70s. And I just felt like America needed a whole different change from -- remember, The Beatles wrote the song “Fool on the Hill” about Richard Nixon. He was the fool on the hill. So we lost all confidence in government. We lost all confidence in the people who were quote, unquote supposed to be in charge. And that was my spiritual and intellectual awakening to politics -- the protests of Martin Luther King, the folks in the South, Chaney and Schwerner. There were three guys who went down South -- two of them were Jews -- to protest what was going on. And we were aware of this stuff. This was what you should be doing. That's why I did all these protest rallies. It was fun. But more than anything, it was the only way to express this outrage at here were people that we were looking at who destroyed what we thought government should be about. And I've always been moved by the notion that government has to be judged by how it deals with the least among us -- any government. I don't care what it is. I use that as a barometer for what's going on in Israel, what's going on here today, what's going on in anybody's political writings. Answer this one profound question -- how does government deal with the least among you? And then I'll tell you what I think about it. And what I was always profoundly moved by was all of my studies of Judaism, the least among us was always of profound value. And that's why I was really swayed by the religious texts that I was reading. MJ: So at what point did it become apparent to you to that you were going to take the track that you ended up taking? You're a rabbi now. When was the first time that idea occurred to you? GBG: It is a very hard thing to answer, because all of my friends-- also, this was the time of rock and roll. I was a guitar player. I had lots of rock and roll bands. I was out there. I was good. There was even a time for a while that I thought that I was going to pursue it professionally. And in high school there was a joke for a while, at the time, again, early '70s was the beginning of jazz fusion. And one of the major people at the forefront was John McLaughlin, who started to become a follower of Sri Chinmoy. Again, I was aware of what was going on in the wider religious scene and could read that stuff. And Hinduism, Hare Krishna -- all these things were out there. And I was reading all this stuff. And then he became Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. And he was John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. For a while, there was a joke that the real name of my high-school rock and roll band was Rabbi Gary and the Ma Nishtane Orchestra [Ma Nishtanah refers to the Four Questions of the Passover seder. But that's what my friends talked about. I never thought that I was actually going to become a Rabbi. They knew that I cared about reading this stuff. I was reading Buber. I and Thou was really big. It was big on college campuses as kind of the sex manual. You want to experience God? Let's have sex. Because when two people are together in this passionate embrace, God exists there, too. So people were reading Buber for, sometimes, the wrong reasons. I was profoundly moved by Buber in terms of the life of a relationship with other people. Often Buber describes how we operate in the world as in an I-it experience. Basically, we remove the humanity because a person becomes a function of our needs. When I see the person at a checkout counter in the Safeway or in Pathmark, I don't really care what's going on in their life. I want them to accurately record what it is I'm buying and give me proper change when I give them money. So they're an “it.” So Buber was a big part of my reading. So they would joke about this notion of Rabbi Gary and the Ma Nishtanah Orchestra. I went off to Sarah Lawrence-- by the way, I should say, Horace Mann, at the time when I grew up was an all-boys school, which is a part of this wider story, this very complex autobiography. When I was becoming more religiously aware, I was still part of a Reform synagogue. This was post-Bar Mitzvah. I made a commitment to continue studying through confirmation class, through 10th grade, in the weekly religious group on Sunday mornings. But I was the kid who sat in the back reading The New York Times. I was bored to tears. Because they weren't talking about things that I cared about. They were talking about what holiday was coming up and stuff that really didn't move me at all. The rabbi got very frustrated with me and said, what is it you want to learn? And I think that this was probably around eighth grade when he approached me. I said, I want to learn philosophy. I didn't really know what philosophy was, but I figured it was going to help answer some of my questions. So this is now 1970, '71. So the following week, a guy drives up to the synagogue on Sunday morning with long, flowing black hair, in a yellow VW convertible, chain-smoking cigarettes. He walks in and he says, I'm your new teacher. We're in eighth grade. And his name was Dr. Robert Zimmerman. Not Bob Dylan. But Dr. Robert, Bob, Bob Zimmerman. And he sits down and puts an ashtray on the table. And here we are, wide-eyed eighth graders. And he says, there was a guy by the name of Descartes who said, "I think, therefore I am." What do you think that means? And I was smitten. This guy became my guru. And he ended up teaching there for two years. And that's where I really learned Buber. And we would read Heschel. And we read Descartes. We read Spinoza. We read, really, all sorts of interesting, fascinating stuff. And, by the way, he liked rock and roll. So he would occasionally come and see my rock and roll band. Turns out he was a philosophy professor at Sarah Lawrence College. And in the last year he was there, which was tenth grade, when we were confirmed, he said to me, when it's time for you to think about college -- I don't know where you are planning on going, it's still really too early for you to decide. But I hope that you'll come and visit me at Sarah Lawrence. Because it's the kind of place you would really appreciate. Because you have that kind of mind. I was going to an all-boys school. The idea of going to an all-girls school was kind of seductive. And Sarah Lawrence had just opened up its walls to men around that time. So I looked at all the places -- I went to Union College. I went to Colgate. I went to Hamilton. I was looking for a small school. Because I was the kind of guy who didn't want to sit in a lecture. I wanted to sit and study with people. I go up to Sarah Lawrence and, again, boom, I'm there. That's where I want to go. So I ended up going to college from 1974 to '78 at Sarah Lawrence. I took every course Bob Zimmerman took. I studied Kant. And I studied Hegel with him. You name it. Anything he taught, I was his follower. But I was also taking comparative religion courses with two people who I adored. And studied everything from Buddhism to Taoism to Christian spiritualism to Judaism. Every time I studied another religion, I found it fascinating. But every time I studied about Judiasm, I felt like I was home. And again, I had four majors at Sarah Lawrence. I was a philosophy major. I was a comparative religion major. I was a music major. Because I was still playing music and learning composition and conducting and all sorts of stuff like that. And I was a theater major. Because my other passion was theater -- both acting and directing and technical stuff. And I did all four. Actually, upon graduation, I still didn't know what I was really going to do. Although I began to think about maybe I wanted to go to the rabbinate. But at that time, upon graduation, Sarah Lawrence offered me a teaching position in the theater department as the head of technical theater, directing, teaching, lighting design, set design, running the whole theater facility, all that. So I did it. I took that job. Marianne, my wife, who I met the first day of second year and married the day after we graduated -- because her mother said she would only come for a wedding or a graduation but not both. So we said, OK, we'll do it the same weekend. Lunacy. So I took the job and proceeded to do some outside designing work. And I was working off-Broadway. I was working on a show. This is now 1978 turning to 1979. And the show was an offshoot of some of the stuff we were doing at Sarah Lawrence. It was called “Song Night in the City.” I designed the set. I designed the lights. I was in charge of running the show technically. We were working at Westbeth. We had rented the large space at Westbeth to do a three-month run of the show. And the night before opening night, I brought a television in with me. I plugged it in, and I put it on the corner of the stage. Everybody's running around saying, what the hell are you doing? What do you have a television here for? And I said, this is the signing of the Camp David Accords. This is history. Theater is fake. This is real. I've got to watch this. And people were saying, no, no, tomorrow night is real. This is unimportant. If there was an epiphany that I had, it was that as much as I loved what I was doing -- and I did -- my heart was elsewhere. My technical abilities allowed me to be successful in this area. And I was passionate about what I did. But I wasn't really passionate. Because life kept on going. And that's when it hit me that every time I went to a theater party -- because our whole life was involved with theater -- people would talk about who was working on a successful show, who was making it, who wasn't making it. If they weren't making it, then you wouldn't want to talk to them because maybe they would jinx you. You'd say Murray Schisgal. And they'd talk about what he was writing. And they'd talk about what the most recent production they had seen of his work. But then you'd say, Lebanon. And they'd say, well, what did he write? And you'd kind of, no, no, no, no. Lebanon's a place. It was at that moment that I really said, you know what, in the back of my mind I think I've been heading in this direction. So I made application to rabbinical school. And got in. The show eventually closed. MJ: I'm curious, though-- we've talked about the relationship between politics and spirituality. What about the relationship between the theatricality that you were involved in and liturgy? Is that a connection that is a kind of through line through all of this? GBG: Ritual is theater. Ritual is theater. That's what it's all about. The sacrifices that we read about in the Bible was grand opera. To me, opera is the highest of the theatrical art forms. Because for opera be good -- there's a lot of bad opera. And I'm a huge opera fan. I've seen more bad opera than I've seen good opera. Bad opera, for me, is when one of the critical elements is not up to par. But when opera works, meaning: the music is terrific, the singing is terrific, the acting is terrific, the costumes are right, the set is right, the lighting is right, the ambiance is right. When that comes together, that's magic, OK? Again, if something goes wrong -- if you have great singing, but the person who's singing is supposed to be playing a 16-year-old little ingenue and she's 350 pounds and waddles across the stage, there's a disconnect there. And story falls apart. Madame Butterfly being sung by a 300-pound diva is not Madame Butterfly. Turandot. If Calaf, the great prince, kneels down and needs three guys to help him get up on his feet, he's not the kind of handsome prince. It just falls apart. So ritual in religion is the same thing to me. You read about the sacrifices. What was compelling? That was magic. That was their entertainment. There had to be smoke. There had to be incense. There had to be drama. There had to be music. The psalms that we read were the original text of the background music of the sacrifices. That's great religious ritual. When I think about what I do today, I'm worried about, what are people looking at? What are people saying? What are they hearing? What is the ambiance of the room? Ritual either works or it falls apart because it is only the sum of its parts. And when I was actively involved in theater, it's a community experience. It only works if everybody's engaged. John Cage, a great composer of aleatoric music -- aleatoric music is chance music, there were a whole bunch of people-- Cage actually composed some pieces flipping a coin. A short note is heads. A long note is tails. Whatever it was, it was completely random. And then, pitch -- up was heads. Tails was down, so he would compose it. That was one form of aleatoric music. There was one piece that he composed where it was some guy standing on a street corner. There's no audience for that. No matter what it is, it wasn't a piece of music. Because it goes back to George Bishop Berkeley's great philosophical conundrum. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody's there to hear it, does it make a sound? To me, you need ears in order to know that there was a sound made. The tree may have fallen. But sound is as much perception as it is affect. So all of that is one of a piece. That's the way I looked at the world. That's the way I looked at religion. And I could be moved by a great theatrical production. I could be moved by great opera. And I could be moved by great prayer when it's done right. And all too often throughout my early years, I saw it done wrong. I saw bad opera. I saw bad theater. And I saw bad liturgy. And I just thought, if it's going to work, I want to be involved in all aspects of it. And I care about it. If I could rip the seats out of Park Avenue Christian Church, where we pray as a community, as TUJ, that would be the first thing I'd do so that I could put chairs where people could face each other. To me, you don't want to see the person in front of you's back of their head. You want to be moved by the fact that other people are being moved. And you want to be able to witness it and see it and watch it happen and be part of that. That's part of the community experience of prayer. I mean, we certainly went all over the freaking map on that one. MJ: We've gotten you to adulthood. We've gotten you to the rabbinate. Let's fast-foward to more recent history. I've been speaking to people all over the country, all different sorts of people, about this peculiar moment we're in, in American history. There does seem to be a broad consensus that this is an extraordinary moment, an exceptional moment. Although, there maybe isn't so much of a consensus on what's important about it, what's peculiar about it, what's significant, what's unsettling. Some people are soothed by Obama's presence. Some people are unsettled by it. There's a lot of rancor and tension. When I say the phrase "our current moment" to you, how does that resonate? What do you think it means? What's important about this moment that we're in? GBG: Well, this moment, it's hard for me to put my finger on it when we're talking about this moment. If we're talking about the Obama presidency, that's a moment. If you're talking about my awareness as an adult, that's a larger moment. What I've lived through -- this is part of a process. Because I see it as part of process. What I'm talking about when I talk about communities and when I look at history, as a historian, as I am, as well, there are moments in time where something happens which marks a sea change. But the sea change takes much longer to really trickle down and make its impact felt, or its impress felt. And so how do you define the moment -- when the sea change begins or when it actually takes effect? For example, go back to the '60s. There was a sea change on two different levels here in the United States, which made its impact wider. One was the Civil Rights Movement itself. The fact that in the early '60s, in the period of our formation -- your formation, my formation -- we began to be cognisant of the stratification of the world in which we lived. And some of us were profoundly impacted by it. Some of us were kind of, completely, [it was of] no moment because it didn't make an impress on their life. I certainly know a lot of people who couldn't have really cared less other than it was something to watch on the evening news. On the other hand, there were some people who were profoundly moved by that. So you have the early struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. And I'm not just talking about Martin Luther King, but I'm talking about a lot of the people. Again, with the stratification there's a spectrum. There was everybody from, not just Martin Luther King, but Huey [Newton] and the Black Panther movement. Where do you mark the midpoint of the spectrum of the Civil Rights Movement? But it's clear that there was unrest. And some people felt Gandhi-esque that you're going to tolerate it -- or not tolerate it. But you're not going to really resist, except passively, to those like the Black Panthers. Those of us involved in the Vietnam War protests were profoundly moved by them. You know, let's Mau Mau America. Let's blow this sucker up. Jerry Rubin -- steal this book. All of that stuff. So where did you fit in that? But there was a moment that began it. Here we are, 30 years out, almost 40 years out. Did it change? On the one hand, there were changes. Was the goal realized? The answer to that question is no. And Obama becomes a very profound example of that. Because even though we were able to get to a point where a person who's identified as a black man gets elected to the highest office in our country, have we eradicated the disparity and stratification that blacks in general feel? And has that made any impress felt 40 years out? No, it hasn't. And it will take a whole long time. Now the second-- I talked about two major movements. The second movement was the women's movement that we were all impacted by. We began to become profoundly aware of the stratification in society between men and women. I did. I went to an all-boys school. I went to an elitist school. Women were, from the time I was in seventh grade to the time I graduated, for the most part, they were useful only for sexual fun and social interchange. But were they our intellectual equals? At Horace Mann, nobody would ever have said that. We were in a segregated environment because we were the ones who were going to take over the planet. And we were told that over and over again by our professors. At Horace Mann, it was very much a British prep school, so these were our professors. It was very structured, very regimented. Though when I went to Horace Mann originally, we had hair and dress requirements, when I graduated, I had a ponytail down my back and graduated, went to graduation in a t-shirt and jeans. That was, again, part of the time. But the other part of it was the women's movement. So we began to see that women were more than just sexual objects. They made contributions. I go off to Sarah Lawrence. I become a feminist. I become a subscriber to Ms. Magazine. I hyphenate my last name in 1978 when I get married. Because I didn't like the idea when we got married we retained separate identities. We were married. I didn't like the idea that we would just take our two names and smoosh them together in some kind of amalgam. Because that would deny our past. So I was trying to figure out a way, even though there were some intellectual challenges. My wife's last name was her father's last name. But still, we wanted to say, this is her identity. This is our identity. We're going to merge these identities in some way that still retains an essence of who we were but creates something new. Women have certainly risen in society. But hell, when Hillary was running for president, the word that you heard most often when you talked to people, that was uttered sometimes under the table or sometimes right out in the open, was bitch. She was a bitch. If a man had those personality traits, he would have been a strong man, a powerful man who asserts himself, who says what's on his mind. She was just a bitch. So again, back in the '60s, we're fighting for women's rights. Have we attained them? No. So we're in this moment. Again, it's a pregnant moment. It is a moment that maybe we are beginning to see the tide potentially flipping. But yet, we have a Secretary of State who's a woman. We have a President who's a black man. And has that changed what's going out on the street on 42nd Street today? The answer is no. It really hasn't. So I'm living in a moment of, again, profound opportunity but unrealized. MJ: Are you optimistic right now? GBG: I'm more optimistic than I was in 1972. MJ: I was thinking about that when you were talking about working for the Chisolm campaign. Can you just put those moments side by side -- the Shirley Chisholm moment and the Obama moment? GBG: Yeah, because when I was working for it, I knew that there wasn't a chance in hell she was ever going to get it. But I wanted people to know that she was a candidate. That she was a reasonable candidate. In the large sense, I wanted to shake people's thinking up. My parents thought I was out of my fucking mind. What are you doing, going out there, handing out flyers for Shirley Chisholm? She can't even speak properly, they would say. Why are you wasting your time? So then it was a hopeless cause that I felt still needed to be raised. Now it's not a hopeless cause. That's why I'm saying we're at this, it's a pregnant moment. But the question is, is the child going to be stillborn, or is the child going to be born alive? And I'm not sure. So I'm far more optimistic now than I was then. Frankly, I was a Hillary supporter until the day that Obama got elected. I still wanted her to win. I still think that she probably would have made a better president, just for what she stands for and her political acumen. I still think that Obama is -- I think he's got great advisors. I think he's got great skill sets. But I think he's, I wish he were a little older and a little bit more than having been a junior senator for a term. Because, as he's quickly discovering, which he should have known, probably does know and probably confronts every day, there's a machine in Washington. And it takes a whole lot more than just goodwill to try and shift the machine. MJ: Have you been surprised by anything that we've seen in past year in terms of the resistance to his leadership, both within the chambers of power but also just the country at large? GBG: Surprised? No. I don't think I've been surprised. I think I've been profoundly disappointed that the country still has selective memory and, in fact, faulty memory. I feel profoundly saddened that the guy who's currently occupying the office has been saddled with the current situation that we're in, which really is the legacy of eight years of what I believe was an absolutely corrupt political leadership. Do I believe that George W. Bush himself was corrupt? I think that he was just an idiot. I think that he was a fool. But he was also weak enough to be surrounded by people who he gave carte blanche to. The banking industry -- the minute you allowed investment operations to become banks, you knew that all hell was going to break loose. There's absolutely-- I would commend to you, if you didn't read it, what I thought was one of those brilliant assessments of where we are, was by Calvin Trillin about five months ago, four months ago. It was a New York Times op-ed piece. If you Google Calvin Trillin and stock market and New York Times, you'll get the article. He basically tells the story that he's a guy in his late 60s or early 70s. He walks into a bar. And everybody's looking morose because of what's going on economically, especially those of his age, who see their whole retirement fund disappearing before their eyes, if not completely gone. He sees a guy of his age sitting at the bar. Are you familiar with this? MJ: No. GBG: OK. He sees a guy sitting at the bar, looking really kind of content. Trillin sidles up to him and says, how, in this environment of our age, could you possibly look as peaceful as you are right now? Because you're probably right around retirement. And all your money must be gone. The guy says, no, I got all my money out of the stock market a while ago, about 10 years ago. Trillin says, why did you do that? He says, I knew that I had to get out of the market when the smart guys took over. Trillin says, I don't understand. He says, look, you and I are the same age. When we went to high school, there were three categories of people. There was the top third, the middle third and the bottom third. Top third of our class all went out and became scientists, major researchers, professors at universities. These were the smart guys. They were going to go somewhere. The middle group became the lawyers. They strove for some kind of intellectual gratification, so they became the lawyers. They went on to medical school. They're the family practitioners. They're OK. The bottom third became insurance salesmen, stock brokers, car salesmen, people that you go and talk to, that you develop trust for. In those days, you went to a stock broker and he said, I want to sell you a piece of a company. Here's the company. And you knew you were buying a piece of a company. Did you believe that IBM was going to do well this year? You bought IBM. Did you believe that Procter & Gamble was going to come up with a new toothpaste? You bought Procter & Gamble. And the guy who was selling it to you could explain to you -- because he wasn't that smart, but it wasn't that hard -- exactly what you were buying and what you were investing in. And you went with him because you trusted him, you liked him. And you figured he did the research. It made sense. But he said that as soon as the smart guys went into the stock market, that's when I got out. Because it was smart guys who figured, there's got to be a new way to make a buck. Then I don't understand anymore. I don't understand what a derivative is. I don't understand how you can collateralize a mortgage and split it up into little pieces and sell off little pieces of a mortgage and earn money. I don't understand what IBM does anymore because they don't make business machines. So the minute I figured the smart guys went in, I was out. Because once I didn't understand it anymore, they weren't messing with my money. And it's emblematic of the Bush administration. Because that happened under that watch that you get collateralized mortgage debt obligations. I sleep with a woman who works as a lawyer in the securities industry. I have asked her over and over again to explain what the fuck that is. And I don't understand it. I don't get it. She's involved in all of these -- Enron affair, IPOs, all this stuff. You know what? I don't get it. I don't get it. And that happened on that watch, where everything became so politicized and so serpentine that I lost, again, all confidence. And so here's a guy, Obama, that I want to have confidence in. He seems to be a straight shooter. He seems to be a guy aware of what it took to claw his way into where he is. He certainly walked the streets of Chicago. Even in his short political career, my guess is that he was moved by the stratification that he saw. And it seems to me that the guy came in and inherited a bigger mess than anybody ever could have predicted. Because all of it happened right around the time we elected this guy. Lehman Brothers collapsed on the 15th of September. How do I know that? Because on the night of the 14th of September, I ran a major fund-raising event where my wife had to walk out crying because she received, on her BlackBerry, news that the next day, that's what was going to happen. I remember it. Last time I was able to raise money easily. MJ: Yeah. Let's talk about those dimensions of the economic collapse. I'm interested in two different angles of vision on this. One is your role as a fund-raiser and how the world has looked over the last 18 months from this desk. The other, the very first thing you said when we started was, I'm a New Yorker and proud of it. I'm really interested in the life of the city over this last year, as you see it. What does the city look like to you? GBG: Let's go to the first question about fund-raising in general. Philanthropy, in general, has changed dramatically over the years. And I'm going to say that because it will put into perspective what we're dealing with right now. I want to go back to my grandfather that I talked about, the Communist, the Bundist. One thing that I learned from him, which was really profound, was, regardless of the fact that he was not actively involved in the Jewish community at all, he told me that the first check he wrote every month was to the Jewish Federation. He just felt he needed to take care of his people. Then he would pay his rent. He would pay his bills. The first check he wrote every month was a check to take care of the community. And in those days, he sent the check to the Federation. In those days it was the UJA, United Jewish Appeal, Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. It's gone through so many iterations of names. It doesn't make a difference. In his day, he felt that there were people far smarter than him who knew where that money would best go. And in the '50s and the '60s and the '70s, for the most part, philanthropy was run by several large -- whether it was United Way or Red Cross. You wrote a check. You figured these are the people who knew what they were doing. You wanted to support them. They would make sure that your money was being spent reasonably. In the '80s we began to see a shift in philanthropy away from trust in these large philanthropic funds towards directed donations. People were no longer saying, I'm going to give to the Red Cross. I'm going to give to the Red Cross because I want them to do x, y and z. They were sending checks to the Federation, I want to support the Soviet Jews. I want to support Israel. The next round of directed donation was the creation -- and again, because of the tax structure, because of what was going on financially in the last 10 years, tax benefits that were given for this -- we begin to see the growth of private foundations, many of them run by families. Again, there was no longer a sense in trust in the wider community to decide where your money was going. But if you had a kid who had diabetes and you had money in your family, your family foundation would support diabetes research. The downside to that is what they would probably do is if they lived in suburban New Jersey, it meant that they would buy a wing on their local hospital, dedicate it to diabetes treatment. Lovely for the local community. But if you were to ask yourself, or if you worked in the diabetes community, where would this money make the greatest impact, it could have been a particular research facility. It could have been a particular work on a drug. They wanted to say, we want to support diabetes, and we want to see its local impact without taking a step back and asking, how can we really help? That has impacted on the Jewish community, again. I have people who say, I want to support this particular community in the former Soviet Union. Now, that particular community may be actually doing OK. But there's a community the next one over that really needs help. But because they don't know about it, they're writing the check to the one that I've got to send the money to. So already, we're living in a very different philanthropic world than the one my grandfather inhabited. So we have seen this major shift towards private foundations, private federations, private giving circles, individuals who want to direct their donations. They don't trust the larger organization. They don't want to pay infrastructure costs. They don't want to support the infrastructure. They want to only support what it is they care about. It becomes a kind of narcissistic philanthropy. It really is. I hate to say it. There's a level of narcissism involved, which really has permeated the philanthropic world. So before the collapses last year, there were still people who were generous, who could support the wider community. And there were people who still were not that involved and still wrote a check to the local federation. And we could then turn to the local federation and say, Chicago, would you help us with this particular project? And they would say, OK, we've raised $20 million. We'll give you $100,000 for that. Because you guys can do it. And we can tell our donors that we're supporting this particular thing that's going on over there in former Soviet Union or Israel or South Africa -- wherever it is you're working. So from the collapse last year to now, 2009 was the worst year in the world. I began 2009 with a $500,000 deficit. Why? Because the Jewish Agency for Israel, JAFI, which supports a lot of our programming, especially in the former Soviet Union, in 2008 had made a budget commitment to us for $1.1 million for all the things that we were doing. We have particular things. Operating on that principle, we ran a camp program for 1,100 kids. We did this. We did that. We spent the money. On December 28 of 2008, instead of receiving a check for $1.1 million, we received a check for $600,000, saying, our campaign did not do as well as we expected. Because people gave us $10,000 instead of $20,000. They gave us whatever it is. So we're passing that loss on to you. So we're not fulfilling our commitment to you. I started minus $500,000, January 1, 2009. We had to scale back. But there comes a point at which, when you scale back your programs, you stop being who you're supposed to be. So we tried to scale back our expenses as much as we could without giving up what we were doing. But to raise funds now -- number one, almost every fund that I was able to get was directed, meaning my infrastructure costs drove me crazy. How was I going to make payroll? How was I going to pay rent? How was I going to pay the electric bill in here and in Jerusalem? That meant going to donors and saying, we instituted a larger administrative fee policy in order to do that. Because we were getting killed by directed donations. Now I will charge 15% of whatever donation just to recover some— MJ: For operations. GBG: For operational expenses. Or 10% if it's something that I wasn't involved in. I didn't want to go that route. But I had no choice because I had to figure out a way to support the infrastructure. And people object to it. They say, I want this donation to go without any infrastructure costs. It makes it really hard for me. Again, it is narcissistic philanthropy. Because it's, I want you to do what I want you to do, not what needs to be done. And it's a very tough environment. I had a -- obviously I won't give you the name -- huge real-estate mogul, good for $50,000 a year. And we were one of his low-priority -- I mean, he gave to others. I called him a couple months back to say, are you going to be able to support us the way you always have? I have you down for $50,000. He said, as soon as the collapse occurred, my broker came to me. He said, get everything out of the stock market and put it into three-year bonds. Protect it because you don't know what's going to happen. Three years from now, things will stabilize. One way or another, we'll be able to rethink our investments. But let's just take all the money off the table, put it all in bonds. MJ: Which essentially freezes it, right? GBG: It freezes the money. Completely frozen, OK? The guy says to me, for the first time in my life, I had to write a loan application. Because I have no access to my money. I had to write a loan application to send my daughter to college. This family has never had to borrow money to send anybody to school. But he said, I can't touch my money. It's locked off. So I can't give you any. And I'm applying for loans because I have no other way to send her to school. Philanthropy has changed. Raising money has changed. And it's just harder to get that dollar. Number one, it's harder to get the dollar in general. Number two, if they give it to you, because of the level of narcissism and involvement in a lot of this, it goes to where they want it to go and not necessarily where you want it to go. MJ: Is that driven in part by the information technologies that make it easier for people to keep their finger on the pulse? GBG: I think that's part of it. MJ: It sounds like a kind of counterpart to day trading in a certain way. GBG: It is. It is day trading. And I think that there is definitely that aspect. I mean, again, when my grandfather wrote a check, he expected an annual report -- what did you guys do at the end of the year? When I get somebody who gives me a check, they call me a week later and say, did the money get there? What did they do with it? They go online or they can pick up the phone and Skype. It's a free phone call to call FSU if somebody's got a computer there. So, yeah, I think a large part of it is also we're in a performance-driven economy where everybody wants to see the direct impact or direct results. MJ: Over the course of 2009, was this organization able to develop new strategies for dealing with this climate? How has that gone? GBG: What I have said over and over again is while everybody was caught short when 2009 really hit and had to, number one, reassess their mission statement, reassess how they were doing business. As I said, they just hemorrhaged 80 employees upstairs. Because with the money that was coming in, they could not support -- they spent the entire 2009 doing a restructure. They used to have regional offices. Now they've gotten rid of all the regional offices. They've had to close them down. They gave up the real estate, all sorts of things like that. Luckily we were poised, because we did have a small staff and because we were driven by particular projects, that I was able to say, number one, we've fulfilled all of our commitments that we made at the beginning of 2009. Number two, while everybody else was running around rethinking their mission statement and their structure, we didn't have to do that. We just did our work. We had built into the budget the notion of downsizing. We had contingencies ready to go into place. So we never spent any time really worrying about, will we be able to do what we're going to do? We knew we had to raise the money to do it, but we were going to be able to do it. And we ended up with a budget surplus, which we're using to retire historic legacy debts that were built up from years in the past. So I'm starting out this year being able to pay bills, as opposed to starting out saying, how am I going to make up $500,000 so I can just start my year? So we're lucky. MJ: OK, now getting to the second part of that initial question, the life of the city -- how do you see the city of New York affected? I mean, in a certain sense, in Manhattan, when you talk about this moment, the near horizon is the economic collapse. But always, not so far off that horizon is the kind of post-9/11-ness of this moment. As a proud New Yorker, as you put it, I mean, how does the life of the city strike you? GBG: Well, I guess one of the profound moments that I remember was during the Koch administration. This was when I was, you know, already a rabbi out there. I was a founding chair of an organization, which still exists. It's substantially different than when we founded it, but it was called the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. It started in the early '80s when the homeless crisis really hit. I knew it profoundly because Hebrew Union College, where I was going through rabbinical school, had moved downtown to Broadway and West 4th Street, and I was living in Brooklyn and got off at the Broadway & LaFayette station, and during the winter I would literally have to step over bodies, of people sleeping-- MJ: On grates. GBG: --on the subway grates. My senior sermon was about what Judaism teaches about our responsibility for the least among society. I got involved because my work, my background was in comparative religion. I did a lot of work with the Christian community in those early years, dealing with the homeless crisis. And every Friday morning at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, there was a meeting of religious and community leaders coming together to say, how can we deal with what's going on? Because the city was not responding. Koch was not responding. I remember walking into Koch's office with a couple of ministers and a couple of community workers and saying, this situation is so horrific. There needs to be a political response. And I remember him saying, well, I can't do this because this particular law says I've got to do this. This particular thing says this. This particular budget allows me to do this. And he was citing chapter and verse. And I finally got in his face. And I said, I don't give a damn about the law. These are human beings who are on the street. And we've got to do something about it. We've got to respond. That's when he went to Stephen Wise Free Synagogue and said, from the pulpit -- I was not at Stephen Wise at the time, Balfour Brickner was there. I was still ending my career at HUC. I was finishing rabbinical school at the time. So this is interesting. He said, why aren't the churches and the synagogues opening their doors for the homeless? The following month is when Stephen Wise started their shelter program, where five nights out of the week, they would shelter. They couldn't do it on the weekend. But five nights out of the week, they would shelter. A number of churches began to do it. Cathedral of Saint John the Divine was doing it. A number of other places were doing it. I was the president of the student body of the rabbinical school at the time. And that's when I preached my sermon. I actually, it was part a dramatic sermon. Because I started my, the Biblical portion was about how we treat the leper in the community. The leper in the Biblical text is supposed to be sent outside the city. So I start the sermon as if I'm one of the members of the tribes of Israel who discovers that they have leprosy and is being told by the priests to get out. And then I talk about the way Judaism deals with the least among society. And I end becoming one of the guys who would offer to clean your windshield at a traffic light. Because that was the way, the Koch administration said, give them Windex bottles and towels. Let them earn their own keep. So I went to the administration at the school and I said, we're not set up to be able to do a shelter here. But can we do a food pantry? Can we do a weekly food program? And I remember the president of the school at that time said, we can't do that. We have too many treasures of art. We have our Torah scrolls. We have an institution to run. No, you can't do it. Interestingly enough, last year, I was invited back to the 20th anniversary of the soup kitchen. It took five more years after I left there for them to do it. But the dean of the school remembered it was my sermon that got the ball rolling and asked me to come back and preach a sermon about that. So my awareness of the city really took hold -- especially with the politics of the city -- really took hold in the early '80s when I was really deeply involved. And we would do protests in City Hall Park. We would camp out in City Hall Park. Every year, in June, around the budget, we would ask for more money for ANHD, for housing development, all sorts of stuff like that -- bricks-and-mortar things that we were looking for. Then I became involved in national and international things. And I kind of withdrew from local politics because my professional life took on a more global outlook. But I still lived in the city, and I still was involved. Then when I went back Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, we still had the shelter going. We still had a food program going. I was actively involved. I would volunteer during the winter. Generally once every two weeks, I'd sleep over in the shelter myself. I brought my kids to do it with me. We hung out with the guys. I would be there Shabbat morning before I did Torah study to hand out bags of food, which we would do. So I really, again, got reacquainted with all of that and the organization. And then here we are in this economic crisis. And TUJ's food program this past weekend, they served 190 people— MJ: Wow. GBG: --many of whom were just recently unemployed. MJ: That's about double from what it was about a year and a half ago. GBG: Exactly. Exactly. 190 people. It's just unbelievable. So I'm a proud New Yorker. I think that, certainly, the current administration, the Bloomberg administration, is a little bit more responsive to the needs of the homeless. But there's so much more that we could be doing. You know, the fact of the matter is, I hate to sound like a broken record, but I said this in Koch's office. There are so many abandoned apartment buildings in the south Bronx that, with a little bit of money, could be converted into some kind of transitional housing if you only did it. You can still drive up the Major Deagan and still see -- Giuliani's big contribution was, instead of having blown-out windows in those apartment buildings, they would put pieces of paper. And they would draw pictures of a window. MJ: Draw, right. GBG: That was really good. Guiliani -- I mean, I detested the man. I detest the man today. I just felt he was heartless, and especially dealing with the homeless. Bloomberg, I think, is not heartless. But the tussle between federal funds, state funds, and local funds -- I think that there's a will there. There's probably a personal stake that he could probably put in that I'd like to see happen. But I hate to say it because I think somebody might become complacent, but we're doing a whole lot better. The city is more responsive and more aware than we were back in the '80s. You know, Giuliani's solution was give them money and stick them on a bus and send them to Florida. I don't think that we're doing that. But I think that there certainly could be -- you know, I'd love to see, I was involved, you can Google this if you want. I was the person who said that workfare was slavery, was enforced slavery. I had this running debate with the late William Buckley. Again, you can go online and see it. Because when Giuliani came up with the workfare proposal and the initial workfare projects, what they would do is they would bring people into the department of sanitation and hand them a broom but wouldn't give them a warm jacket to wear, wouldn't allow them to use the bathroom facilities. If somebody called in the morning and said, listen, my kid is sick, I've got to stay at home, they would be kicked out of the program if they didn't show up. I just felt that that was akin to slavery. That was not humane in any way. And I called them on it. There was a whole big row in the press -- rabbi is calling workfare slavery. But it was. It was. They weren't training people to go out and do something useful. They were handing them a broom and saying, go sweep the street. And pay them sub-par wages. They weren't even getting minimum wage for it. And they certainly weren't getting proper equipment, proper facilities to do what it was they were being asked to do. I was disgusted with it. So I think we're a little bit ahead of where we were. And I certainly think that we're living in a time where churches and synagogues take as their primary responsibility. Again, back in the '80s, you know that the only organization, when I started to work with this, the only reasonable organization was the East Harlem Interfaith Council. There was a wonderful, wonderful minister by the name of Norman Eddy. I don't even know if Norman is alive. I hope he still is because the man is a saint. The only thing that he could do was he would go out from door to door to collect money to give to people who lived in buildings whose oil or gas heat was cut off because the landlords didn't pay for heat during the winter. That was one of the only interfaith agencies that was out there really doing anything for people who were homeless or near homeless. He was collecting money just to pay gas bills and heating bills. This was 1980, '81, '82. And he was like the lone guy. I was looking for somebody, someplace that was doing it. That's why we started the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. There was no religious voice dealing with this. And there had to be. So, you know, I am proud to be a New Yorker. I am proud of who we are. I think that the city does a whole lot better than other places. There's a whole lot more that we can do. But I just love the city. And you know, our finest moment was in the moments immediately after 9/11. We lost touch with it. Unfortunately it is a crisis that brings us together and reminds us of who we are fundamentally. But, boy, 9/11 was a lesson of what we could and should be. You know, those early weeks -- it was remarkable. So this is where I talk about the disparity between the concept and the result. The Civil Rights Movement -- that was the concept. The result is we can elect a president who's black. But we still haven't permeated. What happened on 9/11 is we could come together. We could pull together as a city. The result is we're a little bit friendlier now that we were pre-9/11. But it hasn't completely taken hold. We're a little bit better off than we were. We're reminded that we could be every once in a while, in our saner moments. But now we fight MTA budget cuts, everything else. And we get cranky again. MJ: Well, you've been very generous with your time. Is there anything that you feel like we should have talked about that we didn't? GBG: I mean, the only other thing that I would say that bears some discussion -- and maybe even a discussion starter is all it needs -- is that in the '60s was when we lost faith in government -- we as a people. I certainly did. Again, The Beatles' “Fool on the Hill.” What were we protesting? We were protesting the government. The government was the other. It wasn't us anymore. And with all of the scandals, one after another, reported in the press, whether it's sexual impropriety, payola, all sorts of things like that, we have not gotten back to having any level of confidence and faith in the people that we put into office. Now with, again, the unbelievable fighting that's going on, ideological fighting, whether it's the Tea Party or even Rahm Emanuel's explosion about the liberals who are fighting against Democrats, we need to get to a point, you know, in this moment where we can learn to kind of trust and respect those that we put into office as being able to do our bidding. And our country will not be able to move forward in a positive way until we can restore that. And my sadness is it's going to take a whole lot of work to do that. And politics is not a place that people aspire to go to. The smart guys don't aspire to go into politics. That's too bad. And I'd love to see that we, as a society, begin to put more emphasis on the importance of the people we elect into office really representing who we are and what we are so that maybe the smart and the caring people get put into office rather than the dumb, the unethical and the megalomaniacs that we all too often see getting elected into office. MJ: Right around the time of the election, there was a kind of palpable wave of that kind of optimism, especially among young people. GBG: Oh yeah. Oh, "Move On," certainly. Obviously. MJ: But that this is a moment where that could actually change. Do you see, is that still workable? Or has that faded too, like the goodwill after 9/11? Did that just kind of go away? GBG: You know, during the campaign, "Move On" really counted. I mean, even if you didn't pay attention to it, it was a player. They're not there. Yeah, I think unfortunately-- That's what I'm saying. That there is a disparity between the ideal and its implementation. And too often, all these ideals, no matter what they were, whether it was women's rights or civil rights or getting rid of corruption in government or philanthropy, all of these things, unfortunately that's where the disconnect occurs between the ideal and its application, or its impact. And I only hope that we'll all live to see that kind of compressing so that there's more of a connection between the two. I certainly hope that before I die, civil rights and women's rights and things like that will be something that we talked about as a historic interest. I don't want to open up a whole new can of worms. But the fact of the matter is, from a Jewish point of view, the history of the Jewish community has always been for us to find a place where we were totally accepted. We found that in two places. We found that in America. We found that in Israel. In America, despite the fact that we are totally integrated into society, for the most part, anti-semitism still exists. Not the anti-semitism of Abe Foxman, where he finds an anti-semite under every rock. But there's still some structural anti-semitism in there. And for less than 2% of the population, if you look at where we have ingratiated ourselves, it is quite remarkable. On the other hand, we haven't fully integrated. Then you have Israel, where, when the world's economy collapsed, the one economy that survived was Israel because of its innovation and its technology. Nobody gives a damn. We're still a pariah nation. And we still, in Israel, don't always behave as we're supposed to. We still don't take care of the least among our community as we should in Israel. So there's that whole other thing that I'm wrestling with every day, that as American Jews, we're still Jews in America. And in Israel, we're still not behaving as we ought to be. And when we are, nobody recognizes us. We're the ones who cured so many diseases. It came out of Israeli technology. The fact that you can instant-message somebody on the computer is thanks to a bunch of Israelis. You know, most of the stuff that we're doing on the internet is thanks to Israelis. Medical technology -- most of the stuff that we're dealing with right now is coming out of Israel. But the fact of the matter is everybody hates our guts. Again, there's the ideal and then there's the practical application. And that's what we're wrestling with. So I leave you with those two additional thoughts. MJ: Well, thank you very much. GBG: Sure. My pleasure.

One thought on “Gary Bretton-Granatoor Interview Transcript”

  1. I really liked this, the interview was very insightful. But above all else, this seemed to be more of a friendly conversation rather than an interview (which is good). More often then not, an interview will push the interviewee to hard and nothing worth while will come of it. Right now i go to the University of Toronto and we are a project where we had to interview a scholar within a certain field and make a documentary out of it. The way this interview went reminds me of how my interview went with the scholar in question. It was informative, insightful and above all else a friendly time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *