Thursday, Aug 13th

Last updateWed, 12 Aug 2020 11pm

You are here: Home Section Table On Our Minds

Kindergarthen SchnurPhoto by Steven SchnurThis letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Andrea Hirschberg, the mother of an incoming kindergartner at Heathcote School:
My name is Andrea Hirshberg, and my daughter Callie will be entering Heathcote Kindergarten in the fall. We are first time parents in the district, and as an incoming first time Kindergarten parent, I am shocked and appalled at the plan put forth for elementary schools in the "hybrid" model published last night. I was encouraged to hear over the past few weeks that the district believed that more in person school was a priority for your youngest learners (as many recent evidence based studies have supported), but in reading the hybrid plan for Scarsdale, that priority seems to have been completely disregarded. I am unsure if the shift to this model was a result of the feedback provided by high school parents last week, but this attempt for "equality" has resulted in a gross inequity for our youngest learners. These children, who are as young as 4 in some cases, need MORE in person school in order to successfully form the building blocks for a lifetime of learning.

Two half days of in person learning for this age group is simply not an acceptable proposal. My 5 year old needs far more support than older children do for remote learning (which will either require my husband or myself to take time off of work, or for us to outsource that support) and the amount of in person learning proposed is an embarrassment compared to other districts who have effectively managed to prioritize the youngest learners and provide either full time in person school for elementary, 5 days of half day school, or 2-3 full days in person. The plan as proposed is difficult to impossible for working parents to manage (specifically dual working households), and I have already heard friends with elementary aged children talk about needing to take leaves of absence from work, pulling their kids for private school, or hiring a teacher to supplement on the remote days.

This proposal is just simply not viable for our youngest learners and I urge and expect you to reconsider this plan. Our elementary kids either need more full days or 5 half days in the classroom, with a far more robust plan for synchronous learning during their remote time. We moved here for the schools and to say I am disappointed in this plan is an understatement. This plan is failing our elementary school aged children immensely, and it is disheartening to see so many other districts that have managed to figure out how to prioritize younger students, while being faced with the same set of facts and challenges:

· Blind Brook is planning on sending K-5 students to school 5 days a week for 2.5 hours per day + 2.5 hours of learning at home

· Briarcliff is planning on sending elementary and middle school students to school 5 days a week

· Bronxville is planning to send grades K-8 to school 5 days a week

· Byram Hills is planning to send K-5 to school 5 days a week with Wednesdays being half days

· Croton-Harmon is planning to send K-2 to school 5 days a week

· Dobbs Ferry is planning to send elementary students to school 4 days week during the morning or afternoon with remote instruction during the other half of day

· Edgemont is planning to send all students to school 5 days a week, either in the morning or afternoon with remote learning during the other half of the day

· Katonah is planning to send K-1 to school 4 days a week, with classes divided in half and the teacher splitting their time between classrooms

· Mamaroneck is planning to send elementary and middle school students to school 5 days a week for half day sessions

· Rye is planning to send elementary students to school 4 days a week for half day sessions

· Somers is planning to send K-6 to school 5 days a week

· Tuckahoe is planning to send K-3 to school 5 days a week

· Bedford is planning to send K-2 to school 5 days a week

· Ardsley is planning to send K-5 to school for half days

Thank you,
Andrea Hirshberg

This letter was sent from Jennifer Teigman, a Scarsdale parent who works in Special Education Law in New York City:

To whom it may concern,
Like many others, my family moved to Scarsdale for he school system. As an an ER doctor at one of the hardest hit hospitals, my husband has made my family well aware of the danger covid-19 poses. However, as many local summer camps have proven, there are ways to hold more in person schooling and still be safe. Dr. Hagerman and the board have continued to ignore creative ways to hold school in favor of this very flawed re-start plan. First, I fail to understand how it is expected for any elementary school student to make progress when they have 7 hours or so total of learning. How, when we pay taxes that are so high compared to other school districts are we receiving less of an education? Everyone wants the high school to remain competitive and continue to lead to a quality education with amazing college admissions. But, are Dr. Hagerman and the board thinking of Scarsdale's future with this plan? Does the board really think K and 1st grade students can learn to read with so little in school time? Do they think last year's e-learning plan and zoom's are effective? I can tell you, they are not. Multiple studies have shown that e-learning is not effective from primary age students. This includes a study from the NE Journal of Medicine that the board chose to ignore even when I brought it to their attention. Thus, in 10-12 years when these elementary students are in HS and they don't have adequate study, reading or math skills; the HS teachers will be baffled and everyone will be up in arms when housing prices plummet as the Scarsdale schools ratings drop. The board and Dr. Hagerman need to think long term, not just short term!! I fail to see why creative ideas such as tents and outdoor space were rejected. The boards reasons for rejecting these things are not adequate.

In addition, has the board thought about the impact this plan has on dual-income working families? Clearly, not as the meeting to discuss this plan is in the middle of the work day (perhaps purposely??) to preclude working parents from participating.

Then there is the zoom session that was added on from 2-3. Did the board think about those with younger preschool students to pick up around 1 or 2, as school is actually running in person for preschool. Did the board even consider the fact that an elementary school student cannot stay home alone on a zoom without a parent present?

The reason for rejecting live-streaming is also ridiculous. The teachers may get distracted? There isn't enough money for web cams? This is Scarsdale. I am positive almost every parent of a school-aged child would be willing to donate a web cam if asked in order to have live streaming working.

Lastly, I work in special education law in the city. I won't even get started in the denial of FAPE that this abysmal plan will lead to for special education students.

The time to change this plan is now before it's too late. This is our children's future. This is Scarsdale's future.
Jennifer Teigman

This letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 from Dorathy Sunshine. She explained, "My family and I moved to Scarsdale a few years back in large part due to their public school system. We felt that this natural migration pattern would be the most beneficial way to set our children up for future success. Being a parent of 3 children under the age of 5 with our oldest an incoming Kindergarten in a post COVID world has presented a uniquer set of challenges for our family. We are all just trying to get through each day. We understand all the complexities that the Scarsdale Board of Education is facing but we were beyond disappointed with the draft of the plan from the Board!

To the Editor: Scarsdale school district released its plan last night for school for the fall, and the planned hybrid option for elementary school is appalling and unacceptable.

With this, I started a petition few hours ago with Lauren Kitain to gain supporter from other elementary school families who feel that the plan to have viable learning experience for the youngest students is indeed flawed.

Our elementary school students NEED more in-person schooling than the hybrid model proposes. Remote learning is insufficient to cement a strong foundation in the basics of reading, writing, math and even learning how to be a friend. Two part days of in-person instruction is truly not an acceptable offering.

Neighboring districts have been creative and thoughtful and are universally offering much more robust in-person learning with their hybrid plans. Longer, full days, Wednesday instruction and an enhanced school calendar that prioritizes classroom learning are all reasonable, deliverable asks consistent with the minimum provided by peer school districts.

• Blind Brook is planning on sending K-5 students to school 5 days a week for 2.5 hours per day + 2.5 hours of learning at home.
• Briarcliff is planning on sending elementary and middle school students to school 5 days a week.
• Bronxville is planning to send grades K-8 to school 5 days a week.
• Byram Hills is planning to send K-5 to school 5 days a week with Wednesdays being half days.
• Croton-Harmon is planning to send K-2 to school 5 days a week.
• Dobbs Ferry is planning to send elementary students to school 4 days week during the morning or afternoon with remote instruction during the other half of day.
• Edgemont is planning to send all students to school 5 days a week, either in the morning or afternoon with remote learning during the other half of the day.
• Katonah is planning to send K-1 to school 4 days a week, with classes divided in half and the teacher splitting their time between classrooms.
• Mamaroneck is planning to send elementary and middle school students to school 5 days a week for half day sessions.
• Rye is planning to send elementary students to school 4 days a week for half day sessions.
• Somers is planning to send K-6 to school 5 days a week.
• Tuckahoe is planning to send K-3 to school 5 days a week.

We deserve an opportunity for the district to rethink their plan.

See the petition here:

Thank you.
Dorathy Sunshine

This letter was sent from Kymberly Robinson

I wanted to share my letter, dated 8/4/20, to the Board of Education, in support for more in-person class time for our youngest learners:

“I am going to be blunt: Why can’t we figure this out, like other districts have? We have tremendous financial reserves for “emergencies.” Here’s your emergency! “Not enough money” for cleaning staff or for accommodations, such a plexiglass, is NOT a response from a district like Scarsdale.

Quite frankly, the word “embarrassment” has been thrown around a lot on social media in the past few days because it IS pathetic and embarrassing. Never before has living in Scarsdale been linked to the word “embarrassing.” We are better; we pay for “better.”

People considering moving to Scarsdale usually also look at the following school districts: Blind Brook, Bronxville, Byram Hills, Rye, Larchmont, Ardsley, and Edgemont. These are the towns with which we share many similarities. So, why is our proposed plan so far off from these districts’? Seven (7) hours per week of school is insane.

Here are some ideas as to how we can put our money to good use and enable our youngest learners to attend school at least 4, if not 5 days, a week, and keep our valued teachers healthy and safe:

Plastic/plexiglass shields between desks and/or where otherwise appropriate;

Using other parts of the building;

Renting out St. Pius;

A rotating/hybrid schedule of grades 4&5 with the high schoolers (and leaving K-3 at their home school full time);

Using half days—8:30-11:30and 12:30-3:30 and cleaning for that hour between the sessions.

These are merely a few ideas. I am seeking for the Board to please tell me why each of these will not work, with a decent explanation.

Improvements on e-learning are outside the scope of my letter.

This letter was sent from Jenna Wizenberg to the Board of Education on August 3rd:

After looking at the plan, I am shocked. We are all SHOCKED. It is beyond the worst case scenario I imagined. How can you think 7 hours of in person learning per week is acceptable, when school districts around us are able to plan for full time, in person learning for elementary students.

Also, if remote learning was supposed to be improved and enhanced, how is it that there is only a 1/2 hour of core learning on days when the children are not in schools? How should my 6 year old handle asynchronous work on her own? Let's be honest about what a 6 year old can accomplish on her own. Can you imagine a 6 year old working by herself for hours?

How are parents expected to be able to work and pay taxes in this town if their elementary aged kids are only learning core school materials 8.5 hours a week and they have to supplement and be the teachers?

How about furloughing all teachers that teach art, PE etc and use that money toward the school cleaning to allow for a full day instead of half days? Everyone has to make sacrifices right now; we need to do what is best for the children.

In aggregate, on the 2 days they are home, they only have one real zoom from 230-3pm, so that’s an hour over 2 days. And Wednesday there’s one zoom 920-950am. So that’s a total of 8.5 hours of core learning per week. That is unacceptable. You did not make any substantial improvements to remote learning since the disaster in the spring. In the survey we asked that if we go remote, it should be small groups synchronous learning. How does 1/2 hour of that a week take into account the parents' views?

Also, when did Wednesdays become an optional day at school? I always used to go to school on Wednesdays. Why do teachers need a day to plan? How should the school week look any different than any other year in terms of planning? When do they plan during a normal school year? Why can't that day be used to have students in school and switch from A to B every other week?

If you do not change the half days to full days, why wouldn't there be synchronous learning from 1:30pm - 3pm to make up for the large amount of instructional time the kids are missing?

Will you be providing lesson plans every week so we can know what we should be teaching our children? As the plan stands, most of the learning is going to fall on parents shoulders.

This is not ok and a failure for our children on so many levels. These children are barely out of pre-school and they are being asked to learn in an asynchronous learning setting for the majority of the time. How can you even stand behind this knowing that the research shows that this type of learning is a complete failure for elementary students?

My hope would be that you can update this plan to include 2 full days in school (at least), Wednesdays should alternate groups in school and the remote learning should be more robust than 1.5 hours a week.

I have posted my thoughts on two Facebook groups - Scarsdale Buzz and Scarsdale K-5 students. Parents are in disbelief that Scarsdale could present a plan like this as there seems to be no real thought and substance behind this plan in terms of what is best for our children.

A lot of people are discussing withholding taxes and wanting to move. This has a far reaching impact and I seriously beg you to reconsider this plan.

Thank you,
Jenna Wizenberg

This letter is from Edgewood resident Shari Fayer:

Hi everyone:

My son will be in 2nd grade at Edgewood elementary this fall. Here are my thoughts on the restart plan.

1. Why is k-5 not a priority to be in school all 5 days? There are so many other local districts that have proposed this as well as surrounding areas like Long Island that are asking for that.

2. Do you really think 3.5 hours for 2 days is enough for my 7 year old? If you are going to do only 2 days in school, then make it a FULL day. Let him learn everything he needs from 8 -3pm and have lunch in his classroom with his cohort and not leave the classroom except for bathroom and possible outdoor activities. Let them have TWO FULL days. They are already there in my opinion. It will not make a difference if you give them a few more hours.

3. The at home work must be beefed up exponentially. We need an hour zoom with each teacher as well as private sessions to ask questions and teach lessons.

4. As for the other night, if you are going by what the high school parents were ranting about "jewelry making, beading and football", then that is ridiculous. They can have this hybrid model of two half days in high school but not the little ones. This makes NOBODY happy.

5. K-2 are SO young. They need guidance, love, support, friendships, learning. They need to grow in their classrooms. Please make them your priority. Some Kindergarteners are BABIES. They are only 4 years old. How can you throw them in with an IPAD and say here, do your best?

Please, reconsider the importance of more in school learning for the younger ones. They need the building blocks of education more than a very over privileged high schooler who needs to learn how to make a necklace. I am sorry for the tone and the sarcasm, but I expect better from this school system. When I hear neighboring towns are fighting tooth and nail for K-5 to have in person learning every day and we are just laying down to TWO HALF DAYS, I am appalled and disappointed.

I will be speaking amongst MANY other elementary parents at the next session. This CANNOT be the way second grade begins here for my son, who deserves just as much as every 9-12th grader got when they were his age.

Thank you 
Shari Fayer 

The following letter is from Tannistha Datta:

We are a dual working parents household and have a rising 1st grader. I am writing to you about the restart plan for the elementary school. I am shocked by this plan's utter disregard for the needs of the youngest kids in the community.

The district had rightly set out that the priority for the elementary kids is in-person learning but in this plan that priority has been completely disregarded by offering two half-days of in-person learning. How can the same amount of in-person learning suffice for the 5-8 year old age group as the amount for older kids in high school? Is the level of maturity the same? Can the youngest students handle remote learning and technology and do their work without parental supervision the same way older students can? Only 7 hours of in-person learning is grossly insufficient for this age group, especially for the K-2 age group, who are beginning to learn to read, write and do basic math. How will these kids be set for future success with a weak foundation?

Several other neighboring school districts are offering way more in-person learning for elementary age kids, including Rye Brooke, Irvington, Bronxville, Edgmont etc. If these schools can come up with ways to provide that, there is no reason to believe Scarsdale cannot. How can AM/PM hybrid model or multiple full-day to provide consistent in-person learning be adopted by Edgemont, Rye Brooke and not possible for Scarsdale? If it needs more money, tap into the reserves.

If a child in a given class is sick the consequences and actions will be the same irrespective of whether that kid was in the classroom for half a day or a full day so why dismiss elementary at 1? If middle school kids can have lunches amongst a bigger group of kids, why can't elementary kids have lunch in their classroom within their own cohort? If cleaning is an issue, why is that not the case for the middle school where they have 2 full days of in-person learning?

Why is there no in-person class on Wednesday? On alternate weeks group A or B can use this for an extra day of in-person learning. If other districts can do without this model, why cannot Scarsdale?

If bus transportation is an issue have you asked parents to make a choice between having bus-ing versus having more in-person learning for their children? Based on the survey results, I understood that most parents were willing to make their own arrangements for drop off and pick up.

While the Board hosted a 5-hours listening session for mostly for the high school parents, why now the listening session is being cut short and being held in the middle of a work day? Is it on purpose to minimize participation from parents because it is evident how poorly crafted this plan is for the elementary kids?

How is this plan supposed to work for single parents and dual-working households with young children? Are our young students now magically able to do remote-work without adult supervision and keep up with their schedule on their own? If one parent is supposed to give up their work and income to accommodate this ridiculous plan, will school taxes be adjusted for these households? This plan also makes me wonder if the Board failed to understand the predicament of our situation as it is mainly comprised of members who do not have elementary age kids.

If the elementary kids are already in their cohort, how does this dilute the quality of instruction?

I request and expect the Board and the district to take a second look and revise the elementary hybrid plan so our youngest students can receive more in-person learning than what is being currently offered.

Thank you for reading. I would appreciate your response to the specific questions I raised.

Tannistha Datta

volunteerThis letter was sent from resident and parent Diane Greenwald to the Board, the Superintendent, the SHS Principal and a member of the Restart Committee following the Public Zoom session on Tuesday night June 28

I am very impressed with the listening session. It was an important response. I am so pleased that the PTA president and PTC president spoke with grace and clarity about serious issues to improve their inclusion at the table as partners and representatives. I particularly support what Leanne Freda said and feel very well represented. I am grateful to our local medical professionals for offering helpful insights. I have already made clear to the Board and admin in previous letters my hopes that the district avoid creating binary choices about who can experience in-class learning, and to honor our deeply held values that all students have strong and unique developmental need for in person learning when possible and safe.

Perhaps its not constructive to be critical with a deadline looming but it can’t be ignored that this situation that led us to this emergency session was fueled by rumors that pitted parent against parent and was created by a lack of communication — and it was avoidable.

Further, this episode revealed that the administration was unable to quickly provide a general summary, which was and is needed, and is still largely missing. It is deeply worrisome. Regardless of whether the July 31st deadline is real or not (now pushed back a week)— school reopening is looming. We are all in this together, living with uncertainty day to day. I think our community can hear plans in formation, if fact, we would prefer it.

Though working hard, I think perhaps administration needs to work differently — with greater collaboration, humility, openness and creativity and welcoming greater input and oversight to ensure that the process is meeting external, transparent milestones. A large, inclusive restart committee with many sub committees is a great structure and I have tremendous respect and gratitude for all those around the table. But… where is documentation of all the work? Where are the initial plans with committee sign on? Where are the voices of the committee members sharing their thoughts and seeking ours? Where is the advisory report from the restart committee to the Board? A letter to the community? Where is the evidence of creative brainstorming, collaboration, deliberation, consensus building and transparency?

We know this is a set of bad options for learning but we still need the best of them to emerge. And we need to know what is happening with virtual learning instructional improvements, should we need it, and we likely will. What resources are being prepared to support teaching and what accountability is being enhanced? The teacher contract was open during COVID - does it now include any language relating to virtual learning expectations? Can you post the new contract?

As for process...
This emegency approach to listening is excellent but not sustainable so I hope the learning about building in community engage is deep and permanent. We have bumped into this problem over and over. Surveys are this administration's ‘go to’ method to capture parent input. While a survey can have its place, it is inadequate as a substitute for engaging directly with parent voices. As was evident tonight.

Community input must happen early, often and with direct invitations to opportunities held separately from the board business meetings. Not everyone can be at a committee or board table, but many can be heard, solicited, engaged, empowered! It can happen as regular focus groups, in these listening session, in coffees (when safely allowed) and in casual and formal conversations. It can happen with more outreach by the Board and greater board oversight to ensure the administration is basing decisions on community values.

My sister worked for World News Tonight for years — they had a policy that welcomed everyone from a custodian, to an intern to the CEO to attend idea meetings and offer suggestions for stories. I always loved that! In that spirit, my few ideas are: Can high school students come to school for science and math, perhaps some specials and do all other classes virtually? Could high school have a second session - from 3pm - 8?? I bet there would be a lot of teachers and students who would sign up for and thrive with that time slot. Could social studies and English cohorts be created, like civ ed? And other classes virtually?

I am an attentive participant in school and village happenings, and I learned so much tonight from so many voices. If this happened more often, it wouldn’t be this long. Unlike the isolation of a survey and the free-wheeling skreeds in social media, this forum has been respectful, informative, has built empathy, and offered good ideas and resources. But I have now spoken to many of tonight’s speakers and while all felt glad to have spoken, they each said the same thing…”we’ll see.” Trust needs to be earned.

Again, I encourage the Board to exercise greater oversight and to encourage the administration to move forward with deeper trust in the parent body. We are your partners, your constituents, your clients, your funders, and the guardians of the district and the children we all serve and love and place all our hopes for a better world.

I have said this often, there are many ways to educate children, but the single proven feature common to all successful school districts is parent engagement.

Thank you all for your devotion and service.

Diane Greenwald

Star Scarsdale journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have turned their focus from the international to the domestic in their new book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, co-written by this husband-and-wife team.

Kristof and WuDunn will discuss their work in a discussion sponsored by the Scarsdale Adult School and moderated by Scarsdale’s Chirs Riback on Thursday July 23 at 7:30 pm via Zoom. Register today by clicking this link. at

The Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of the acclaimed, best-selling Half the Sky now issue a plea — deeply personal and told through the lives of real Americans — to address the crisis in working-class America, while focusing on solutions to mend a half century of governmental failure. With stark poignancy and political dispassion, Tightrope draws us deep into an “other America.”

The authors tell this story, in part, through the lives of some of the children with whom Kristof grew up in rural Yamhill, Oregon, an area that prospered for much of the twentieth century but has been devastated in the last few decades as blue-collar jobs disappeared. About one-quarter of the children on Kristof’s old school bus died in adulthood from drugs, alcohol, suicide, or reckless accidents. And while these particular stories unfolded in one corner of the country, they are representative of many places the authors write about, ranging from the Dakotas and Oklahoma to New York and Virginia.
But here too are stories about resurgence, among them: Annette Dove, who has devoted her life to helping the teenagers of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as they navigate the chaotic reality of growing up poor; Daniel McDowell, of Baltimore, whose tale of opioid addiction and recovery suggests that there are viable ways to solve our nation’s drug epidemic. Taken together, these accounts provide a picture of working-class families needlessly but profoundly damaged as a result of decades of policy mistakes. With their superb, nuanced reportage, Kristof and WuDunn have given us a book that is both riveting and impossible to ignore.

Sign up here to meet the authors.


freedomridersThe following article was submitted by teacher, historian and Scarsdale Thomas Quirk who grew up in Scarsdale and attended Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale Jr. High and Scarsdale High School (class of 81). He has been a certified Special Education/ Humanities teacher since 1990 and taught at Lexington High School in Massachusetts since 1996. He has been researching and writing about civil rights history in and around Scarsdale, Westchester County since then.

This story is especially timely given the passing of activist and Congressman John Lewis who was on the bus of Freedom Riders.

In March 1962 a benefit to raise money for the Freedom Riders was held at Scarsdale High School. Pete Seeger, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee performed. The New York Times reported, “[A] racially mixed crowd of 1,282 persons filled the Scarsdale High School Auditorium.” Featured guests at the concert were Freedom Rider Reverend Austin McRaven Warner and Harold Taylor, the former President of Sarah Lawrence College. The secretary of the Westchester Committee for the Freedom Riders was Harriet Gelfan, a Scarsdale resident, housewife, and mother of six. The concert was necessary because Freedom Riders jailed in Mississippi in May 1961 had not yet posted bail and were still serving time at the notorious Parchman Farm. Their crime had been trying to integrate rest areas along southern highways that were supposed to be desegregated because they were federally controlled. The Freedom Riders had been brought to Mississippi under the protection of the Mississippi National Guard, by order of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, after their bus had been firebombed in Anniston, Alabama. They were promptly arrested in Mississippi for “creating a disturbance.” 

The attempts of a few Westchester County residents to help the jailed Freedom Riders would have been lost to history except for the fact that the concert was vociferously opposed by a small group of anti-communists, led by the Scarsdale American Legion and Mrs. Otto E. Dohrenwend and Mrs. Theodore E. Wetzel, whom The New York Timesidentified as “Wives of Stock Brokers.” The women sued Scarsdale Public School Board District 1 to prevent the concert because it “created dissension at a time of great crisis,” according to their attorney, William A. Egan Jr. What made news was not the concert, but the lawsuit. 

Mrs. Dohrenwend’s husband, Otto E. Dohenwrend, had been the leader of the infamous Committee of Ten, which charged that Scarsdale’s school system had been infiltrated by communism during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and early 1950s. According to Carol A. O’Connor’s Scarsdale: A Sort of Utopia: 1891-1981, the Committee of Ten had disrupted school board meetings in an effort to expose reading material they considered to be communist, particularly Howard Fast’s novel, Citizen Paine.  

The plaintiffs in the Freedom Riders’ Concert case took issue with the communist background of Pete Seeger, and furthermore, accused featured performers Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee of knowingly supporting organizations that were known to be communist fronts. Sadly, it was easy to pin the “Red” label on those who had supported civil rights before World War II because the Communist Party was one of the only organizations in the United States to openly oppose lynching. The plaintiffs also accused Harriet Gelfan of being a Communist because she had been a member of the Institute of Pacific Relations and twice visited the Soviet Union in that capacity. During hearings led by the Senate Internal Security Committee in 1952, Mrs. Gelfan refused to acknowledge whether she had ever been a Communist, stating that her answer might incriminate her. Amidst the hyperbolic frenzy of the Red Scare, The New York Timeshad reported the story with the headline, “Woman Won’t Say If She Was a Red.” The ardor of the committee in going after Harriet Gelfan may have stemmed from the fact that her maiden name had been Moore, which was the same name as one of the founders of the Communist Party in the United States. Her former boss at the Institute, Edward G. Carter, had suggested to the Senate Committee that the charges against Mrs. Gelfan were “a case of mistaken identity.” The Institute of Pacific Relations had its nonprofit status revoked in 1952, but it was reinstated in 1960, presumably because the federal government did not consider it a communist front. This was not enough for the Scarsdale American Legion and Mrs. Dohrenwend and Mrs. Wetzel. 

According to Harriet Gelfan’s son, Peter, the lawsuit seeking to prevent the Freedom Riders concert brought up painful memories for his mother and father, Dr. Samuel Gelfan. In 1952, when the charges of being a Communist were leveled at his wife, Dr. Gelfan had been a neuroscientist at Yale University. Amidst the controversy that followed his wife’s 1952 testimony, Dr. Gelfan lost his position at Yale. Years later the University apologized for its actions, but Dr. Gelfan’s promising career had already been destroyed. Despite what happened at Yale, Dr. Gelfan defended his wife, stating to the Scarsdale School Board that his wife was a loyal American and that “she does not have to wave a flag to prove it.”

The New York Timesreported that 10 picketers stood outside the concert with placards that read “Is this a Little Red School House?”; “Turn Left for Scarsdale”; “We’re not afraid of fallout, we’re afraid of Sellout”; and “Doing the Moscow Twist.” Mr. Dohrenwend was present outside the high school but not on the picket line. The court had ruled that the entertainers and Reverend McRaven could not give any speeches during the concert. Pete Seeger wore red socks in protest. The event raised $3,758.50, which was turned over to the Congress for Racial Equality. The money was used as intended, to defend those who had dared to bring attention to the continued existence of segregated rest areas on federal highways in an effort to demonstrate that southern states were violating federal laws. 

Quirk added this footnote to the story: 

thomasquirkAuthor Thomas QuirkAccording to author Taylor Branch in his book on the civil rights movement Pillar of Fire, "The Scarsdale concert and the local reaction to it influenced Dr.King's SCLC to become more vigilant about purging any activists with Communist backgrounds. They were very worried about losing financial support based on the controversy in Scarsdale caused by the Freedom Riders Concert. The F.B.I. also took notice. Director J.Edgar Hoover found the Scarsdale concert instructive. The F.B.I. stepped up efforts to brand Dr.King a Communist, going so far as to place false news articles in the national press.

communityAmidst the chaos that has become the new normal, it is important to remember to give back to our local community, as well as help those who are less fortunate and may be struggling to get by. Here are three ways to lend a helping hand to wonderful causes.

Join Amy Hu in Support Shiloh Shower Service for the Homeless via Bake Back America
toiletries“I'm collecting the following shower supplies to support the Shiloh Shower Service for the Homeless via Bake Back America. Because of COVID-19, many places where the homeless normally shower are closed, so a local food pantry is running a truck to provide showers to the homeless and needs supplies to stock the truck! Below are the items that they are hoping to receive, and I hope to achieve the goals within the next 10 days to make the July 22 shower event happen. Please fill the items that you can donate on this form and I will begin engaging in contactless pickup. Thank you to everyone for your generosity!”

Items to Donate:
- Towels (gently used or like new is okay)
- Face cloths (gently used or like new is okay)
- Tubes of toothpaste (can be travel size)
- Toothbrushes (can be travel size)
- Bars of soap (can be travel size)
- Shampoos (can be travel size)
- Lotions (can be travel size)
- Men's deodorant (can be travel size)
- Women's deodorant (can be travel size)
- Men's new boxer shorts (sizes M,L,XL,XXL)
- Ladies new panties (M,L,XL)

“We’re all in this Together...”: An Art Competition for All Ages
WJCS Art Comp“We find ourselves in very troubling times. Divisiveness in our society, COVID-19, institutionalized racism and a struggling economy are all contributing to feelings of hopelessness, despair and isolation. Many children and families are struggling. With so much uncertainty, the sense of order created by the annual rite of passage of returning to school is even more important than usual yet many people cannot afford the basic supplies that their students’ need.”

What you need to know:
- Details and sign up form are in the attached flyer.
- All funds raised go directly to buying school supplies and a gift card for new shoes or clothing for needy children.
- Open to all ages.
- Deadline is July 30, 2020.

Learn more here.

Help Deliver Air Conditioning Units in New York City
EHHOP Drivers OutreachThe East Harlem Health Outreach Partnership (EHHOP) at Mount Sinai Hospital is looking for drivers to help distribute AC units to NYC community members. The event will take place on Sunday, June 12, and only takes 3 hours of volunteer time.

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