Times Square: New Year’s Eve and the countdown was underway. Suddenly it was 1950.
Happy New Year…Happy New Decade!
Samuel Epstein and David Horowitz were invited to a New Year’s Party in Greenwich Village to celebrate the new beginning. During the party the subject of Israel and the Middle East was raised and David was asked for an insider opinion. Some, not wanting to mix merriment with politics, objected rather loudly. Upon hearing the commotion, a Ms. Nan Reilly, seated just inside an adjacent room, spoke out loudly, “It’s regarding Israel, let him speak!” And so, with Ms. Reilly’s vociferous endorsement, David addressed the revelers on why he felt it was the British, more than the Arabs, who were responsible for the hostility and conflagration against Israel.
Following his address, David introduced himself to his young outspoken supporter. They spent much of the remaining evening in conversation and ringing in 1950 together.
Nan Reilly had been escorted to the party by composer Abner Silver, but following the party, was taken back to her East 76th Street residence by David and Mr. Epstein.
As David would discover later, Nan Reilly had a similar history in supporting Israel’s struggle for independence. Born in 1910 to an Irish father and English mother in Longford, Ireland, Nan’s childhood and early adolescence were spent like any other Irish child of that period, living on a rural farm with lots of chores and a warm family and community life. Unfortunately, that blissful existence came to an end when Nan was but a teenager. She lost both of her parents, then her aunt and uncle who had subsequently brought her to America.
Bereft of relatives, and still in her teens, Nan studied nursing and obtained her certification. It was during this period of loss that she began to make close friends in the Jewish community, both among her patients and other acquaintances. This new circle became her adopted family. Nan developed a fierce loyalty to the Jewish people and became an outspoken supporter of an independent State of Israel and an opponent of all forms of anti-Semitism.
Nan also became an ardent supporter and worker for the pro-Irgun “American Committee for a Free Israel,” which was led by the noted Samuel Merlin and Peter Bergson and supported by other such notables as Ben Hecht and Billy Rose. In connection with this work, she met and befriended the young Irgun leader Menachem Begin, thus meeting the great Israeli leader before David Horowitz would.
As the New Year unfolded, Middle Eastern issues continued to occupy the UN agenda.
The UN General Assembly, led by a coalition of Arab, Muslim, Catholic and Soviet bloc states votes for the internationalization of Jerusalem. In reaction, the Israeli government proclaims Jerusalem to be its capital and the Knesset is transferred there. Most countries refuse to move embassies to Jerusalem.
The General Assembly also established the UN Refugee Works Administration (UNRWA) beginning with a $54 million budget, to assist in employing refugees on relocation projects in Arab lands. Arab governments refuse to cooperate with any plan designed for economic integration and the UNRWA remained a relief agency.
Many new developments were also underway at United Israel World Union.
David Horowitz announced plans to visit Israel after a long absence. He would be returning as a correspondent for the UI publication and as head of United Israel World Union. His purpose was to make a comprehensive survey of conditions prevailing in Israel after statehood and explore possibilities for assisting in program development of a more unified educational system.
After meeting David at the New Year’s party, Nan Reilly began to take a greater interest in the activities of United Israel World Union, becoming a member of it’s editorial staff and assisting at UIWU’s Fifth Avenue office in her spare time.
Speaking at a meeting of the New York unit of UIWU on the eve of the biblical New Year, 1 Nisan 5710 (March 18, 1950), President David Horowitz emphasized that “the battle of the sword” for the redemption of Israel must be accompanied and followed by “the battle of education” towards the unity of all Israel in common with all nations. “The Mosaic Code,” stated Horowitz, “is not mere religion in the ordinary sense of the word. It is a philosophy of life applicable to all peoples and all times.” He announced that UIWU was expanding to include a more extensive program in the educational field and that a new United Israel Welfare Fund would be established to assist in the newly expanded program.
In an interesting development, the Jordan radio station in Amman announced plans to launch a series of Hebrew broadcasts. The programs were seen as the first move toward Jordan’s recognition of the Jewish state. The Amman station would be the only Middle Eastern station that referred to the new Jewish state of “Israel.”
During April 1950, the council of the Arab League adopts a resolution forbidding its members to conclude peace with Israel. They also refused to recognize the annexation by Jordan of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, calling it illegal.
On June 11, the Jewish National Fund announced the establishment of the Harry S. Truman Village in Israel. Vice-President Alben Barkley expressed the hope that the agricultural colony bearing the name of the President will “serve not only as a testimonial to President Truman’s efforts on behalf of the Jewish State, but also as a firm link which will bind together the oldest democracy in the New World with the youngest to be born after the World War, in a firm union against all aggression.”
April brought the seventh annual meeting of UIWU, several favorable reviews for David’s autobiography “33 Candles” and an extensive interview by New York radio station WLIB commentator Estelle Sternberger, whereby David explained how UIWU began and discussed the purpose and goals of the organization.
Events were heating up on other fronts.
Egypt closes the Suez Canal to Israeli ships and Israeli commerce.
In June 1950, North Korea invades South Korea. The UN Security Council, acting in absence of the Soviet Union, votes military sanctions and calls on its members to repel the invasion. President Truman authorizes the use of American forces.
On the 19th day of Tishre, 5711 (September 30, 1950), the Sabbath of the Feast of Tabernacles, members of United Israel World Union from various parts of the country converged upon West Olive, Michigan, at the estate of Lewis Goodin, Vice-President of the Union, to dedicate a new Hebrew altar. Scores of visitors from surrounding cities came to witness the historic dedication, including the Mayor of Grand Haven and the leading Rabbi of Muskegon. The New York Times, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and all the local newspapers had representatives covering the biblical ceremony. The New York Times coverage of the event appeared in their October 1, 1950 edition.
With UN Day only three days away, David Horowitz finished the final draft of an article entitled “America’s Destiny, The United Nations and the World.” He completed it in the United Nations Press area at Lake Success on October 21, 1950 and the first copy was dispatched that same day to President Harry S. Truman.
David arrived at Flushing Meadows on the morning of October 24, UN Day 1950.
Everything was in readiness for President Truman’s arrival on this historic day, where he was scheduled to be the final speaker. With a number of newsman and security personal in the hallway, David witnessed Truman’s entry. Truman’s address on the role and vision of the United Nations was moving and passionate, citing the promise in Isaiah that “swords shall be beaten to plowshares and that nations shall not learn war anymore.”
Following the adjournment of the Assembly, a special UN reception was held for the President. David was standing nearby with a couple of White House correspondents when the President left. The President looked over, smiled and chuckled, “well, well!”
It had been a year filled with change and progress. United Israel World Union was experiencing incredible exposure and growth and David was becoming much more involved in UN activities.
As 1951 came into being, David Horowitz and Nan Reilly, whom he had met at the New Year’s Party the previous year, were married. Truly, what a difference a year can make.
Ralph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.
This post is the sixth in the series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.