Morris Goldowsky

By Barbara Goldowsky

I met Morris Goldowsky in 1961, when I was about to marry his son Noah. In 1962, Noah and I and our three-month-old son Alexander Noah Goldowsky spent the summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Morris came to stay with us for several weeks. He was then in his early seventies-a handsome, energetic man with thick dark hair and a sparkling smile. Although he had numerous grandchildren, he was obviously charmed by the new baby and willing to spend many hours just sitting with me and reminiscing.

While Noah worked in the local art gallery and Alexander napped or lay open-eyed on a beach towel between our lawn chairs, Morris recounted stories about his life. He had already published his book of memoirs (1959) and given copies to family members. But since I do not speak or read Yiddish or Hebrew, he spoke in fluent, Russian-accented English. "Untranslatable" phrases remained in Yiddish. My knowledge of German helped me understand the essence. He explained who was in the photos.

Born near Minsk to a Jewish family named Ben Zion, Morris was no more than 15 when he linked up with anti-Tsarist revolutionaries whose dissent would eventually produce the 1905 revolution. He told of having to leave home, changing his name to protect the family from reprisals. The name "Goldowsky," he said, is based on "golod" meaning "hungry." He told of fleeing Russia when the revolution was crushed. By that time (1906 or 7?) he had two small children. He was able to bring his little daughter with him, but the son, Frederick Engels Goldowsky, remained in Russia. (Years later, Frederick was granted a visa to visit his father in New York. Despite no common language, he took a lively interest in his American relatives.)

There were many stories-coming to New York and helping to found the Democratic Socialist Party; eventually becoming a New York City Alderman; working with union organizers to found the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union; starting a new family of which Noah was the oldest (born in 1909). There were more recent stories, of his continuing involvement with City and union politics; working towards the foundation of the new state of Israel; and more family stories. I believe the stories Morris told me that summer are in the book-and I am sure much more that I would love to read.

I wished that summer for a translation, one that I could read to Alexander and later, to his brother Boris.  Morris thought one of his sons-in-law was working on it, but I have never seen the result, if there was any. An idealist to the end, Morris Goldowsky emigrated to Israel in the 1970s, dropping casually "Golda Meir said I should come."

His memoir would provide fascinating historical insights to readers in Russia and the US, indeed to anyone interested in eye-witness accounts of some of the most important events of the 20th Century. For Morris Goldowsky's descendants and relatives by marriage, it would be a priceless gift.