I was unemployed after getting laid off from US Steel, and didn’t know what I’d do for a living. A friend I’ll call Dave, whom l‘d met in a poker game when he was a fundraiser for the Progressive Party, told me I should try what he was doing. Like everyone else on the blacklist, Dave had been forced to find a way to survive, and like a lot of other radicals, he had entered the field of Jewish fundraising. They didn‘t take over the field; the field took them over. Israel Bonds, World Relief, you name it. The more marginal the group, the fewer questions were asked.
Dave called me and offered me a job for fifteen or sixteen thousand a year. “You can probably live on your expense account,“ he said, “find a Jewish maiden in Kansas City whose father owns the local dry goods store, and marry her.” Dave (who years later became a high-level administrator at a prominent Jewish religious institution, proving that he knew what he was talking about) added one more element to what I understood about fundraising. “lt’s all blackmail and vanity,” he said. “You go to Mr. Hyman So-and-So or Mrs. So-and-So, and say, ‘We’ll make you the Torah Man of the Year.’ Then when it’s four weeks before the dinner and no tickets have been sold, you go to Hyman and say, `Hyman, you‘re gonna be disgraced before the whole community.’ So Hyman then gets the pitch and he pays for the dinner — he pays for his honor. You blackmail Hyman and then he blackmails all his friends.”
I had raised a fair amount of money in my career as a radical organizer, and I would do so again many times — for the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and some of the more obscure leftist movements. But to extort Jews for a living was another matter. I knew it wasn’t for me.