Last week I started to tell you about the two lectures I heard the week before. Let me mention them briefly now, and tell about the second speaker as a prelude to another story. Sir Philip Gibbs, the first lecturer, is an inspiring example of the sacrificial love that Englishmen have for their country. Sir Philip is too old a man to be going around on a lecture tour. Or at least, he is too thin and emaciated-looking to stand the rigors of such a tiring schedule - to say nothing of the luncheon speeches, tree planting (in American English gardens), dedication ceremonies, and countless things that these ambitious club women think up for him to do. But here he is, giving his all to England. The proceeds from his lectures are turned right over to the British War Relief Fund. (Prices - 55c to $1.10). He gives every assurance that England is not letting down one iota. She wants all the help she can get from America, in the way of materials; but she has no notion of giving up, even if all help were withdrawn. She would re-gird her loins for a longer battle. Sir Philip's large country estate is open to all the refugees it will hold. He told of a trying, but amusing situation there. Two women refugees, Mrs. O'Connor and Mrs. Brown, have taken an intense dislike to each other, and their children carry on the feud. Mrs. B's boy bit Mrs. O's boy on the arm, and brought the blood. Mrs. O's boy retaliated by throwing the Brown baby out the window. (No serious results; but what a war within a war!).
The second lecture was by Rabbi Cashdan, who has just come back to America from his synagogue in London. He and his wife are Clevelanders, but the good rabbi has been assistant minister, or whatever you call them, in this London synagogue for four years. He sent his wife and family home two years ago, but refused to leave his post until commanded to do so by the U.S. government. He told of the amazing fortitude of the English people - of his own congregation, who kept coming regularly to their synagogue to worship, even though it was subject to bombing, and was hit twice by incendiary bombs.
We think we are heavily taxed. The English people give from 50 to 95% of their income to the government. Those whose salaries are around $2500 a year, give 50%; those in the higher brackets give more, in ratio to their income. And it is a voluntary offering; at least the suggestion came from the people themselves. I am wondering if John L. Lewis would ever suggest such a thing in this country. No, he is waxing fatter and fatter, fomenting strikes right in the midst of this world emergency, while our young men, drafted into the army, are giving up their jobs and dreams of personal success, in order to serve their country. If ever any human being deserved court-martial for un-American activities, John L. Lewis deserves the limit. Do they have strikes in England? Yes, strikes of protest. But the men proclaim a strike at the noon hour. They go back to work that afternoon. They don't let their country down. In coming to this lecture - at the Jewish Temple - I found myself a lucky participant in a beautiful worship service preceding the lecture. I am ashamed to confess that is my first visit to a Jewish worship service. It shall not be my last. Rabbi Brickner, the head of the Euclid Avenue Temple is one of our city's great religious leaders; as broad in his tolerance as he is lofty in his thinking. I had often heard him over the radio. It was a privilege indeed to see him and hear him in the informal meeting held in a large room upstairs, following the lecture, in which Rabbi Cashdan answered questions for nearly an hour. This meeting with godly people of the Hebrew race brought home to me the terrible mistake I made some ten or eleven years ago - and kept on making for two or three years. When we lived on Eaton Road (on Mortgage Hill, of which I told you) a beautiful brick house gradually took shape on the vacant lot directly across the street from us. I think it was 1930. We watched it grow, and wondered who the lucky tenants would be. The Irish contractor set a good, stiff price. Finally the "For Sale" sign came down, and we learned - to our dismay - that he had sold it to a Jewish family. When he boasted that our new neighbors had paid $1,000 for their downstairs rugs, we weren't a bit impressed - unless it were with the folly of buying thousand dollar rugs for a lively three-year-old boy to drag toys and mud over. There were three children; the oldest, a horrid, lazy, selfish, ill-tempered girl of about 13, who had the audacity to carry the name of "Florence." The second girl, Rita, just Estelle's age (9), was more quiet, but in self-defense against an overbearing sister, and in neighborhood defense of her kid brother, she displayed quite a temper. The mother, an immaculate housekeeper, yelled at her children for every trivial offense, and was constantly threatening little "Howie" with police and imprisonment if he didn't behave himself. He was a loveable little chap - but he soon succumbed to his mother's constant suggestion that he was bad; he soon joined forays with the neighborhood terror next door, and together they committed all kinds of depredations. Well, at that time I was one of those "model" mothers. I wasn't going to have our children corrupted with association with such a family. Estelle and Rita, the same age, naturally gravitated toward each other. But I forbade Estelle to go over there and forbade Rita to enter our yard. Can you imagine such bigotry? Estelle, intensely loyal to her mother, accepted my dictum at first; but, as she grew older, she saw the folly of it. When the eminent Viennese psychologist, Dr. Alfred Adler, lectured here in 1932 or '33, members of the audience were invited to send written questions up to the platform. My question - my problem - was how to cope with an undesirable playmate for my daughter. His reply was, "There is nothing you can do about it except realize your duty to society, and help make the neighbor child a more desirable member of society. That was a new angle. I had forgotten all about the exhortation of the Master - 1900 years ago. "Love thy neighbor." I wasn't big enough to admit to Estelle my mistaken viewpoint; but I did try to correct my attitude, and found Rita to be not at all like her irritable, unreasoning mother, or unlovely sister. Like her gentle, stable father, who travelled much, whom we learned to know in time, Rita grew into sweet-tempered self-controlled adolescence. She and Estelle became the dearest of friends; with the passing years Rita grew in grace of body and spirit. The disparity in the financial station of the two families made no difference to Rita. When we were hit the hardest, financially, that was when Rita kept in constant touch with Estelle (after we had moved away from Eaton Road.) It has been the kind of friendship that has enriched both young lives, for each is inspired and stabilized by the affection and loyalty of the other. Estelle's crowning gesture of friendship was to ask Rita to be her bridesmaid. With pride (and humility) I welcome a lovely, refined girl into the heart of our home. Let me add that she has, by the force of her gentle unselfishness, mellowed her mother, who adores her, and has inspired Howard to good citizenship. God bless her!
Florence B. Taylor.
Next -12/18/41 - Mrs. Harriman - Ambassador to Norway