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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
JEWISH FEDERATION OF PALM BEACH COUNTY
INTERVIEWEE: Benjamin S. Hornstein
INTERVIEWER: Dr. Haviva D. Langenauer
DATE: May 18, 1982
PLACE: Palm Beach
L: This is Dr. Haviva D. Langenauer interviewing Benjamin S. Hornstein on May 18,
1982 in his home in Palm Beach. This is part of the oral history project of
the Jewish. Federation Of Palm Beach County. Thank you Ben, for allowing us
to have this interview. To begin with, will you tell me where you were born?
H: I was born in New York City, in Manhattan. I was the oldest of six children.
We were four boys and two girls. I had a younger brother who died at the age
of seven, and a deaf and mute sister who lived till sixty-seven. I lost my
mother at a very early age. My father never remarried. When my father passed
away 50 years ago, I became the head of the family, "pater families I lived
in Baltimore then, and my family all lived in New York. I moved to Baltimore
when I was very young.
L: Before we go on to Baltimore, tell'me about your mother's family.
H: My mother's family came from Budapest. They were of Portugese origin. I've
never even bothered tracing it because I didn't realize the significance of
what a mixed marriage is between an Ashkenazi and a Sephardi, until I moved
to New York and rejoined the Spanish and Portugese Synagogue. That's nearly
fifty years ago.
L: What was your mother's maiden name?
H: My mother's maiden name was Molly Kava. My father and mother were an odd
couple, because my father treated my mother like the Ashkenazi treat the
Sephardis, especially the women. They kept them aside. They weren't part
of the educational background that we Ashkenazi Jews have from children
L: Where did your father come from?
H: My father came from Lubin in Poland. When he passed away he had been
president of the synagogue for 12 years in New York. He was in the real
estate and insurance business. How he ever got into that kind of business
is beyond my comprehension, because usually Jews who came from Poland, didn't
know anything. All they knew was the Talmud. They became shneiders*. Why
my father didn't become a schneider I'll never know.
L: What you said about women not having a sound Jewish education, was that true
in your family?
H: Well unfortunately, all of the Sephardic women were brought up to wear a
Sheitel, (a wig), and they were sitting at the feet of the head of the family,
which was my father. That was the custom and the tradition which you see now
all over the Middle East with the oriental Jews.
L: Did your mother have a wig?
H: Yes, she wore it early. Oh yes.
L: So your home was a very pious one.
H: We were a very religious home. All Orthodox. I learned how to
say my prayers in Hebrew before I even knew English. A truant
officer came to our home when I was seven and he asked my father,
"Do you have a son, Benjamin?"
My father said, "Yes. What did he do now?"
He said, "He didn't go to school."
My father said, "What for?"
They said, "You are supposed to send your children to school at
six for an education."
He said, "That's what I'm giving him." That was the tradition
of our family. That's what went on until we all became old enough
to go out on our own.
L: When did you start school?
H: I started school at seven. I had to go to school, otherwise the
truant officer would serve my father with a summons.
L: What had you learned at home though before that time?
H: Hebrew, I learned how to davven, I learned my prayers. I learned
something about Jewish history and the background of our religion
(which in 90 years I forgot). I went back, I was reborn a Jew,
L: What language did they speak in your home?
H: My father spoke Russian, Polish, Yidiish and English.
L: What did he speak to the children?
H: The children spoke English and Yiddish. The first comers in the
family spoke English and Yiddish. The later addition to our
family didn't get as much Yiddish training as I did.
L: And your mother knew Yiddish?
H: Very well.
L: That's unusual for a Sephardi.
H: Well, they had to communicate. That was the method of communi-
cation. Also having come from Budapest, Hungary, all the women
there spoke Yiddish and German. German was part of our language.
We didn't give it the credit that we do today, or the emphasis of
being German. We paid no attention to that. We thought that a
Hungarian-Jew was just as "bad" as a Russian-Jew. They were
Jews, that's all. We didn't draw any lines of distinction.
L: Where did your parents marry?
H: My parents married in Europe. They got on a boat and it took them
three months to ame here. I was born in this country. I was born
in August, I won't say what year because I don't want to give
my age away. It's not necessary, but I'm old enough to know
L: Tell me about school. You started at age seven?
H: I started at seven, I went to public school on the East Side
of New York. Our father,being in the real estate business,
wherever he had trouble with a house or the tenants he moved in.
We lived in Yorkville on 86th Street and I went to school P.S. 6
there. I went to school with a policeman for 6 months,
because it was a German and Irish neighborhood. The abuse we Jews
took not only mentally and vocally, but physically they abused
us as well. That's where Gracie Mansion, the Mayor's Home is now
in New York City. I've been thrown off the pier at Gracie Mansion
at least 100 times and I still don't know how to swim.
L: Do you remember any special holiday observances in your home?
H: Every one of the Jewish holidays was celebrated in traditional
fashion. I used to carry my father's prayer shawl until I was 13,
when I went to synagogue with him on Saturday. He walked and I
walked. We never rode to synagogue at all. As a matter of fact,
the first time I rode to synagogue on Rosh Hashonnah and Yom
Kippur was when Rabbi Bar-Zev of Temple Beth El in Palm Beach,
who was my rabbi, promised me absolution if I ride to temple.
First time in over 80 years.
L: I think he was taking the position which the Rabbinical Assembly
takes for Concervative Jews.
H: Although my training originally was Ashkinazi, it wasn't until
later life that I gave recognition to my mother's part of the
family and I went to the Spanish and Portugese Synagogue in 1934,
almost 50 years ago. I've been a member of the Spanish and
Portugese Synagogue since then. I was made an Elector of the
Synagogue for life. When I signed their Book of Electors, I saw
all the names proceeding mine deceased. I said, "I'll be next."
That's 40 years ago. How much further do we have to go with this?
We observed all the Jewish high holidays and semi-high holidays
in the tradition of our religion, the Hebrew religion. We were
Ashkinazim (my father being the son of a rabbi) and we were
probably more observant in America than many Americans who came
from the same part of the country that my father did. My father
was traditionally a very observant and practicing Jew. We always
had kosher at home. Always.
My late wife was a Sunday School teacher in Temple Emanuel and she
was semi-Reformed. Semi-Liberal, as we called it then. I met
her by being associated with the Emanuel Brotherhood which is part
of the Temple Emanuel Social Service Department. I was the
Director of Clubs there. I was responsible for opening the first
Social Service Department of Temple Emanuel when they went to
43rd Street and Fifth Avenue. That sounds like ancient history
L: I think we skipped a whole part of your education. We left you in
grade school, but I know you went on.
H: I went on to Townsend Harris, C.C.N.Y. for a number of years. Since
I was the oldest in the family, during a period where it looked
like we were going to be in a depression, I revolted.
I said, "I'm going to leave. I'm going to seek a position,"
because while I was going to school there I studied law. I devoted
about 7 years of my life to the study of law. I never took a
bar examination. For the same reason, it didn't pay me to leave
business to become a lawyer or to even continue to be a school
teacher. I was a school teacher at a very early age. I taught at
the Wilkins Evening School. I taught English to foreigners and I
taught Commercial Practices and Accounting because those were my
major subjects I was interested in.them.
L: Did you study French? I know your French is very good.
H: I learned French when I went to public school. French and German
were two foreign languages that were requisites, they were musts.
You had to study either French and German, or German and Italian,
or French and Italian. I stuck to the French and German and I
majored in French. I met my wife through our French lessons.
That was our first really interesting meeting ground. My wife went
She graduated from Washington Irving High School and her family
was also a Russian family. Her brother was a lawyer and.I began
to study law under him, I moonlighted studying law and I moon-
lighted studying law when I was in Baltimore. I'd come to New
every week and moonlight and study law.
L: Did you move to Baltimore after you were married?
H: I moved to Baltimore in 1920. Before I moved to Baltimore I
was the President of the first English speaking lodge, Beth El
Lodge, of the Independent Order of Beth Abraham. If I remember
correctly, Judge Sanders was the Grand Master of that Lodge of
Independent Order of Beth Abraham. Our program of membership was
similar to the Masonic one. But it wasn't any Jewish one. It was
all in English and no Yiddish because we were the first English
speaking lodge. I joined and became a Mason 1917. I was then
the president of this Beth El Lodge, the Independent Order of
Beth Abraham. I was attracted to it and one copied the other
without realizing that we were dealing with the Masonic Order.
I became a Shriner of Mecca Temple, I think it was in 1919 or 1920,
one of those years. So, I've always been a joiner.
L: What was their function?
H: Their function was the Grand Lodge of all the branches. Everyone
of the Jewish "Hevras"*.
L: Was it a social organization?
H: Yes. Social and cemetery benefits, and all those things that the
Jews used to have insurance, all the benefits. As a matter of
fact, I was the President of the Lodge. We bought a cemetery,
Mt. Hebron Cemetary, and I bought a plot. Ten of us bought forty
lots. Forty plots. Each one kept a plot, we gave the other thirty
to the lodge. Unfortunately, a lot of my family were buried at an
early age on my plot. It's still my family plot after 66 years.
My daughter is buried there, my brothers are buried there, my
sister is buried there,my wife is buried there, all on my plot.
So, I provided a burial ground for me. I wanted to miss going to
Potter's Field because I'm arranging to die poor.
L: I know that you're giving your money away to worthy causes.
H: Have I told you enough?
L: Well,you've told me the beginning. We've talked about some of
the early organizations that you joined. But, I don't think we've
even pricked the surface yet. We haven't taken you to Baltimore.
Do you want to talk about your life there?
H: Yes, I do. When I moved to Baltimore I joined the American Hotel
Corporation, which was headed by Jacob Epstein who is the out-
standing Jewish citizen in the State of Maryland. I was part of
that company for 10 years. I became reasonably well-to-do. Earn-
ing with that company, I became a merchant who did the largest
businessin Baltimore, Maryland. All down South. At the height
of our business in the middle 20's, we did 38 million dollars worth
of business, which was unusual because were a mail-order house.
We sold everything by mail. We subsidized and started most of
the Jewish merchants down South, through Joseph Epstein's American
Wholesale Corporation. We became famous for that.
I became equally well-known through my affiliation, because I was
director of sales promotion. I was director of public relations
for our company and I was handling three lines of merchandise, all
of which cumulated. When they sold the company in 1929 to Butler
Brothers, they sold me with the company. Butler Brother wouldn't
buy the company unless I was willing to remain in charge of it.
They would bring one of their vice presidents down, but I would
remain in charge. I stayed with that company.
Meantime, for five years, I was President of the Amity Club when
I lived in Baltimore. I became President of the Jewish Club.
Two years later I organized the Woodholme Country Club. We were
the second Jewish Country Club in Baltimore. There was one other
club, the Suburban Club, but the Suburban Club was notoriously
German-Jewish. They were the ones responsible for having another
Jewish Club, as they were responsible for my being the President of
the Amity Club. There was another Jewish club called he Phoenix
Club also German-Jewish oriented. I lay stress on that because it
wasn't until after the First World War, in the middle of the 20's
that there was a coalition through inter-marriage between the German
and Russian Jews, so that the Russian Jews received some recognition.
When I lived in Baltimore I belonged to a Reform Temple for my
wife and I belonged to a Conservative Temple for myself. Then in
1934 (my father passed away in 1928), we were five children left.
I had a deaf mute sister, two brothers and another sister. When
the company offered me an opportunity to open up a branch office
in New York, I took it, so that I could be near my brothers and
sisters because I felt they needed a little closer relationship.
I was the oldest brother. They depended on me. I felt it would be
well for me to go close to them and meet them on a more frequent
basis than I'd been with the distance between Baltimore and
New York. I did that.
In 1936, the corporations published statistics of all the officers
and the directors. When they published statistics in Butler Brothers,
I was the highest paid of all the men in the company, including the
President, the Vice President, the Secretary. I submitted my
resignation because I was the first Jewish executive in that
business since 1877. If anything would happen to the President,
who was then 71 years old (I was a young man then), my life would
be short-lived, as being the only Jewish executive. Anti-Semitism
was still very rife. We practiced it in our own company. There
were only two houses, Baltimore House and New York House, where we
took some Jewish employees. In the five branches no Jewish
employees were allowed unless they had a name that didn's sound
Jewish. That's the history.
L: Were you affected by the depression in your company?
H: We were very much affected by the depression. That was one of the
reasons why they wanted to open a New York office. We were down
South, our business suffered. We were going through a very serious
recession. When those figures were published about me, they looked
outrageously high to people who were out of work, and to other
executives in the business. So, I resigned.
My wife and I lost our only daughter in Baltimore. We lost two
children, boys who lived a couple of days each, four or five years
apart. We had no children, so I decided we'd go to Europe. I
resigned and we went to Europe. We went there in 1936. We
travelled on the Queen Mary.
When we came back I got a proposition from Charles Stores to
join that company. Now it can be told that Charles Stores was
originally organized by the Epstein family as a future investment
for their grandchildren, while they denied having any affiliation
directly with any chain stores.
When I was with American Wholesale Corporation and Butler Brothers,
I travelled all over the country making speeches against the chain
store business of the dangers that we had of their taking over the
retail distributions. Then they would put all the independents out
of business, the wholesale business would go to the devil if we
didn't modernize our independent businesses. So, we established a
method of bookkeeping, inventory andconducting their business for
independent retailers. I was in charge of that operation right in
American Wholesale. That's why I became the Sales Manager, in Sales
Production and Public Relations man for the catalogue. That was my
L: Is this the same Epstein who is now involved with the Charles Stores?
H: The same one who was the head of American Wholesale Corporation.
Jacob Epstein's business was formerly known as Baltimore Bargain
House. He changed his name in 1919 to American Wholesale Corporat-
ion. When I left Baltimore, I was given a city-wide dinner by all
the Jews (even German-Jews) because, in the interest of the community,
I was the director of the Children's Home, I was part of Associated
Jewish Charities. Through my club life, I was very active in the
community, and my position with the American Wholesale Corporation,
as being director of sales, I met all the people in the town,
Jewish and non-Jewish, and fortunately I had a reputation with the
gentiles of equal standing as with the Jews, and I was very proud
I left after twelve years in Baltimore. I left there in 1934, the
end of 1933 or '34.
L: And then the Charles Stores brought you to New York?
H: I went to New York to open an office. The Charles Stores were in
the New York office. They had all their stores down South. I
joined the company by buying out the two men who started the
original company. I joined in partnership with the Jacob Epstein
family. We each owned two parts of the family,the Lansberg
part, the Katz part and the Hornstein part. Each one of the
three of us owned a third of the business. None could sell the
business without the other's consent, so I was secure enough.
I made my money through that company. In 1950, the Lansbergs
exited from the business. In 1955, the Katz'exited from the
business. I bought them out and I owned the business by myself.
In 1960, I sold it and I retired from business. Since then, I've
been living a life of shnorring.
L: Not for yourself, for other people, for worthy causes.
H: Certainly for other people. I thought I had enough money to
live a life engaging in activities which interested me. Educational
activities, I go all the way back to that. Education. I go all the
way back to social service work. When I was 20, I was director of
clubs at the Emanuel Brotherhood.
L: Was there a tradition in your family? Did your father participate
in this way?
H: My father was known what we call in Yiddish a "Kochleffel" *, and I
inherited my "kochleffel" inclinations from my father.Unfortunately,
that's the only thing he left me of any value.
L: I think that in your case and in his I'm sure it's a "kochleffel"
that doesn't just stir things up. It does good things.
H: That's right. I use that word "kochleffel" in a sense we get into
every pot where we think we can do some good. And things of interest.
If it had an education interest, religious interest, a social
interest, communal interest. Those are the things that interested
me. I gained that from my father.
L: What was your involvement in the Greater New York United Jewish
H: I was one of the original founders of the UJA. I have the original
placque signed by William Rosenwald in 1939 as a founder of UJA.
I was one of five men.
The reason I got involved: the people used to come to my office.
Every day a woman came with a yellow pushke, a green pushke, a
blue pushke, all for Israel. Israel, Israel, help Israel. So
much that it became a nuiscance. So, I went to William Rosenwald,
Sam Leidesdorf, who was my accountant, to Sylvan Gotschal, who was
a lawyer of a big firm, Wilde, Gotschal and Mangees. I suggested
since I was in the chain store business, why don't we get all those
* Cooking spoon
agencies together and centralize them, as we did in the chain
store business, and have one unit at the head of the control.
Well, it took four or five years until we did it. They finally
did it. I really have the original placque signed by William
L: Whoe were the five men who were involved?
H: Willaim Rosenwald, Sylvan Gotschal, Sam Leidesdorf and one or
two other men, I forgot the names of the others. They stand out
in my mind.
L: So, you transferred your business skills into the world of
H: Well, I tried. The reason I went to Sam Leidesdorf is that he
was a very active accountant. The biggest one in New York. He
was the head of Federation at one time in New York. And he also
knew plenty of chain store businesses and how they operate. His
specialty was centralizing chain stores and doing no work. So,
it was natural I went to him.
Sylvan Gotschal was a lawyer for many of those kinds of people in
the chain store businesses. William Rosenwald, that ws the
Rosenwald family, they were the original founders of Sears, Roebuck
and Company and he's the same William Rosenwald that does the work
today. He came in to Palm Beach this winter. The same William
Rosenwald. He's still working for UJA. He's still giving the
family's money away. Millions, millions, millions. I've got
L: When did you become involved with New York University?
H: I became involved with New York University in 1949. I got
interested because my brother-in-law was a graduate, my brother
was a graduate, and another member of my family were graduates.
I got involved in it through the Hebrew Culture and Education
Department under Professor Abraham I. Katch. I was invited by
Judge Maximilian Moss, who is the Superintendent of Schools. He
lived in Brooklyn and he and I got involved because I represented
Manhattan and he represented Brooklyn. In the study of Jewish
education of our children from ages of 5 to 12, we got to know
each other. He was active in N.Y.U. with Professor Katch and they
invited me to come down there. I went down there, I became a
member of the group, the Hebrew Culture Foundation, and in 1953,
we got the New York University to consent to a separate charter
for the New York University Jewish Culture Foundation. We got a
charter from the Board of Regents in the State of New York.
In that same year, in 1953, I went to the president (at that time
he was called a Chancellor) Henry Hield, who later left N.Y.U.
to join the Ford Foundation. I made him a proposition. If they
will let us establish a Chair of Hebrew Culture and Education
in perpetuity, if the Board of Trustees of N.Y.U. will approve
it, I'll guarantee to collect $250,000. We had a meeting then
in 1953. I called a meeting, established that Chair and we
gave to the founders a certificate which is signed by me, by
Judge Moss, Katch and Henry Hield, as founders of that chair.
It became very popular. We had a lot of people encouraged and they
joined us. Irving Edelman, the Matts family joined us. We had
a lot of Jews in New York City who formerly didn't know New York
University. New York University was a subway college, the subway
University in New York. Unfortunately, it got a reputation
(whether it was correct or not, I don't know until this day), that
they put a quota on Jewish students, in the law school especially.
Because c that, we were anxious to get the recognition, so once
they approved it, we felt they no longer could engage in any such
actions which would be detrimental to Jewish students, Jewish
lawyers of the future or to Jewish doctors through the school of
Samuel Leidesdorf was the head of the School of Medicine fund
raising at the New York University. The Jews in New York of sub-
stance and interest, knew that New York University had the greatest
number of students of the Jewish faith. We had to do this, and
L: I may be out of order chronologically, but you participated in the
Y.M.H.A. Program in New York. You've provided a Hornstein
H: Yes. In 1966, when Professor Katch left to become the President
of Dropsie College, I suggested that we own the piececf property
right opposite Eisner Rudin Building on New York University
ground. We owned 100 feet, and I suggested that we take that to
build a Y.M.H.A. I got them interested.
We couldn't get the people that were then at the head of the
Jewish Culture Foundation to agree with the plan. We made a
study. They said that there was another "Y" in which I was
interested on 14th Street, the Emanuel 14th Street "Y". I was
an honorary trustee of that. I helped build it. I got interested
in that "Y". A couple of years later I resigned as a member of
the Board of the Jewish Culture Foundation. I continued my
activities in the "Y". I like it. I thought I was doing a good
job. I thought we could do a good job by students who came from
all parts of New York who had the benefit, the relationship with
a "Y". When they graduated and went back to their homes they used
Well, I got involved with the 14th Street "Y" and I met Irving
Brodsky who is the Executive Director of all the Y.M.H.A.'s,
Mens' and Womens', called Associated Y.M.H.A. and Y.W.H.A. He
retired this summer. He's on a consultant basis now and he's still
interested in soliciting funds for the "Y". He just called me up
three weeks ago and wanted to know if he's going to get his usual
contribution for 1982. And I'm still interested.
I established a program for handicapped children. My first
programrat the "Y" was to take care f deaf and mute children. I
was a trustee of the Lexington School of the Deaf in New York for
12 years and I was interested in the Lexington School for the Deaf.
My sister got her schooling there. She graduated, she was an
alumna. of that school. The Lexington School for the Deaf was
established by the Spanish and Portugese Synagogue for this reason.
There was another school for the deaf in New York in White Plains.
But, we didn't have one that would take care of Jewish children, for
kosher meals. 'So, they started the Lexington School for the Deaf
called the Institution for the School of the Deaf, because it was
on Lexington Avenue and 67th Street in New York City. I'm going
backward and forward.
L: Well, that's okay. What it shows is your great concern for people
and for education and you really have done this in so many cases.
H: Then I got involved with the Jewish Theological Seminary. I
became a Founder, and Overseer. I received the Eternal Light
Medal from them, and I've got that on the wall.
L: Together we have just looked at a wall of trophies that isn't on
the tape recording, and I want to see if we can mention some of
the things that you just showed me. Let's review:there is an award
from The American Jewish Committee.
H: In 1970, in Palm Beach,
L: There is an Eternal Light Medal from the Jewish Theological
Seminary in 1970, in Palm Beach.
H: A Presidential Citation from New York University in 1960.
L: Albert Einstein College of Medicine, I was still looking at the
wall and there was an award from Brandeis University.
H: The Goldfarb Medal, the Man of the Year, Brandeis University
Goldfarb Medal in 1978. Is that what it reads?
L: In 1960 New York University honored you.
H: Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1957, New York University
in 1960. Y.M.H.A., that was in 1975.
L: Also the Baltimore Country Club, the Woodholme Club, and the Palm
Beach Country Club which we'll get to later.
H: The Country Club of Baltimore. I was it's first president.
L: But, the awards to you spill over one wall. You have the whole
apartment full. We were talking about the program you established
at the "Y".
H: You see these paintings, who do you think did them?
L: I know. Benjamin Hornstein is an artist!
H: That's me, that's me, that's me (pointing to different paintings.)
L: When did you begin to paint?
H: I began to paint almost 25 years ago. I began to paint and I
continued doing that for something to keep me busy, to keep me
out of mischief.
L: Do you paint on a regular basis?
H: No, I don't paint anymore. I gave it up because the chemicals in
the paints affect my throat since I had a throat operation. I
even tried acrylic paints, and it affected me, so I have to
retire on what my accomplishments as a painter were so far. I
protected the Hornstein name, because all my paintings are signed
L: I think you should tell us about the Liberty Bell that you have with
a Jewish Star in the background.
H: That's mine. I painted that in 1976 when we had the 200th annivers-
ary, the Bicentennial. I was in my studio and I made the painting.
The lady in charge of the studio was Irish. She said to me, "Why
do you wear a Star of David?", but she didn't say why do I wear
a star all the time. So, I explained to her that it was the Star
She said, "I see some of my friends that are Jewish wearing that."
I said, "That's the same as you wear the cross. We wear the Star
So, the next morning, I went to the studio and I put the Star of
David in a bell so it is recognized that the Liberty Bell didn't
originate in Philadelphia, but from the Jews of the world.
L: And the inscription on the bell, of course, is from our Bible.
H: That's right.
L: Very beautiful and colorful paintings, I wish we could show them
on the tape. But we can't. What do you call that painting?
H: That snow scene was an original. All my painting are original. I
never copied a thing in my life. I just don't do it. Later on,
I found out that Calder got famous for making this kind of
painting. And this one I made is a Grandpa Hornstein or a
Grandpa Moses. It's got my name on it -- Van Horn, and that's what
it is. That you will see, as I saw up in the country, up in
Connecticut, where I had my place, where I lived in the winter.
L: Terrific paintings. What else are your hobbies? I know you're
on the golf course quite a bit.
H: I played golf this morning.
L: You did?
H: I've got hobbies. I like to go to synagogue every Saturday for one
reason. I enjoy the services. I enjoy the spirit, the atmosphere.
It gives me one day of peaceful rest. No nonsense, no jokes. It's
all serious and I enjoy going I really do. Even though I'm not
such a studious Talmudist, I know enough of it to interest me, and
I found our tradition has been carried on for centuries.
Every week, I listen to the portion of the Bible read. It's
another step in my education. Even though some of it is repetious,
but it seems it never goes out of style.
L: That's right. I know Sabbath is a special day for you in other
H: Don't make a Tzaddik out of me. I am interested in one thing -
Tzedakah ** I just read a whole article about Tzedakah in the
paper. Tzedakah is a way of life which I have practiced since I
have retired from business 22 years ago. That's what has kept me
busy. I haven't been in business at all. I've investments some
are good, some are bad. Like everyone else, you have good and bad.
But I go along, and I have an interest in the community endeavors.
That's why I was interested in Palm Beach Home For The Aged, also,
the school that prevailed upon me after a couple of months of
sales on the part of Irwin Levy and Alan Shulman.
I allowed them to name the Elementary School after me. Fortunately,
and unfortunately for me, I understood a job although I didn't
expect to go to work again. I've been out of work for 20 years,
and they put me to work.
L: You worked for that school even before it had your name.
H: I helped to save the school during the Yom Kippur war. I
collected the funds. They were going to go out of business. During
the Yom Kippur war they started school with 30 or 40 students, and
we weren't able to solicit any funds on account there was a fiat.
* Righteous Man
L: All the money was going for the war?
H: All the money was coming in for the UJA for the war. So, I
picked on my friends, and I went to enough of my friends. I said,
"I want $500 or $1,000. I want it in cash, no pledges and pay
now so that we can save the Day School. It's a Jewish Institut-
L: How did you get involved? Who asked you for help at that time?
H: Carol Roberts and Ann Leibovit came to see me. Carol Roberts's
husband was my doctor and friend. He's not only a good doctor,
but he's a good Jew. He is! He's written so many books! He
just wrote a book which he wasn't published yet, where he goes
after the prophet Isaiah, like Abraham Heschel from the Seminary.
He thinks so much of him. I finally got enough-money collected
to pay off our debt for that Day School and to meet the Federation's
need for $25,000, which they would give us if we matched it. And
we did. And I forgot all about the Day School.
I established a scholarship fund at the school for Carol and
Doctor Roberts at their 25th anniversary. That addressed an
on-going interest. I haven't put my name on a building anywhere,
and they prevailed upon me to do it. I refused at Brandeis, I
refused at Einstein. I'm a program man.
On May 23rd I'm going to Boston to Brandeis to celebrate the 13th
anniversary of my program. I was invited by the President.. It is
sort of like a Bar Mitzvah party of the program. I'll show the
invitation to you.
L: This is the 13th Anniversary Celebration of the Hornstein Program
in Jewish community service at Brandeis University. The cele-
bration is at Congregation Mishkan Tefilah, and on Sunday a
presentation at the Lown School at Brandeis.
Tell me about that program? The Hornstein Program? What kind of
program is it? How did you first become involved 13 years ago?
H: Thirteen years ago, 14 years ago, I was with Chancellor Abe Sacher
and he appointed me Chairman of the Board of Overseas for
Judiac Studies for Brandeis University. It's part of the
Philip Lown Institute. I handled that until I started the Hornstein
I resigned so that I could devote my time exclusively to the
Hornstein Program, the Hornstein Program for Jewish Communal
Service. I always felt there was a need for that. I'd discussed it
with Chancellor Sacher, I discussed it with Morris Abrams when he
became the President. I felt that from my experience with the
various institutions that the men who work in Federations and grow up in
Federations, as my brother did, did not have the training in the
social services or education social sciences. They knew nothing
about our tradition and culture. They got a job and stayed in a
job. They were assigned a trade, to follow a trade. Part of
their assignment was the coat and suit trade, or the dress trade,
and they worked on that in their part of the Federation. But it
didn't have men coming along succeeding them, or with them, who
would fit into our modern picture of philanthropy, of fund raising.
All they talked about was furd raising. Get money! They couldn't
explain why or who or what or when, what our history was, what
our tradition as Jews was. So, I devoted my time and my financial
support to the program. It was Professor Bernard Reisman who has
done a beautiful job and became the director a number of years ago.
He himself is interested in social service. He's got a national
He's done a wonderful job and there are several hundred alumni
men and women who have taken the two year course at Brandeis in
the Hornstein program who are committed Jews.
L: Is this a graduate program? They must first finish four years
H: That's right.
L: As part of the program there is a Jewish component and a communal
work component. They really learn the Jewish aspects that you
were concerned with.
H: Contemporary Jewish studies emphasizing another, an understanding
of contemporary Jewish identify and communal organization. Classical
Judaic studies emphasizing knowledge of the values and perspectives
of the Jewish tradition and of the Jewish historical experience.
Students in the Hornstein Program may choose one of the two
concentrations: Group Work/Community Organization, or Jewish
Education (formal and informal). During each of the two years of
the program, students also undertake supervised field work in a
Jewish organization or agency in the Greater Boston area. These
field work placements work 15 hours a week in the first year and
20 hours a week in the second year.
L: Well, it's a program that I'm sure is much needed in the American
H: And, in addition to regular courses and working in the field,
students in the Hornstein Program participate in several unique
educational experiences which provide an added dimension to their
professional and academic training.
L: I'll save the brochure to include with the tape. When did you
first come to Florida?
H: I came to Florida to reside in 1960 when I went out of business.
I lived at the Whitehall Hotel and the Biltmore Hotel and
finally wound up at the Palm Beach Towers where I now have a
L: Before the sixties did you vacation here a bit?
H: I vacationed in Florida a great deal. I travelled all over the
world. I love cruises. I made the first trip on the Queen
Mary, I made the first trip on the Queen Elizabeth II. I've
been on so manh other ships The Independence, other U.S. ships.
My wife and I loved to travel, and we were good sailors,
fortunately. We didn't get seasick, we went all over.
We went through the Panama Canal three times and back. I had an
office in San Francisco and I'd go from New York to San Francisco
and back through the Panama Canal. It was a broadening experience.
We loved it.
We went up to Canada for a month on a ship, sailed up the Saguaney
River. We loved it. We visited the Thousand Islands. You name
it, we were there. The only place I couldn't get to was the
Orient, and I regret it. Unfortunately, my wife had angina
pectoris for 15 years. The doctor would let us go there when they
had the plegue years. He was afraid of that. He said you can
travel with your wife. When it's going to happen, it's going to
happen in New York or in Hong Kong. It didn't make any difference.
So, we travelled, and enjoyed it.
Unfortunately, my wife passed away 13 years ago. The first Seder
night she got sick, the second Seder night she passed away, and
I've been living a bachelor's life. If you think that's easy
you're mistaken. Being a bachelor in Palm Beach is a job in
L: That's because your so eligible.
H: I can't lay any claims to eligibility. I go along and conduct
myself as a gentleman. That's how I was trained and that's all I
continue to do. Beyond that, I'm very happy as it is I have
some close friends and some close lady friends. It's a program
that I established 13 years ago and I'm living up to. I can't
say I didn't find some attractive women that I wouldn't have
married if I were 13 years younger.
L: Why is it so tough to be a bachelor in Palm Beach?
H: It's very tough. In the Palm Beach Country Club we have 25% of
our membership that are widows of members. And they are.treated
with the same equality at our golf course as men now. Golf play-
ing time, tennis time, every time is theirs, as it is for any
male. And it's not easy. We have dances, dinner parties. It's
a social life. The Palm Beach Country Club has been the
nucleus for the success of Brandeis, Einstein the Seminary. I can
mention all the others.
L: But your involvement is mostly in these. Tell me about the special
role for which you were honored as membership chairman.
H: I was Vice-President for three years, but I promised my late wife
that I would never take the Presidency, because of her experience
with me in Baltimore and New York. I just became part of it. I
said, "Don't worry. I won't be President." When she passed away,
I kept my word to her. I didn't become President after I was Vice-
President. I continued at the request of the President being the
Chairman of our Admissions Committee for 12 years, under five
Every year I was appointed with approval of the Board. I enjoyed
it. I feel responsible for having taken in 155 men (with my
committee not all alone). We had a very good committee working
with me. And I trained a man on the committee to succeed me. In
1978, I thought I had enough and I retired and they gave me a
gold medal with a diamond as a girf and a Testimonial commending me for
my work as chairman of the committee. I appreciate it.
I enjoy my life at the Palm Beach Country Club. It's a haven of
refuge for those who are getting older and those who become elderly.
L: Do you know anything about the founding of the Country Club?
H: Yes, I do.
L: Were you here?
H: No, I wasn't. I was a member. It was founded in 1953. In 1978,
we celebrated the 25th anniversary and I happened to have been
the author of that program, the celebration of our Silver Anni-
versary. We had a beautiful ball for members only. We have many
members in our club. I think our membership is responsible for
building the Inter-Faith Pavilion at St. Mary's Hospital. Twenty-
five of us put up $25,000 apiece payable $5,000 a year. It's
the best thing we ever did for St. Mary's. St. Mary's is the only
Medicare hospital in town. It's two miles from Century Village
where we have a big Jewish population. At least 35% of their
patient s are Jews (they'll cut a patient's hair too). It's a very
good hospital and it's worthy of the support of the whole community,
irrespective of religion.
L: Have you also participated in Good Samaritan Hospital?
H: In Good Samaritan Hospital, we have another good hospital. It's
over 50 years old. It's the first hospital in Palm Beach.
Unfortunately, they do not have the physical capacity or space to
take care of Medicare, so, they're limited. They have never been
able to take care of Medicare.
No member could join our club unless they contributed one year to
Good Samaritan and another year to St. Mary's, alternate years.
Off the record, and we don't make a record of it, I estimate that
each hospital gets $100,000 a year from our membership, through
what I used to call as Chairman of the Admissions Committee,
"an impending obligation to membership." It's not legal, but
it's one that we expect of you as a member of the community. We
expect you to support a community hospital, as we do the Community
Chest, the non-Jewish Community Chest. Nobody can join our club
until they support the two hospitals: Good Samaritan and St.
Mary's and the Community Chest which included all of the non-
Jewish charities and finally they included Camp Shalom.
L: Was the Palm Beach Country Club founded for Jews?
H: The Palm Beach Country Club was founded because there was a
limitation as to membership by other clubs. So, we organized it
and we went along and we owned the property. At the termination,
liquidation of the club, all the residue of the funds that remain
with the Palm Beach Country Club would go to charity according to
We have Jews and non-Jews as members of our club. We have some men
of distinction (I'd rather not mention their names), among the
non-Jews. We have many men of distinction in the Jewish faith
from Canada through 28 states in the Union, as members of our club,
which is an achievement in itself. To get Jews from 28 states to
live together, is a miracle!
L: Do you want to name some of these men of distinction who are here
in Palm Beach?
H: I would rather not. I figure I might leave out a name or two. I
say we have sufficient men that represent all the universities,
that represent Brandeis, that represent Einstein, that represent
the Seminary, that represent UJA. They were founders, benefactors,
who have given over millions of dollars to each one of those
L: We didn't talk about your involvement in Einstein, Albert Einstein
H: At Albert Einstein I'm a Founder. I have a student loan fund at
Albert Einstein. I'm a governor of the hospital, I've been a
Founder since 1957, which is 25 years, isn't it?
L: How did you get involved to begin with?
H: I was on winter vacation in Palm Beach, living at the Biltmore
Hotel in 1957, when a-man, who is an eminent benefactor of Einstein,
and I'll name him, Irwin Chanin, an international Jew. I lived
in the same building with him in New York. My family and his
family belonged to the same golf club. We were good friends.
On day while sitting around the pool he says, "Why don't you
get interested in Einstein?"
I said, "I can't. I'm involved in the Jewish movement at New
York University Jewish Culture Foundation." I think at that
time I was president of the Jewish Culture Foundation at the
New York University.
"We got a medical school, you got a law school, we're not
interfering. One is strictly Jewish communal work. We're
medical. We want to build this school where we need room for
Jewish students who want to enter the medical profession. Too
many universities and colleges have a quota system affecting
Jewish students." That was Irwin Chanin's argument to me. That
I went home and I met with him and the first Chairman of the Board
of Einstein, Attorney General Nathaniel Goldstein. He met me and
Irwin Chanin for lunch and I agreed to become a Founder, when I
returned to New York from Palm Beach. That's my original connect-
ion with Einstein.
After a few years at Einstein I had offers to name buildings
after me and I wasn't interested. I was interested in a program,
the Student Aid Program. I contributed to fellowships and scholar-
ships for student aids. That was my growing interest in Einstein.
I've been co-chairman, I've attended every dinner in Palm Beach.
I worked as hard for it as I did for Brandeis.
The two schools are universities of merit. Brandeis, a university
in liberal arts and Einstein, a university or college of medicine.
They don't compete.
All the Jews who are interested in communal endeavors give to both.
Some give more. The Bostonians give more to Brandeis, the New
Yorkers give more to Einstein, but they give to both. That's why
both are so successful.
L: I saw a picture on your wall of when you were inducted into the
Society of Honorary Fellows of The Jewish Theological Seminary
and you stand with Professor Louis Finkelstein and Chancellor
Gerson Cohen. You were wearing beautiful red robes. When did you
first become involved with the Jewish Theological Seminary?
H: I became involved in the Jewish Theological Seminary in the late
1960's. I've always been an Overseer and a contributor and I got
the nomination to become an Honorary Fellow. When they had it
at that time, there were 35 honorary fellows in America. It was a
privilege to become one of them.
They had the event in Miami Beach, in Rabbi Lehrman's synagogue.
I was hooded there androbed by Rabbi Asher Bar-Zev, who was the
Rabbi of Temple Beth El at that time. It was a distinction for
me, to not only become an Honorary Fellow, but to have the rabbi
of my Temple Beth El robe me and hood me and it was a great
privilege. He also drove me down.
L: It was a privilege for him! But when did you first become involved
in the Seminary as an institution worthy of support?
H: Well, I became a Founder. In order to become a founder in the
Seminary you had to contribute $100,000.
L: But somebody comes to you and says this is something you should be
H: Rabbi Bernard Mandelbaum was then the President of the Seminary,
and Rabbi Louis Findelstein wasthe Chancellor. I became very
friendly with Rabbi Mandelbaum who used to come down to Palm Beach
to do all his solicitations. For 28 years he was a Professor of
Theology and then the President of the Seminary. He was a great
solicitor. He hadthe ability to get money out of a stone. When he
retired, he decided to become an honorary president and retired
after that. I became a Founder and I am still involved with him
in The Synagogue Council of America. I think he's a good citizen.
He's a good friend of Judaism and he practices Judaism in an
orthodox traditional manner. He's head of the Synagogue Council and
he's done a noble job for them. He now represents at the Synagogue
Council, the Refor, the Conservative and the Orthodox Jews.
That's a combination that he's involved in as the head in New York
Mandelbaum is responsible for many, many friends of the Seminary.
He did a beautiful job while he was associated with the Seminary.
He and Gerson Cohen are good friends. They used to be class
mates together. They are good friends even though one succeeded
the other. And the Seminary itself is making great progress.
It's building a new library and it's doing good work.
Another man who has been a part of that is Rabbi Joel Geffen of the
Seminary, who is responsible for Palm Beach development. He's
done a beautiful job. We became good friends and I love him and
his wife, Sylvia. I respect him because he's not only a Rabbi,
he's the son of a rabbi. He's extremely modern and yet everybody
L: That's right. They do.
Another of the tributes on your wall is from the American Jewish
H: I've always been interested in the American Jewish Committee. I
joined the first chapter of the American Jewish Committee in
Baltimore when Jacob Blaustein did the work for it. When I moved
to New York I was part of the New York Chapter, and I was one of the
men in Palm Beach who organized the chapter in Palm Beach.
Nathan Appleman, Sylvan Cole, Lester Mendell and I were the
organizers of the Palm Beach Chapter of the American Jewish
Committee. In 1970,.1 was the guest of honor for the annual
event of the American Jewish Committee because Nathan Appleman, who
was always the chairman and a very good friend of the American
Jewish Committee and devoted citizen of Palm Beach, gave us his
home for it.
He wanted.me to be the guest of honor at his home for the first
event when he moved into his new home. At that time, we had the
greatest amount of money collected for the American Jewish Committee.
Since then we've had many others. They have all been successful.
The Anti-Defamation League has carved a big notch for itself in
Palm Beach under the influence of Robert Cummings. And he's done
a beautiful job. My friend from New York, Ted Silbert, comes down
here. He's a co-chairman and he does a fine job. So, Jewish
communal endeavors know no geography. They are good Jews where
ever they reside. If they're what the residents call "snow-birds",
even the snow-birds are just as good Jews in Palm Beach as they
are in New York or Boston or wherever they come from. That's in
the Jewish tradition.
L: We're almost up to 1982. I think one of your most recent charities
is the new Home For The Aged that we are putting up.
H: Well, I was interested in the Home For The Aged, which started last
year in 1981 and we conducted a drive. We were successful, we
selected fortunately two good men. Nathan Appleman is an
honorary chairman and Erwin Blonder as the president.
Erwin Blonder is a Clevelander who is president for the Home For
The Aged in Cleveland. He is a citizen of Palm Beach and he was very
much interested. He.got all of those good citizens of Palm Beach
interested like Irwin Levy, Alan Shulman, Nathan Appleman, and
The Home For the Aged is going to have 120 beds. Fortunately
(believe it or not), we had pledges of over 6 million dollars, which
is a tremendous achievement for the Palm Beach Jewish community.
I was pleased to become part of it. I contributed.
They've got something in the house that's going to be named after
me, but that's incidental.
I'm more pleased that in 1982 the Jewish Community Day School,
the Hornstein Elementary School is going to move in June and in
September we're going to have 180 students. We are accredited by
the State of Florida as being the only Jewish Community Day School
in all of Florida. We even have an accreditation from the Board
of Education. We have a good Board of Directors and we're going
to open up. We've got seven acres. We're aging to have an
We've got supporters (I don't want to mention names of the
supporters), there are too many supporters. I don't want to
mention any particular names. Oh, yes, I will mention one, I'll
mention Bette Wolfson Schapiro. She contributed the athletic field,
which is the largest amount contributed by any individual contributor
outside of'Irwin Levy. He contributed $100,000 to organize the
school. Bette Schapiro's son contributed $10,000 more and her other
son is going to contribute, so I emphasize, the Schapiro family,
because they had the same experience in a Day School which they
organized in Westchester, in Larchmont, the Westchester Community
Day School. Bette Schapiro is interested. Her brother, SirIsaac
Wolfson, gave us a $25,000 scholarship fund for the Day School
Addition. So, we've got the Hornstein family, and other families
all involved, and I'm very pleased to say that I can see a picture,
a place for the future of Palm Beach children, Jewish children to be
good Americans to be good Jews by maintaining our tradition.
I think I've said enough.
L: Just ell me what your middle initial "S" stands for.
H: My name is Sinclair and that came from my mother's side.