On a mid-November day in 1965, while opening his mail, David Horowitz was surprised to receive a letter from none other than Fannie Hurst. The famous American novelist was on the mailing list to receive regular issues of the United Israel Bulletins, and recently Horowitz had sent her a copy of his autobiography “Thirty-Three Candles.”
Fannie Hurst was among the most popular and sought-after writers of the post World War I era. She was a contributor to the Saturday Evening Post, the Century magazine, and Cosmopolitan magazine and was featured in annual editions of The Best American Short Story. Her novels and stories were translated into a dozen languages and over thirty of her works were made into movies. Among the best known were Back Street (1932, 1941, 1961), Imitation of Life (1934, 1959), and Humoresque (1920, 1946).
In her handwritten letter to David dated November 13, 1965, Hurst wrote:
“My dear Mr. Horowitz,
I read your compelling book with interest and amazement. An astonishing document! By some alchemy your incredible story carries credibility. It almost seems to me that your mind and spirit were subconsciously prepared for this experience before it happened to you.
Thank you for the inscribed copy of the book and for subsequent material relating to your work.
The original handwritten copy of the letter is preserved in the historic archives of United Israel World Union at our Executive offices in Charlotte, North Carolina.
As 1966 dawned, David Horowitz received quite an honor. It was announced that he had been elected President of the Foreign Press Association of New York whose membership consists of reporters representing nearly every country in the world. A correspondent for more than 35 years, Horowitz had served as General Secretary for 3 years and was presently serving as Senior Vice-President.
Also at the beginning of the New Year, the number of U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam totaled 184,314. The United States was entering its 11th year in the seemingly endless conflict.
In March, the President and officers of United Israel World Union announced a new Vice President. Edward S. Abrahams was elected a new officer in the organization. The outstanding humanitarian and champion of the Torah faith had been an active co-worker on behalf of UIWU’s universal aims and purposes. “Eddie” Abrahams amazing story was featured in the previous episode of our series.
The World Union for the Propagation of Judaism, established in 1955 and based in Tel Aviv, Israel held a special reception on April 27th at the Deborah Hotel to welcome David Horowitz and the new Vice President of UIWU, Eddie Abrahams. It was David’s eighth visit to the Holy Land. It was Mr. Abrahams first visit since Israel’s statehood.
Among the highlights of the trip were various meetings to honor Eddie Abrahams and his renowned work as the donor of rare Indian Torahs to worthwhile congregations, David’s reunion with the Eliezer Tritto family in Safad, and revisiting the famous Cave of the Seventy Sanhedrin. David first visited the Sanhedrin Cave as a young pioneer in 1927. His experience there inspired him to write the book, “Thirty-Three Candles.”
The situation in the Middle East was beginning to heat up. As if there would be another way to ever describe it.
The PLO, the Arab League’s new weapon in its war against Israel, had stepped up both its belligerent rhetoric and attacks. Most of the attacks involved Palestinian guerrillas infiltrating Israel from Jordan, the Gaza Strip, and Lebanon. The orders and logistical support for the attacks were coming, however, from Cairo and Damascus.
The Syrian army used the Golan Heights, which tower 3,000 feet above the Galilee, to shell Israeli farms and villages forcing families living on kibbutzim in the Huleh valley to sleep in bomb shelters.
Israel repeatedly and unsuccessfully protested the Syrian bombardments to the United Nations Mixed Armistice Commission, which was charged with policing the cease-fire. Nothing was done to stop Syria’s aggression. Meanwhile, the UN condemned Israel when it retaliated.
In August 1966, David Horowitz arranged to have Hollywood actress, Joan Crawford attend a cocktail reception for members of the Foreign Press Association. David, realizing that Ms. Crawford, whom he had met before, would be in New York during that time, extended the invitation and she accepted.
Later, on August 22, David received a warm and thoughtful letter from Ms. Crawford expressing her gratitude to him and his colleagues for honoring her at the reception. She thanked David for giving her such a fine introduction. In closing, she also thanked him for presenting her with a copy of his book, Thirty-Three Candles “so beautifully autographed to me” while also adding a P.S., “Thank you too for the beautiful roses.” David seemed always to remember the thoughtful details.
David and Ms. Crawford continued their correspondence between the period of August 22, 1966 and August 6, 1967, exchanging a total of six letters. A couple of the letters from Ms. Crawford were sent from London while on filming location.
Joan Crawford was an American film and television actress who epitomized the glamor of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She was top-billed during most of her long movie career and won an Oscar for the movie “Mildred Pierce” in 1945. Most will remember her however, for her performance in the two movies “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962) and “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” (1964), both in which she co-starred with Bette Davis.
The Crawford letters also reside in the United Israel World Union historic archives.
An interesting little side story emerged from an unlikely source about an event that took place in November of 1966.
As President of the Foreign Press Association, David Horowitz, along with a group of his colleagues, visited General Electric’s Space and Technology Center in Valley Forge, Pa. It was the largest plant in the world manufacturing America’s spacecraft and satellites including ”Nimbus II” just placed in orbit.
The group discovered the amazing fact that for over a year the vital scientific Center had been using the Hebrew word “chay,” in Hebrew print, as its main working slogan for “Zero Defects” in its errorless production of spacecraft.
All throughout the plant, in the corridors and over the doors, the word “chay” in Hebrew print was prominently displayed on signs and posters. The scientists themselves, including the thousands of personnel, were wearing their security badges fastened to their coats with metal pins containing this two-letter Hebrew word “chay” (חי)
During a scientific briefing before the group, Mr. J. C. Hoffman, Manager of Product Information, explained why the company had adopted specifically this Hebrew word above any other symbol. He related that at a meeting of officers and scientists many proposals had been put forth, but that the term “chay” had appealed most because it represented “the world’s oldest language” and it signified “life.” It was felt that it best expressed the company’s aims of creating spacecraft to have long-life.
Following this explanation, Mr. Hoffman officially presented one of the “chay” pins to Mr. Horowitz and each of the Foreign Press colleagues in the group.
By the end of the year 1966, the number of American troops stationed in Vietnam had swelled to 389,000. More than 6,000 Americans were killed and 30,000 wounded in 1966 alone.
The situation in the Middle East seemed to grow worse with each passing day.
The number of PLO attacks conducted against Israel in 1966 totaled 41. The targets were almost always civilians.
In an interesting development, King Hussein of Jordan also viewed the PLO as both a direct and indirect threat to his power. Hussein feared that the PLO might try to depose him with Abdul Nasser’s (Egypt) help. By the beginning of 1967, Hussein had closed the PLO’s offices in Jerusalem, arrested many of the group’s members, and withdrew recognition of the organization. Nasser and his friends in the region unleashed a torrent of criticism on King Hussein for betraying the Arab cause.
1967 would bring a new year and a dramatic event that would alter the political, strategic, and psychological landscape of the Middle East.
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 twentieth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.