Sunday, June 30, 2024

A Hasty Decision or Realistic Assessment?

Did I overreact to Joe Biden’s pathetic performance during Thursday’s debate with Donald Trump by calling on him to end his bid for reelection?

Did I hastily pull the plug on a campaign after one terrible night without giving it time to resuscitate? Was I too quick to decide, not relying on America’s capacity for sympathy and support for truth and compassion over bluster and lies? 

Post-debate depression keeping me awake, I wrote my blog around 2 am Friday. I posted it about 10 am, hours before The New York Times published the same conclusion. 

So, was my ejection premature? 

I don’t think so, even after Joe pumped up for a campaign stop in North Carolina on Friday. Keep in mind, it’s one thing to read with gusto from a teleprompter at a rally; it’s another to broadcast incapacity while the whole nation and world are watching. Timing in life, it has been said, is everything. Biden’s time to shine was Thursday night. He missed the spotlight. 

A second debate is scheduled for September 10. But there is no guarantee Biden will get a chance to right his mulligan. Trump would be foolish to attend a second debate. He has lots to lose, little to gain. 

From the first debate Trump media spots will use clips ad nauseum of a befuddled Biden. 

Biden, meanwhile, will need to rely on videos to accomplish what he couldn’t, what he didn’t, in real time. He never sufficiently corrected the lies and exaggerations Trump was making. Biden’s advertising must now air Trump’s bragging about his accomplishments with a stamp of “Liar. Liar. Pants on Fire” across Trump’s picture, with the true facts printed beneath it. 

Rallies with teleprompter speeches won’t be enough. Biden needs to press the flesh as much as possible. Needs to do town halls. Needs to connect with voters one on one, in ice cream shops, in supermarkets, in automobile plants. 

One million. 

That’s the estimated number of undecided voters in six key battleground states who will determine the next president and the direction of the country for the next four years and possibly beyond. 

I doubt any reasonable Biden supporter viewing the debate switched allegiance. 

The unknown fallout from the debate is how many of those one million will give Biden another chance. 

Biden would not be the first politician or public figure to stay beyond their capacity to perform exceptionally without marring their legacy. Think Ruth Bader Ginsburg clinging to a Supreme Court seat President Obama could have filled. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s last months in office and his attendance at the Yalta conference with Churchill and Stalin. Willie Mays as a NY Met stumbling on the grass of Shea Stadium. 

Central to the argument to keep Biden atop the Democratic ticket is the complexity of replacing him. Read Robert Reich’s analysis ( ). Reich is a former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. 

Democrats face a Sophie’s Choice. Neither option guarantees victory. Nor defeat. Perhaps Reich is right in suggesting a 10-day cooling off period to reassess the situation. 

A week ago The Times profiled three men who are “at the core of Biden’s brain trust”—Ron Klain, Ted Kaufman and Mike Donilon (  

How will they, and Jill Biden, counsel the president, for it is Biden himself who must decide? Are his three confidantes and wife ready to give up their access to the ultimate seat of power? Is Biden?

Friday, June 28, 2024

An Open Letter to Jill Biden

 (Written with extreme anguish)  


For the sake of the country, for the sake of your husband’s legacy, please, please prevail upon Joe Biden to abandon his campaign to seek a second term as president of the United States. 

Thursday night’s debate was a debacle. From the moment he stepped onto the stage appearing ghostly, wane and fragile Joe was unable to counterpunch the tanned, motor-mouthed Donald Trump. He tried to refute Trump’s exaggerations and outright lies but was stymied by poor preparation, difficulty controlling his stutter, and a failure to aggressively attack his opponent. 

Trump took advantage. Repeatedly he ignored moderator questions on topics including child care support, climate mitigation and acceptance of election results to simply pummel your husband’s record. Joe never pointed out Trump evaded because he has no plans. He never compared Trump’s ineffective “infrastructure week” bluster with his own deservedly effective infrastructure legislation. 

From the opening question Joe seemed to confirm Special counsel Robert Hur’s assessment of him as an “elderly man with a poor memory.” Biden provided no visible assurances he would be able to perform presidential duties for the next four years. 

It may be too late to change horses in this race. But for Democrats to have any chance to stave off a second Trump term decisive immediate action must be taken. That can only happen if you, Jill, talk him down from the narrow ledge on which he and the nation precariously stand. Don’t worry about who should run in his stead. There are abundant possibilities—Kamala, Amy, Gavin, Corey, Phil, Jay, Pete. Let the Democratic Party National Convention in August decide. The old fashioned way. 

I never accepted comparisons to Ruth Bader Ginsburg overstaying her time on the Supreme Court. Until what I saw Thursday night. 

Perhaps in private Joe can command a discussion and formulate legislation, executive orders and foreign affairs. But the presidency requires and demands a public persona he can no longer convey.  

Do the merciful, patriotic thing, Jill. Convince Joe not to run anymore. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Delivering Food to the Greatest Generation

I figure that since 2010 I have made more than 1,600 deliveries of weekly kosher meals to elderly residents of Yonkers, Scarsdale, Mount Vernon, White Plains and Hartsdale through a senior food program run by Westchester Jewish Community Services. Today I made my last deliveries. (Grant and government funding for the program ran out several years ago. WJCS could no longer afford to continue carrying the service.)

Several months after retiring in mid-2009 I read a short announcement in our temple’s weekly bulletin advising WJCS was seeking drivers to deliver frozen and fresh food to county residents who by and large were homebound. They didn’t have to be Jewish to qualify, though most were.

With few exceptions my clients were widowed women. About 40% lived in the single family houses they had shared with their husbands, in which they had raised their children. The remainder resided in apartments, for decades as well. Perhaps 20% were bedridden, tended to by aides, usually Caribbean immigrants.

I was a few months shy of 61 when I started. I’m 75 now, younger than almost all of the seniors I served over the years. Only recently did someone younger than I become part of my delivery rounds. It was not unusual to lose a client, to entry into a senior housing facility, a move closer to a child, or their passing. I rarely had a chance to say goodbye. Their absence on my distribution list was the only clue to their disappearance from my route. 

Part of the food delivery program enabled me to engage with the seniors, at least the ones that wanted to converse. Despite leg and vision issues that inhibited her mobility, Sally craved her independence, refusing her son’s entreaties to move from her apartment into a senior facility. He was an eye doctor. With her vision increasingly narrowing, he finally prevailed. 

Unlike most of the women, Rita never permitted me entry into her Tudor-style home. She’d meet me at the door to carry the two bags no matter how heavy they were. She was feisty, full of energy. She only agreed to relocate after a friend convinced her to join her in a senior living complex.

Living across the street from her son, 92-year-old Sarah would say she had lived long enough. Covid travel restrictions ended our weekly chats. 

Most of the women were part of the Greatest Generation, contributing to the World War II war effort when they were barely out of their teenage years.

Gertrude was 19 when she listened to radio reports of the Pearl Harbor bombings. A high school graduate who eventually became a full charge bookkeeper, she hadn’t been able to secure a job before the war, but some time thereafter obtained one at the Wright Aeronautical plant in Woodridge, NJ. 

Each morning another worker would pick her up at her home in Inwood in upper Manhattan. They’d drive across the George Washington Bridge to work. Because of her mathematical bent she was chosen to be a precision inspector for assembled impeller shafts, a critical part of the engine of B-29 Superfortress bombers.

After several B-29s crashed, the cause was determined to be faulty impeller shafts. Assembly of the plane engines halted until re-inspection of all impeller shafts could be conducted. As each impeller shaft bore the mark of the inspector who processed it, it was not difficult to pinpoint who had approved faulty production. 

Over the loudspeaker of the plant, Gertrude was summoned to the manager’s office high above the assembly plant. While she climbed the metal steps to his office, co-workers whispered she was the guilty inspector. Not a comfortable moment for a young woman not yet 20. Gertrude was told that of all the impeller shafts re-inspected, hers alone were perfect. Henceforth, only she would inspect impeller shafts. The other precision inspectors would be reassigned. She would work six days a week. When she wasn’t there, production would stop.

It was that way for about 18 months, until the Japanese surrendered. That day, Gertrude recalled, Wright Aeronautical announced that the 17,000 employees who had worked three shifts at the Woodridge plant need not come back anymore. Their jobs, the nation’s job of defeating Japan, and before that Germany and Italy, had ended. 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Francesco's Is a Part My NY Rangers' History

 One of my almost weekly rituals during the first decade and a half of the 21st century was going to Francesco’s Restaurant in White Plains after Wednesday night indoor tennis season with three of my friends. A local institution  for about half a century, Francesco’s was the type of neighborhood bar and restaurant inhabited by locals in fictional and nonfictional settings. The Italian food and pizza was not fancy. It was just good. Really good. 

Francesco’s will close at the end of the month. Its namesake owner and cook is 80. His children who worked in the establishment will not keep it open. 

I wouldn’t say I was a Francesco’s regular. After I stopped playing tennis about eight years ago I probably ate there no more than half a dozen times. 

But Francesco’s always will retain a special place in my  heart and memory. Not for the food or the camaraderie with friends.  

Rather, it was for an unplanned event during the summer of 1994 as I was driving home past Francesco’s on Mamaroneck Avenue. Back then Francesco’s enjoyed a clientele that included several players and staff of the New York Rangers. 

Spring 1994 was a magical time for the Rangers. A drought of 40 years since the team’s last Stanley Cup championship ended with a nail-biting seventh game 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. 

Captain Mark Messier hoisted the cup above his head as he skated around Madison Square Garden, the first of many Rangers to share that honor. 

But the hockey tradition of sharing the cup does not end on the ice. It is customary that each player and key organization member has the privilege of caring for the silver cup for a day, a privilege that permits them to take the symbol of excellence wherever and to whomever they choose. 

On that sunny spring afternoon, an assistant trainer for the Rangers brought the cup to his regular watering hole—Francesco’s.  

I was not inside Francesco’s that afternoon. But as I was about to drive by I spotted a young man trying to stuff a 37-pound, three-foot round piece of silver into the back seat of his sedan. I immediately recognized what I was witnessing. I slammed on the brakes, double parked and raced over to touch the cup. 

I was not alone. From next door to Francesco’s women wearing protective smocks with curlers in their hair scurried out of a beauty parlor to get their hands on the trophy. 

It was an exhilarating moment. 

A few years later I had a more sedate encounter with Lord Stanley’s memento. The National Hockey League sponsored a public viewing of the cup in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall. 

I was awed by its stature but nowhere near as thrilled as I had been that magical moment 30 years ago.  

Tonight, the Stanley Cup will be raised overhead once more. The deciding seventh game between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers will be played in Sunrise, Fla. The Oilers last won the Stanley Cup in 1990. The Panthers have never won the league title since the team joined the NHL in the 1993-94 season. 

Memories of a lifetime will be made tonight. 

Friday, June 21, 2024

Deja Vu June 21-22 : Surviving 1972's Agnes

I’m alive today because my future bride refused to spend the night in a basement motel room. 

In this time of extreme weather—forecasts for today and tomorrow call for frequent downpours that “will be severe, may hit suddenly and could trigger flash flooding”—it is calming, even reassuring, to reflect on a past encounter with the strength of Mother Nature. Fifty-two years ago to this very day, Gilda and I endured on again, off again torrential rain, the leading edge of Hurricane Agnes which turned into what at the time was considered to have caused the worst flooding in U.S. history.

While scouring Mid-Atlantic states for a reporter’s job in 1972, Gilda joined me June 21 for Pennsylvania stops at newspapers in Pottstown, Pottsville and what I had planned for Harrisburg. 

Riding in and out of drenching downpours so thick that sometimes we had to park the car under an overpass as we couldn’t see out the windshield, only to be followed by sunny skies, we plied on, heading towards Harrisburg. 

The overwhelming aroma of chocolate presaged our arrival in Hershey in late afternoon. At the Hershey Inn the price of a room was way too high for a not yet employed reporter. Everywhere else we looked, however, had no vacancies. 

We were about to swallow our pride and budget and go back to the Hershey Inn when we came across a motel built like an old Victorian home. It had a room, in the basement, down a steep driveway. Though she was currently renting a street level apartment in Brooklyn, Gilda had no desire to spend the night underground, so we pushed on, fortuitously discovering the newly opened Milton Motel sitting on a slight bluff less than half a mile away. We took a room, ate dinner at a nearby restaurant, went to bed and slept right through as Hurricane Agnes devastated Eastern Pennsylvania in the early morning hours of June 22, 1972.

On both sides of the Milton Motel roads were impassable beyond half a mile, we discovered. They remained that way for more than a day. We weren’t too inconvenienced. As the motel still had power, we watched some TV. We played cards. And we had our choice of restaurants, a fast food hamburger joint to the right of the motel, a fried chicken place to the left. 

Only one thing kept us from fully enjoying the experience. Within our arc of comfort lay the Victorian-style motel, now submerged in water up to the second floor! Not being a swimmer, I shuttered to think what I would have done if water had gushed into our basement room.

“Agnes was the costliest hurricane to hit the United States at the time, causing an estimated $2.1 billion in damage and killing 128 people across eight states. The name Agnes was retired in 1973 due to the storm's significant effects,” media reported. 

I consider myself and Gilda fortunate not to have been among the casualties. 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Father's Day Reflections on a Private Man

 My father was a self-made man. A successful businessman on two continents. A community leader. A private man. 

My siblings and I can fill in lots of Kopel Forseter’s history for those first three attributes. But too much of his personal history from the first 28 years of his life in Europe remains cloaked in his privacy. 

What we know of his youth until age 16 in his birth town of Ottynia, a shtetl in Galicia in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, is sketchy. Depending on the consequences of war, Ottynia changed hands. When he was born in 1911 or 1912 (records of his birth year are obscure), Kopel Fuersetzer entered the Austro-Hungarian empire. After World War I, the Ukrainian National Republic and subsequently Poland acquired Ottynia. At the outbreak of World War II, the Soviet Union seized the town, only to be supplanted by Nazi Germany in 1941. After the Soviets regained control by war’s end, Ottynia became part of present day Ukraine. 

Before 1939, the Dniester River town of Ottynia counted some 1,000 Jews among its 4,000 inhabitants. Few remained alive after the war. Of Kopel’s immediate family, only a younger brother, Willy, survived. 

(Circa 1936, l to r, Kopel, mother Lina, brother Max, father Moses, brother Willy)

We assume Kopel grew up in a middle class household. His father, Moses, after whom I am named, sold livestock. Kopel often said he received just a sixth grade education in Ottynia, often slogging the apocryphal uphill path (both ways!) to school and back. Yet, he had an agile mind, excelled in math and history, and, had he been born here, could have become a successful lawyer. 

My brother, sister and I know little about his life in Ottynia, about relations between Jews and gentiles, about family holiday traditions. He never talked about such matters, even when Bernie and I interviewed him and Willy when they were in their 70’s. 

Kopel left Ottynia when he was 16. From southeastern Poland he went northwest, to Danzig (now Gdansk) on the Baltic Sea. He became a traveling salesman at various times selling dry goods and stationery on the installment plan to keep him in constant contact with customers. 

He related few details about his 12 years in Danzig, his address, about how he and his friends socialized, how he met Dora, his first love who emigrated to Australia with her parents when he went to America in early 1939, descriptions of his voyage that entailed disembarking near London and traveling to Liverpool to board a ship to New York, and, most tellingly, nothing about antisemitism in the so-called Free City of Danzig which from 1933 on was governed by Nazis. As related by Wikipedia, “In 1938 … an official policy of repression against Jews; Jewish businesses were seized and handed over to Gentile Danzigers, Jews were forbidden to attend theaters, cinemas, public baths and swimming pools, or stay in hotels within the city, and, with the approval of the city’s senate, barred from the medical, legal and notary professions.”

Kopel left Danzig barely two months after the city experienced its version of Kristallnacht on November 12-14, 1938.  

Kopel never expressed any interest in returning to Danzig or Ottynia, nor was he interested in applying for reparations. 

His reticence to talk about life in Ottynia and Danzig was paradoxical considering he was a great story-teller, captivating business associates and family with life-lessons culled from his Old World experiences. Among the only stories I recall is his years’-long disdain while in Danzig for potatoes, given that spuds were often the only food his mother served during winter. It was only after a waitress in Danzig implored him to try the house specialty potatoes that he resumed their consumption. Meat, chicken, or fish with potatoes. With bread. That was his diet. No vegetables.

I inhabit many of his traits, some good, some not so. I snore loudly. I dream a lot. I love watching Westerns. I don’t like it when people tell me what to do. I like to be in charge. Like my father, I enjoyed minimal staff turnover.

Like members of the Greatest Generation who kept silent about their military service during World War II (Kopel served for eight months in the army before receiving a medical discharge in August 1943), my father kept to himself so many details of the life his children would have loved to know. 

Father’s Day is just not as complete as I, we, would have liked.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Musings on Cheesecake, Wedding Attire, AI Broadcasts

Shavuot, the Jewish festival celebrated seven weeks plus one day following Passover, the traditional time God is said to have presented the Ten Commandments and Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai, began Tuesday night. It’s been customary, at least among Ashkenazi Jews, to commemorate the holiday by eating dairy products, most pleasurably, cheesecake.

As to why, I refer you to an article in The Forward ( 

If you’ve opened the link you might have noticed the headline referred to “how to make a killer cheesecake.” 

 “Killer cheesecake?” I wonder, was it merely referring to how tasty a recipe for cheesecake was, or did it allude to the deadly-artery-clogging implications of eating too much cheesecake? 

Just kidding, of course, but I wonder if the headline writer was aware of the double entendre? 

Cool Wedding Dressing: Apparently, suggesting— strongly suggesting—to guests what they should wear to one’s wedding is a trend of increasing intensity, as evidenced by this New York Times article (

Gilda’s comment when she forwarded the article to me was, “Some people need to get a life!” No argument there, but I must acknowledge that the wedding of our son Dan to Allison half a month shy of 18 years ago, was an early harbinger of nuptial styling.

For their July 2 wedding on the outdoor grounds of Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, NY, Dan and Allison ordained that suits, sports jackets and especially ties were more than optional—they were to be left home. Anyone daring to wear a tie might go home with it shorn in two. Even Allison’s dad and I walked down the aisle sans cravat.

Perhaps the most jubilant attendees during the wedding which took place in 95 degrees temperature and near 95% humidity, were the catering staff. Their uniform that day was dark pants and a black T-shirt. 

Artificial Intelligence? I think my cable company (Optimum, in case you’re wondering) is transmitting AI broadcasts. That’s my explanation as to why the voice often does not sync up with the lips on too many shows I watch, especially newscasts.