mr_jp50.jpg (53993 bytes)

Mr. Bornstein, watercolor,


COMMENTARY

Conversations with Mr. Bornstein, from the Journals, Boston, MA, 1984-1987

    My second day in Boston and I called Mr. Bornstein whom I haven't seen in five years.   We agreed to meet in the lobby of  his condominium on Beacon St.  Now 83 and almost totally blind, Mr. Bornstein emerged from the elevator of his condominium into the lobby and groped f or a seat.   Though 90% blind, he insisted that the next time I visit him I bring some of my paintings to show him.   We sat cheek-to-jowl for two hours in heavy plush chairs enjoying each other's company.    Mr. Brown sat at my feet.

     "Well," I said, "I have been to the Lahey Clinic and I have had an EKG and X-rays and I am not dying of lung cancer  as I thought.  They told me only to double the dosage of my heart condition pill."

     "I am 83 and I'm still here and three years ago I had cancer of the colon.  They took out twelve inches of my colon," he commented pointing to his stomach.

     "And what were the symptoms?"

     "Diarrhea-- and for almost two years.  Now the Hebrew University in Jerusalem wants me to give a lecture on Jewish art, but I have decided that no such phenomenon exists.  There are Jewish artists who may or may not paint Jewish subjects.  But there is no Jewish art.  Rembrandt was more of a Jewish artist than Chagall-- and immeasurably better.  Chagall's greatness lies in his faculty as an illustrator of books.  As a painter, especially as a Jewish painter, he is pure affectation."

     "But the famous painting of the rabbi with tephilim, the painting of the Jewish Cemetery in Zurich....."

     "Pure affectation.  Look, I once visited Chagall."

     "When was this?"

     "About twenty years ago.  The publisher in Paris with whom I was then associated gave me an introduction to Chagall's house near Notre Dame."

     "And what did you think  of Chagall?"

     "Chagall-- such vanity!  And how inhospitable he was!  For two hours we conversed in Yiddish and in French.  Yiddish Chagall did not speak as well as I.  French he spoke impeccably but with a Yiddish accent.   We were in a bare studio and there was a box of candies on a table but not once for two hours did Chagall offer me or my wife anything to eat or drink.   I was trying to interest him in illustrating a Haggadah.   Had I put $200,000 on the table, he might have shown some interest.   But at that time I was in no financial position to make such an offer."

     "But tell me more about his vanity.   I mean what did he say'?"

     "I will tell you a story about Chagall told to me in confidence by Andre Malraux.   For years, though he was worth a fortune, Chagall never paid taxes to the French Government which had kept careful records of his exhibitions abroad and of his imports and exports.   But the French Government is not like the American Government.  The French Government was not prepared to throw Chagall into prison-- and he owed millions. Finally when the matter reached the French Cabinet DeGaulle turned to Malraux and asked him as a favor to visit Chagall in Vence, to feel him out about the taxes, not to give Chagall ultimatums but merely to broach the subject of the taxes.   Malraux arrived in Vence to find Chagall busy at work on his Bible paintings. Diplomatically Malraux raised the question of the taxes.    Chagall exploded and claimed he was penniless. Malraux then replied, 'Look, we know how many paintings you sent last year to Stockholm and Zurich and New York and how many came back.  I'll tell you what.   If you were to donate these Bible paintings to the nation, France would be prepared not only to forget about the taxes but to build a special museum  for the paintings.'  This is how the Chagall Museum came to be built."

     "You obviously have it in for Chagall."

     "There is a story that circulates in Israel about Chagall.  Chagall had been invited on what was virtually a state visit.  He was wined and dined like a head of state.  In Israel there exists no Chagall collection.   True, there is the Chagall Tapestry in the Knesset.  There are the famous windows in the Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem.  Here and there are to be found a few paintings.  So everyone including Mrs. Chagall thought Chagall should give a gift.   At the end of the visit at a banquet Chagall announced the gift of one engraving.   Whereupon Mrs. Chagall turned to him and said, 'That's insufficient.  You are acting like a peasant.'  Chagall replied, 'So I'll give Israel a watercolor.'"

     "I still don't understand why Chagall is so vain."

     "I brought up the subject of the windows in the Hadassah Hospital which, as you know, in size are totally out of proportion to the room.   'Certainly,' I said to Chagall, 'You should have worked in tandem with the architect.'  Chagall turned to me and replied, 'Who am I to condescend to work with a mere architect?'  The one person Chagall feared and loathed and regarded as his enemy was Picasso."

     "Really!   I didn't know that."

     "Chagall's sore spot was also that he tried always to be French.  But Chagall is not French.  Chagall is a Jew."

     "But you claim that as a Jewish artist he is not important."

    "As a painter, I said.  He is important as an illustrator.   At one point I could have made millions from Chagall.  He needed $250,000 to buy his house on the Cote d'Azur and if I had lent him the money I could have had 150 copies of an illustrated edition which at that time sold for $4,000 apiece.  These editions now fetch $60,000 apiece."

     "Did you have these editions in the collection you donated to the Hebrew University Library?"

     "Some."

     "Tell me, what is the collection worth now?"

     "When I donated the collection twelve years ago it was worth a million and a half.  At Sotheby's it would now fetch five million."

********************

     Twenty-three years ago at Harvard I took a course in Jewish history given by Professor Isadore Twersky which turned me into a Zionist.   Nothing I ever studied ever had such a devastating impact upon me.  At that time Professor Twersky, still in his 30s, was the protégé of the legendary Professor Harry Woolfson.  As a teacher Twersky was aloof, pedantic, memorable less for himself than for his subject matter.  At that time I did not know that Twersky was the hereditary Rebbe of the Talna Chassidic sect nor that his father-in-law was the world-famous Talmudist Solevechik.

     That Mr. Bornstein is the President of Twersky's synagogue, Beth David, which is located around the corner from my mother's, only enhanced my excitement when I entered this morning.  Beth David is less a synagogue than a chapel, and since the congregation filled the room to capacity I at first had difficulty locating my former professor whom I have not seen in 17 years.   Twersky sat next to the ark, his gaunt face etched with an expression of suffering and grief as if the burden of history rested on his shoulders.   Like one of Rembrandt's rabbis, his countenance radiated the heritage of persecution and study, of covenant and sanctification that is the lot of the religious Jew.   Amidst the din of prayer I was very much the outsider, the nostalgic secular Jew, ignorant of Hebrew and unable to follow the ritual, yet still contemplating my metamorphosis into a Ba'al Teshuvah, a repentant returnee.   Yet could I ever adopt this ancient rite and ritual without feeling absolutely ridiculous?   Would I not have to undergo a psychic lobotomy?  In its original formulation Judaism projected its sociological condition of subservience to kingship into a transcendental metaphor.   In Judaism an unbridgeable gulf separates the Deity and man except in the bridge of revelation, intercession, and prayer all ritualized in an annual formula of strict and undeviating observance.   To Orthodox Judaism the Deity listens to prayer because the Deity has chosen one group out of humanity to bring His message eventually to all.    Such were some of my thoughts as the chant droned on and on.

     Yet to me prayer is a private communion, not a public chant.    Furthermore, after the Holocaust the idea of petitionary prayer has become an absurdity.   Not all the prayers of World Jewry were able to save the Six Million.   Who listens to these prayers anyway?   What is petitionary prayer but talking to oneself?   The Deity is on vacation.   The Deity is no longer interested in the babble from this remote speck in a minor galaxy. Theoretically the Deity may be impressed by prayer conceived of as praise of Him, but who are we humans that even our prayers should penetrate the ears of the on-high?    No, prayer is something else.   Prayer is listening-- listening to the sounds and movements of nature in a condition of heightened awareness.    Only awareness, only the practice of awareness by meditation, enables us to cut through the illusion of divine communion to the Divine itself.

     Spotting Mr. Bornstein in the opposite aisle I made my way to the seat behind him.   "I must introduce you to Twersky,"  he said.   At the conclusion of the service Mr. Bornstein ushered me to the seat beside the ark and said to the rabbi, "I want you to meet one of your former students."   After 23 years Twersky, of course, did not recognize me nor did I anticipate any effusion from him.   The meeting, even in its orchestration, resembled nothing so much as that between a king and a minor official from a bygone era when the king was crown prince. After a brief word I was quickly dismissed and replaced in attention by another courtier behind me.   Outside the synagogue Mr. Bornstein, despite his cane, leaned on my arm for support and for fifteen minutes or so we chatted as I led him to the nearby synagogue of the Bostoner Rebbe.   From an impresario of culture Mr. Bornstein has become at 83 an aficionado of synagogues.    I pressed him about Twersky,  inquired about his expression of grief and suffering, and received in return a torrent of gossip.

     "Twersky does not reveal himself.  As well as I know the Rebbe-- and he calls me every Friday evening to wish me a happy Shabbos-- he remains an enigma.  We have discussed philosophy many times, but he is very much a closed book.  Why the look of suffering?  Perhaps it is because his two sons are doing nothing.  They are married and day and night they are still studying the Talmud.   They are such masters of the Talmud that they study only by themselves."

     "I thought you had to study the Talmud with someone else."

     "After a certain point the Talmud becomes a solitary pursuit."

     "But this still doesn't explain Twersky's expression."

     "You are insightful.  How much do you think Twersky earns a year at Harvard?"

     "He is a full professor with a chair.  He must earn at least $70,000."

     "That's not enough.  He has two grown married sons to support.  I will tell you a secret.  You must tell no one this secret.   Every year I give Twersky a few thousand dollars."

     You mean to support his sons?"

     "Not exactly.  It's more a conduit."

     We parted at the Bostoner Rebbe's.  Once more Mr. Bornstein, the philanthropic braggadocio, couldn't restrain himself from his confidences.

********************

     Tonight I telephoned Mr. Bornstein that I wanted to come over to read to him Cynthia Ozick's story "Usurpation."   Both Mr. Bornstein and his wife were watching a TV. program about Victor Weiskopf, the MIT physicist, who built the hi-fi in the study during the years when Weiskopf worked for Oppenheimer at the Manhattan Project.  In the five years since my last visit the living room had not changed.   The massive mahogany furniture together with the Matisse, the Degas, the Marie Laurencins, the Chagall, the renaissance bust, the oriental art gave to the room the atmosphere of solid bourgeois comfort.   We adjourned to the library whereupon Mr. Bornstein, blind, tipped over my glass of water.    There was a scurry as I wiped up the mess. The library, conspicuous for four bronze busts of Bornstein and oils of his wife made in his years of fame as an impresario of culture, had been the scene of many past confrontations, but not of a reading.    Bornstein asked why I had selected the story and I replied that "Usurpation" was a work of great courage and imagination that transcended conventional narrative.   By page eleven I could see that Bornstein was bored.   In fact, I too was bored by Ozick's verbosity and I decided to discontinue the reading and just chat.   I stared at the books in the library and said, "I have been reading one of the world's greatest books, Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo."

     "Ah, I read Les Miserables when I was 14, then when I was 27, later when I was 40, and then once again.   A work of such imaginative sweep and rhetorical power is indeed worthy of your attention.  I want to say something to you.   I do not want to be hard on you.   But to me you are a person who is very knowledgeable but not clever."

     There was silence as I digested this remark. "What do you mean I am not clever?   That I do not have a j ob, that I do not have money, that I have no permanent place to live-- is that what you mean by my not being clever?   I am an artist .......

     Bornstein got up from his seat and cried in a semi-shrill voice, "I am an artist too.  For 40 years I published art books.    Four or five a year.  Do you think that the publishing of art books is any less a work of art than painting?"

     "But you were a business man. You were practical."

     Bornstein approached me almost fuming, his breath coming out in quick puffs.   "I did not make money from my art books.   I was not a business man.   Had I really been a business man I would have retired with fifty million.   Do you know how I made my money?"

     Bornstein was now standing over me, his paunch almost touching my face, his hand raised in the air.  "Do you know how I made my money?   I'll tell you the secret of how I made my money.   Every year I would go to Paris or London or Vienna to see the publishers.   And as friends.    When I arrived in Paris I would not call up and say, 'I am here.    Do you have any remaindered copies of books?'   No.   No. No.   I was much more subtle than that.   Do you realize it took me often ten years to obtain an invitation to someone's house in Paris?   And then I would buy, let us say, 100,000 discontinued books from this person.   Often these books were not even bound."

     "Wait a minute!   Do you mean that the publishers don't bind all their books?"

     "Of course not.   If a book sells, they will bind a certain number more.   But the storage rates are so high that it pays for them to sell things cheap.   And of these 100,000 books some of them I would bind with my own imprint, and thus I became the publisher not only of my own books but of others'.  And I put out catalogues that were sent all over the world."

     "Where did you keep these books?   Your book store was large but not that large."

     "In warehouses in South Boston.   I was earning $80,000 to $400,000 a year not through the book store.   No.   No.    No.   Half the time I would have to put up with schlemiels whom I myself would end up giving a free book and five dollars.   Let us say I bought a book for $2 in Paris.   I would sell 10,000 copies at $10 a copy to jobbers in New York."

     "Ah, so your sales were not primarily in the book store but to wholesale distributors."

     "Exactly."

     "But tell me why do you think I am not clever?"

      "I have witnessed over the years certain things about you.   You are an egotist.  I am 83 and I am no longer an egotist.    I have been an egotist, but I have transcended such matters."

     "Where were you born and when did you come to America?"

      "I was born in a small town in Russia and came here for the first time when I was five.  We came and returned three times.   My mother didn't like America.   She thought America was too pagan.  Finally we settled here in Boston where I developed my rapacious love of books.   How I used to haunt the book stores in Boston ! How I used to play hooky from high school, my satchel filled with sandwiches and volumes of Wordsworth and the romantic poets !    I would go to Franklin Park where the poets would plunge me into Parnassus.   What poets in recent years could do that?   Robert Lowell?    Never.   I could never get anything out of his poetry.    Poetry must excite me.   I spent only one year in college, but I continued to read in all subjects.  At 18 I became a Marxist, at 20 a Communist."

      "And how long did you remain a Marxist?"

     "Only long enough to see its absurdity.  I have passed through all the isms.   But literature always remained my love second only to art.   T. S. Eliot—do you like T. S. Eliot?"

     "I have celebrated the deaths of only two people in my lifetime-- Lyndon Johnson and T. S. Eliot.   To have grown up under Eliot's suffocating influence-- ugh!"

     "But the Wasteland-- such a grand poem, such ingenuity of versification."

     "I reread it recently and didn't think much of it.    But tell me, you still have not explained why you think I am not clever. "

     Bornstein sucked in his cheeks and leaned back in his chair.    "You are 45.   Why are you not teaching?  You know more about literature than most of the professors."

     "Teaching is behind me.  There are no jobs teaching."

     "This is absurd.  You know why you cannot get a job?    Because you never kept a job long enough.   A year here, a year there--it makes you look suspicious.   Be systematic.   Be thorough.   Be like Samuel Johnson. How great Dr. Johnson was!  And such a Tory!  But what prose!  What style!"

      "And he invented the English dictionary."

     "And not only that but the Lives of the Poets -- poets we would never hear of today."

     "Yes.   Who would ever read Savage but for "the Life of Savage?"   'Marriage," he once said, 'may have its pains but celibacy has none of its pleasures.'"

      "You should turn to writing.   Be disciplined.   Be systematic.   You have it in you."

      "Listen, don't forget I am a painter.  In the past 5 years I have sold 577 paintings."

      "But concentrate on writing.   You are a man of experience with an impressive literary style."

******************

     Attired in a black overcoat and dark glasses and clutching his cane, Mr. Bornstein emerged from the elevator of his  condominium appropriately dressed for the cold weather.   Together with Mr. Brown we strolled down Beacon Street and headed for a neighborhood park to find a bench in the sun.   Seizing me by the elbow Bornstein said,   "I am a Lubavitcher.  Half my estate is going to the Lubavitchers.   They are genuine saints."

     "I thought half your estate was going to the Hebrew University."

     "Correct, and the other half to the Lubavitchers    In addition two nieces of mine are each getting a $300,000 trust fund."

     "My mother tells me that you won't talk to your nephew Elliott the physicist.   Why is this?"

     "Elliott is a scoundrel.   His first wife told me that he used to beat her.   This I think he got from Sinclair his father.    Sinclair was mad and this madness descended to the son."

     "Why was Sinclair mad?"

     "Sinclair used to invite the family for special readings.    He deluded himself that he was a great orator, and he used to dress up in three-piece suits to read Shakespeare on Sundays.  Once I was in Japan.  Elliott was also in Japan for a year on some grant.   Sinclair was dying in Boston and I told Elliott that though he hated his father he should make an attempt to see him regularly upon his return to America.  This he did.   I will not deny that.    But the scoundrel is so narrow -minded, so lacking in culture."

     "We live in the age of specialists.   You are from the Old School. "

     "That's correct.   Relatives-- what can you expect from them?   I had this nephew who was in the real estate business with his brother.   Together they owned over a hundred million dollars worth of real estate in Boston. Secretly the older brother mortgaged all the property and then absconded with the money, leaving my nephew broke.   Whereupon he had a heart attack   I then gave him money.  Then he came to borrow money and I gave him $25,000 which it took him fifteen years to repay without interest and without thanks.    And when my wife was very ill he never even came to see her and over the years I had given him at least $50,000 worth of art in gifts. And I had left him $100,000 in my will.  But now I have cut him out of the will.   And he will never know that I was going to leave him $100,000.   My brother-- he was a Marxist until he saw what Stalin did in the '30s.   I myself have never shaken off the influence of Marx.   The Marxists make a very correct distinction between the state and the government.   The state is always authoritarian and the front for those with property and it is an instrument of coercion.  The government is the instrument of power, of the police and the army."

     We got up to walk to Coolidge Corner which we did slowly and with Mr. Brown tugging impatiently at his chain.

      "But one minute!   This distinction is artificial.  It's a 19th-century distinction   I fail to see how you can separate the two."

     "The state is always authoritarian, always the enemy of the people."

     "You sound like an anarchist."

      "You are the anarchist, not I!   You are a real anarchist."

      "Yes, I am an anarchist."

     "I cannot accept anarchism.   Humanity has not yet evolved to the condition that people are able to conduct themselves properly.    They need the state as an instrument of coercion."

     "I want to go to the bookstore to see if they have a novel by Susan Sontag.  She was my section woman in my freshman humanities course at Harvard.   Yesterday I finished her first novel the Benefactor.    It is a French novel.   By that I mean it hearkens back to the classical diction and epigrammatic style of such writers as Gide or Madame de LaFayette.    I do not claim to comprehend the Benefactor, but it was certainly a refreshing change from Les Miserables. "

     "Hugo was a romantic."

     "No!   No!   No   Hugo was a 19th-century liberal with a belief in progress and humanity-- a humanitarian."

     At the book store Mr. Bornstein pathetically asked me to lead him to the art book section where he fumbled through the art books and peered close-up at the reproductions.   "This is all trash," he commented, "They do not publish good art books any more.  I was the world's greatest publisher of art books, do you realize that?"

      "Better than Skira?"

       Bornstein looked indignant.   "Who was Skira compared to me?   Do you realize that I published the world's finest books on Japanese art?  I personally had in my collection over 5,000 original Japanese prints."

      "What happened to them?"

     "Five years ago I sold them at Parke-Bernet in New York."

     As we walked up Beacon Street I turned to Mr. Bornstein and said, "You remind me of a story by Stefan Zweig.   It tells of an art dealer in Berlin who during the inflation of 1923 traveled to a remote town to try to purchase a great collection of engravings bought from his family concern over a fifty year period by a man who may or may not be still alive.   The dealer arrived and found the man's house.  The man was still alive but totally blind and rejoiced that the dealer had come to view the Rembrandts and Durers.   The wife pulled the dealer aside to explain that she had sold off the entire collection piece by piece to buy food and that she has replaced the engravings in the portfolios with blank paper.    The old man knew nothing about this and every day took out his portfolios to fondle them, as he did to show the dealer.   The dealer pretended that the masterpieces were still there.   In many ways Zweig's story reminds me of you."

     Bornstein suddenly stopped and turned to me. "From the bottom of my heart I must tell you that I love you."

     "And I love you too."

     "I would not associate with you if you were not a person of such rich culture."

     We continued up Beacon Street.   Bornstein launched into a tirade against Lafcadio Hearn. "And to think that he had the audacity once to say in a lecture that the King James version of the Bible is better than the original Hebrew!   Yet Lafcadio Hearn made such wonderful translations from the French.    Gautier-- have you read Gautier's Mademoiselle De Maupin?"

      "Yes.   Gautier once said-- this was in the Goncourt Journals --Gautier used to go to the Magny Dinners attended also by such luminaries as Flaubert, Turgenev, the Princess Mathilde:  'At thirty one should stop thinking about such abstruse subjects as philosophy and politics and concern oneself with pictures on the wall and furniture in the living room.'"

      "A bourgeois."

     "No. An aesthete. Yet the aesthete, despite his contempt for the bourgeoisie, is always its offspring."

      "An offspring in a state of decline, a state of decadence."

     "Gautier was an inferior Oscar Wilde."

     "You think so?  Yes.   The aesthete leads to decadence, to perversion, to homosexuality, to the search for exotic sensations."

     "You see it all in Oscar Wilde, in Huysmanns."

     "Once Anatole France sent his secretary to see Huysmanns who late in life after Satanism and depravity had  returned to the Church and Anatole France's secretary-- but have you read Anatole France?"

      "Of course. Thais, Penguin Island."

      "Do me a favor. Why don't you read these works in French?"

      "I have no time for French."

     "I read and speak fluently French, Yiddish, Hebrew, German, and I still read Russia   How do you like that from someone who never graduated from a university?"

     "You are from the Old School."

     "Tell the truth, what do you really think of me?"

     I stopped.  "What do you mean?   Who else do I know who tells me about visiting Chagall and Chagall's not serving refreshments?"

     "On the contrary!   I didn't say that    I said that Chagall had a box of candies and after two hours he offered my wife one.   When are you leaving?"

      "Everything is up in the air. My Florida license plate has been stolen off my van. I cannot leave even if I wanted to."

     "Call me up this weekend."

*********************

     At one o'clock Mr. Bornstein, a yamulka on his head, greeted me at the door.  He  asked me if I wanted a drink and he went over to the sideboard and took out a bottle of Israeli Madeira.   We went into the dining area where he proposed a toast, "May you on your trip know only success. May you always travel the High Road. May you see what is positive in life and not what is negative.   L'Chaim. "

      We sat down in front of a window from which was visible the vista of the Boston skyline which in twenty years has grown from Bulfinch's gold dome and a few skyscrapers into all the steel and glass of imperial might.

     "I have often wondered why you gave your collection to the Hebrew University Library and not to the Israel Museum," I said.

     Bornstein placed his hands together.  "It is because of my quarrel with the Israel Museum.   You see, I knew its founder and first director Narcisse who assembled 90% of the collection.   Narcisse used to run around the world schnorring art from the wealthy.   Once in London he visited Lord Rothschild to try to persuade him to donate the Rothschild Haggadah to the Israel Museum.   But Lord Rothschild told him that rather than part with the Haggadah he would give away all his fortune first.   Years later both Rothschild and Narcisse were dying. From his death bed Rothschild called in the Israeli ambassador and asked him to smuggle by diplomatic pouch the Haggadah to Narcisse so that the British Museum would not get it.   Narcisse's last act--he was literally dying-- was to accept the Rothschild Haggadah for the Israel Museum.   Narcisse was a good friend of mine. He wanted my collection for the museum.   But when Narcisse died a scoundrel took over the museum, a scoundrel he himself had trained.   When the scoundrel was finally fired and I went to visit his successor, Mrs. Cohen, I looked around the Israel Museum and nowhere in all of its buildings did I see even a plaque to commemorate Narcisse and I asked why.   Mrs. Cohen answered,. 'All the rooms have been sold to wealthy donors for plaques. There was no room for Narcisse.'    I exploded.  I vowed never to give the Israel Museum a thing."  

      At this point Bornstein, huffing and puffing, rose blind and eagle-crested from his chair and waving his finger in the air he cried, "And do you know that because they refused to honor Narcisse it was I who got Professor Yehudah's widow to give his collection not to the Israel Museum but to the Hebrew University Library? Professor Yehudah, the Yale Egyptologist, assembled one of the great medieval Hebrew manuscript collections in the world.   Yehudah's story is very interesting.   A tenth generation Jerusalemite, Yehudah for years canvassed governments and institutions for the Zionist Movement.   Once in Spain Yehudah, who claimed descent from Maimonides, visited King Alfonso XIII and Alfonso XIII turned to Yehudah and said, 'You know, one of your ancestors was Chancellor of the Exchequer for mine and during the Inquisition his fortune was confiscated. What can I do to compensate you for this?"   Professor Yehudah turned to Alfonso XIII and replied, 'Your Majesty, with the accumulated interest  there is not enough money in the whole Spanish treasury to pay the debt.'  Yehudah was one of the pillars of the Zionist Movement.   When he did not become the first president of Israel in a rage he simply walked out, left Israel, and moved to Yale with his collection.   This collection he had been assembling for decades.   Don't ask me how he did it.    Auctions in all probability.   I myself used to buy at ParkeBernet Japanese prints sometimes for as little as a dollar apiece which afterwards I sold for thousands. Over the years I traveled at least twenty times to New Haven to meet Mrs. Yehudah to talk her into giving the collection to Israel.  Her house was unreal.    The entire first story was one big room with piles and piles of incunabula and medieval manuscripts on the floor.   The collection contained also nineteen original letters from Einstein, original manuscripts in Hebrew from Sir Isaac Newton, at least a hundred Coptic tapestries, silver.  But because Professor Yehudah had not been named first president of Israel she did not want to give them to Israel.    Finally after years and years and in cahoots with Narcisse I persuaded her to donate the collection to Israel.   She flew to London en route to Tel-Aviv and do you know what she did?"

      "What?"

     "She committed suicide in her hotel room in London.    She hanged herself. She couldn't  face returning to Israel or handing over the collection.   Do not ask me which.   And then the litigation from the children began.  It took another five years for the collection to leave New Haven for the Hebrew University Library."

     "I remember the ceremonies in Jerusalem when the University honored you for giving your collection.   I traveled by bus from Haifa."

      "I remember nothing.   It is a blank."

     "You were wearing a blue suit.   You had a cold.   While the President of the University made his speech you reminded me of a bar-mitzvah boy."

     Bornstein smiled as if suddenly remembering the event.    "And do you know how much my collection is worth now?   Eight or nine million dollars.   A copy of Chagall's Daphnis and Chloe sells now for $80,000."

     Bornstein suddenly became confessional.   Tears came into his eyes as he began to speak of his wife's declining powers, how she no longer can cook, and how for lunch now he only eats cheese sandwiches.

     "But if you can give the Lubavitcher Yeshivah thousands of dollars, you can at least hire a cook to come in for lunch."

      "I don't want the bother.   Do you know what the Lubavitchers are like?   I'll tell you.  Every Friday night they send me trays of meat and gefilte fish.   They are such good people.    Fundamentalists, I agree.  You cannot speak to them about certain things.   Great scholars they do not produce.   But it is they who will preserve Judaism.   And for this I am leaving them in my will money that comes to seven figures.  God be with you."   And he stretched out his hand at the door. (c)

*********************

goldbar.gif (2272 bytes)

goldback.gif (1815 bytes)

This is the official & only Mr. Bornstein Page.