A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster


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In the United States had , Jews; by it had 4 million. The great bulk of them came from the Pale, which they fled for practical reasons: to avoid conscription, to travel without an internal passport, to escape a small life as a herring salesman at town fairs. One of these immigrants seeking a fresh start was Barnet Liebstein, a pious and orthodox man who took his own food for the crossing because the food on the boat was not kosher, and who did not neglect his prayers amid the stench and blare of steerage.

Barnet came from a village too small to figure on most maps: Molchad, in the then Polish and later Lithuanian province of Grodno, south of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius and west of the Belorussian capital of Minsk. Barnet was the rabbi of Molchad, a respected figure to whom people came for more than religious services. They came to him in a marital dispute or over a contested inheritance, rather than go to the civil authority. But in America he was no longer the head of his community.

He was not even the head of a congregation, for there was a glut of rabbis on the Lower East Side, which offered by the time of his arrival in a ready-made Yiddish-speaking quarter, a reconstituted ghetto, not unlike Minsk. And here the roofs were flat, with clothes on ropes fluttering in the wind. Barnet found a place as sexton or shammes in one of the storefront synagogues.

He was responsible for its care and upkeep, and lit the candles.

In his spare hours he taught Hebrew. Detached from worldly things, uneasy in the new world, Barnet found a refuge in scrupulous orthodoxy. He never shaved his beard. He never touched a coin on the Sabbath, or lit a match, or used gas. He wrapped himself in protective Judaism. Jacob, born in , was not quite ten. He was assigned December 15 as a birthday but when asked found it more dramatic to say he was born on Christmas Day. Jacob was strikingly different in appearance from his siblings, who were brown-haired, brown-eyed, and more or less olive-skinned.

In a childhood photograph he stands barefoot in a park with Sarah and Esther. The sisters are wearing what look like homemade rather than store-bought dresses, and their long, brown hair flows over their shoulders. Between them stands Jacob, in a T-shirt and short pants, flaxen-haired and blue-eyed, with his arms akimbo and one knee bent on sloping ground, suggesting the body language of the man being photographed after climbing Mount Everest.

By there were two hundred thousand Jews in the garment industry. The Socialist Party was on the upsurge, running Eugene Debs for president in the and elections. By then the Jewish socialists in New York were themselves learning the machinery of electoral politics.

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Street meetings were a form of free entertainment and a part of neighborhood life. Registering to vote was a ritual of participation. The Jewish socialists grew their own leaders, among them Morris Hillquit, the garment union lawyer who ran for Congress in and losing both times , and Meyer London, a Marxist who was elected to Congress three times, in , , and With the Lower East Side overflowing, the Liebsteins moved to the Bronx, at Daly Avenue, close to the park and the newly built subway.

Barnet and Emma, who by now were called Barney and Minnie, settled in. Barney found a better synagogue, the Ocean Parkway Jewish Center in Brooklyn, where he spent long hours teaching Hebrew. The boys, Morris and Jacob, would be educated while the three girls would work in the needle trades.

Sarah went into millinery, the other two into dresses. They found work in the sweatshops, and spent ten hours a day bent over their machines, turning their wages over to their parents to help put the boys through school. Morris took courses at the Cooper Union and then enrolled in the New York College of Eclectic Medicine, which took a holistic approach. He set up a practice on Central Park West and founded the Maimonides Hygienic Association, named after the great Hebrew scholar and physician who practiced in twelfth-century Spain. Although bombastic and self-important, he was in some ways ahead of his time, for he recommended proper diet and herbal medicines, and recognized tobacco as a dangerously toxic substance.

He was one of the first doctors in New York with a no-smoking sign in the window of his office. As for young Jacob, he went to public school until midafternoon and after that to Hebrew school, trading baseball cards as the teacher droned on. His days were followed by long hours of homework in the evening. Of the old country, village life in Molchad, he retained only one or two mental snapshots: his mother baking cookies and selling them at fairs. Mornings, sneaking under the house where the chicken coop was, puncturing eggs with a pin and sucking out the contents.

His tsidderike trembling with fear mama worried herself sick.

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A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster

If he was five minutes late it was a calamity. He needed those pennies and nickels to buy the newspapers and magazines his parents did not read—the Freiheit, the Call, The Masses. Jacob had developed into a strong, well-built young man. A natural pugnacity and the promise of prize money led him to take up boxing.

In those days the tenement roof had many uses. Dances were held up there, to the music of a harmonica. Pigeons were kept in make-shift coops. Boxing rings were improvised with clotheslines tied to chimneys, and bouts were advertised in flyers by fledgling promoters. His boxing career came abruptly to a close.

His father, easygoing, lost in his thoughts, did not try to impose his orthodoxy on the children. Barney never learned English, never became a citizen, and never involved himself in the rough dynamics of American democracy. Jacob turned away from his heritage and his religion, forging his American identity. Once on a train he sat next to a rabbi who asked him what he did for a living.

They owned the building the store was in and lived above it.

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Their three-story house at Ditmas Avenue became a sort of community center, where the warmhearted and welcoming Esther was always ready to feed an army. He had plenty of good ideas, but somehow they never panned out. Each year he laid out his capital to buy the silk in Japan. But one year an earthquake wiped out the silkworms and he was ruined. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book!

Add to Wishlist. USD 4. One person found this helpful. Simply a great book on a great man who was fairly unknown but who went from being communist to leading a battle against communism during the 2oth century. He was unfairly treated at the end of his career because of his alleged ties to the CIA.


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The book is really well written and extremely carefully researched and it shows how a very discreet man with a simgle vision could achieve in terms of power and influence. It is a very intriguing book, especially since it is a real story. Imagine a book whose subject is the first half of the cold war.

Now imagine that it reads like a novel, has a cast of characters any Hollywood producer would drool over, is informed by enough primary research to supply a shelf of books, brims with enough ORIGINAL, never published archival revelations to keep twenty academics in grants for a decade. That's what this is. Is bound to draw the ire of mousier historians who will resent it's independence from a whole industry of secondary sources.

This is the Iliad of the Cold War, not some bundle of commentary. If Henry Wallace had won the election he would have arrived at the same foreign policy as did Harry Truman. If we had snatched Joseph Stalin in and dropped him in the Hollywood hills he would have made a contribution to our economy and to world culture as a studio head. Such is my faith in this country to provide security and opportunity under law to maniacs.

Let me stop before I express my regret that white rule prevented us from enfranchising Cuba along with Florida and the Philippines along with Hawaii. That would be crazy talk. But for my first two points, about Wallace and Stalin, we have a well-documented example, the career of Jay Lovestone, Secretary of the American Communist Party who became the great anti-communist of our shores. Its author is a Yalie, a former French count, a veteran of Algiers, and one of my favorites:. See all 4 reviews. There's a problem loading this menu right now.

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A Covert Life eBook by Ted Morgan - | Rakuten Kobo

Get to Know Us. English Choose a language for shopping. Amazon Music Stream millions of songs. He became one of the leading strategists of the Cold War, being described as 'one of the five most important men in the hidden power structure of America.

A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster
A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster
A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster
A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster
A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster
A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster
A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster
A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster A Covert Life: Jay Lovestone: Communist, Anti-Communist, and Spymaster

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