I first discovered this community, the Ethical Society, in 1973 through attending a lecture by John Gardiner, the originator of Common Cause. As you may know, Common Cause is a citizen’s lobby, working for political change. One of their aims is to curb the power of the lobbyists in Washington D.C. After the lecture, I picked up some literature from a table in the foyer which informed me about the Ethical Society. In digesting it, I realized that I had found my spiritual home. It was only later, after my wife, Margaret, and I had started attending, that we found that we were among a great group of people. People who were actively involved with creating positive change and caring about others. As new-comers, we were lucky to be taken under the wing of Harold and Jane Hanke who, several times, invited us to join them in their home, one time to meet Roger Baldwin, the first Executive Director of the ACLU and co-founder of the International League of Human Rights. Harold Hanke was a lawyer who gave freely of his time, money and Legal advice to this Society. His wife, Jane, who was an artist, served for many years as aesthetics co-ordinator for our building.
It wasn’t long before I met Gene Schwartz who got me involved with two organizations that he had created in an attempt to ban handguns. One of these organizations was directed at political change while the other was aimed at changing the minds of the populace away from any desire to own handguns. Gene was a quiet, gentlemanly soul who was relentless in his pursuit of positive change. Shortly after he had set up and staffed these committees he went big-time and organized a well attended National Symposium on Handgun Control in a Clayton Hotel. Through the medium of his Fax machine he worked tirelessly for liberal causes, daily sending dozens of faxes to politicians and others in high places almost to the day he died
Then there was Renate Vambery, small but determined and somewhat loquacious, who, for many years, chaired the Committee for Concern. And there was another escapee from Hitler’s Germany, Walter Hoops, who edited and wrote for left wing journals and who, in his 70’s, could dance the polka until younger partners would drop with exhaustion.
These are just a few examples of the many remarkable people I have known who were members of this Society and who gave of themselves to better the lives of others. Today, others have stepped into the breach to continue the tradition of service, both within and outside of the Society. This tradition, began, of course, with our founder, Felix Adler.
On a personal note, I find it very satisfying to be a part of this group of people who care and many whom I admire for their actions in expressing their caring. In further thinking about this, I have come to realize that being a member of this community has a special advantage. One can feel assured that in a time of need there will be someone, other than ones family, who will care enough to be there to help.