Palkovitz, Judith L.
Interview Date
April 5, 2000
Respondent Professional volunteer, born 1941.
[T1S1] Respondent provides background information: born in Liberty, NY, move to Fairfield, CT; gives names of parents: Leonard and Edith Launer, provides names of 3 brothers; gives detailed information on maternal and paternal grandparents; explains grandparents settling in Liberty, NY. Respondent notes parents both teachers; describes warm relationship with grandparents and large Passover celebrations with paternal grandparents and extended family; explains grandmother waitress at Grossinger's resort in Catskill Mountains. Respondent reflects on choosing Chatham College in Pittsburgh: women's colleges in vogue, attended 1959 to 1963, graduated with degree in Political Science; received masters degree in urban studies at the Maxwell School, University of Syracuse, 1965. Respondent recalls meeting Harry Palkovitz, their marriage, 1965; discusses early years in Fairfield, CT, attendance at Orthodox Hebrew School, Bridgeport, CT, touches on high school years, explains parents college degrees after World War II: teaching positions in Fairfield, CT, notes father taught Respondent geometry in high school.
[T1S2] Respondent elaborates on high school years: one of three exchange students, sent to Italy at age 16 &#189;, describes life there as "experience that changed my life". Respondent gives names of 2 children, their birth dates and careers; gives vivid description of life in Fairfield, CT: upscale town; describes adolescent years spent there and involvement in various activities in high school; comments on Bridgeport, CT. Respondent discusses work with urban redevelopment in Pittsburgh after graduation from Chatham College: 1<sup>st</sup> woman professional; explains move to Charlottesville, VA: husband attended medical school, University of Virginia. Respondent details position with Institute of Government in Virginia; work with War on Poverty: left because Black community was against white woman working there; mentions move to Wright Patterson Army base: husband entered service as major. Respondent discusses move to Pittsburgh and husband's medical practice: 1971, mentions his retirement, 1995, death, 1999. Respondent describes two quilts hanging on walls in apartment: made by Louise Silk, quilt artist in Pittsburgh: one made of husband's cut silk ties, second contains family photographs transferred on to silk: photos serve as family tree, contains 4 generations. Respondent repeats information from Tape 1, side 1.
[T2S3] Respondent provides lengthy discussion on becoming involved with Hadassah: joined in 1971 upon return to Pittsburgh; details approaching Three Rivers Art Festival with proposal to have Hadassah sell blintzes during festival, describes preparation of blintzes, hard work but very profitable. Respondent continues discussion: blintzes prepared in several synagogues; comments on help received from members of a church in Hazelwood in order to stay within parameters of Hadassah's observance of Sabbath, notes closure of project due to Three Rivers Arts festival requesting larger amount of money. Respondent reflects on becoming president of her group: created guardian category, worked with Gertrude Hoffman and upon her death, grandsons established memorial dinner given every year by Rattner family.
[T2S4] Respondent provides information on becoming involved with Hadassah on national level: became member on board of directors; names various committees on which she served. Respondent discusses becoming chairman of Beijing committee: meetings held in Beijing on status of women: provides lengthy discussion: gives names of women attending and summarizes meetings that took place. Respondent discusses additional positions held on board of directors: chairman of American Affairs Committee: changed the face of Hadassah; notes involvement with Hadassah Hospital and genetic testing: identified breast cancer genes; notes genetic testing accessible, but not to be used as basis for discrimination; comments on trying to pass bill in Congress to outlaw use of genetic information in employment or health insurance. Respondent explains difficulty in maintaining membership: notes Hadassah largest Jewish women's organization.
[T3S5] Respondent explains viability of Hadassah: largest Jewish women's organization; greatest strength: run by women; comments on endowment of over &#189; billion dollars. Respondent, details work of Hadassah in United States and Israel: takes great responsibility for Jewish education; notes Hadassah non-partisan, concerns itself with issues not people; discusses work involved with genetic testing: group stigmatization on genetic issues; explains blood testing for breast cancer and Tay Sacks disease. Respondent recounts travels for Hadassah: speaks to Jewish and non-Jewish groups on genetic testing, discusses trying to get Slaughter bill passed: gives explanation, testified before Congress. Respondent reflects on affiliation with Hadassah: describes feelings about importance of work she does.
[T3S6] Respondent discusses chairmanship of plaque committee for Jewish Home and Hospital for Aged: concerned itself with disposal of 14,000 memorial plaques in building, impossible to move to new building, Weinberg Village; gives solution and describes ritual burial of plaques on grounds of Jewish Home and Hospital for aged. (noise on remainder of tape blocks out several areas of sound) Respondent lists positions held in many organizations: describes their purpose; notes 1<sup>st</sup> position with American Field Service while in high school, non-Jewish organization; mentions work with Persad: counseling group for gay and lesbian people; trained to give lectures. Respondent continues lengthy discussion of long time involvement with various organizations.
[T4S7] Respondent details causes and results of 1995-1996 split of Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and Pittsburgh Zionist organization under husband's presidency: comments on national ZOA president, Morton Klein: anti-Rabin and anti-Israel, notes local ZOA maintained posture it had in community, concerned about national ZOA: discusses meetings held by both groups, could not arrive at "meeting of the minds". Respondent reflects on spring, 1996: came to head; executive committee of ZOA determined to leave national ZOA; formation of Zionist Organization of Pittsburgh (ZOP), notes David Wecht's disapproval and gives his comments: "will make trouble," which he did. Respondent sheds light on meeting held by Zalman Shapiro: had own election under ZOA; filed legal papers in Court: vitriolic story. Respondent continues discussion: comments on insistence by Zalman Shapiro for Orthodox Beth Din (Jewish court of law), case taken before Beth Din in Pittsburgh in office of Rabbi Dr. Bernard A. Poupko with 2 other Rabbi's in attendance, notes "terrible day in Pittsburgh". Respondent reports spending 9 hours in Beth Din with husband in wheel chair; gives results of meeting: decision on election illegal; states financial strength of local ZOA depleted by entire situation including maintenance of ZOA house. Respondent states many people joined entirely different group: B'nai Zion: non-partisan supporter of Israel; thriving organization. Respondent expresses strong negative comments on Zalman Shapiro, Cyril Wecht and David Wecht; describes physical attack on husband by Cyril Wecht; explains "sad chapter in Pittsburgh concerning Zionist community"; notes community will never return to united Zionist community.
World Conference on Women (1995: Beijing, China); Beth Din (Pittsburgh, Pa.); B'nai Zion (Organization); Bridgeport (Conn.); Fairfield (Conn.); Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America; Israel; Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Persad Community Center (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Shapiro, Zalman M. (Zalmon Mordecai), 1920-; Wecht, Cyril H., 1931-; Zionist Organization of America; Zionist Organization of Pittsburgh
Birth Date
Liberty, NY
Professional volunteer
Occupation (father)
Length (hours)
Braun, Howard
Nielsen, Minna
Berger, Betty
Collateral Materials
Box 104 FF 49
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