FOLCS Remembers Jack Greenberg

FOLCS Remembers Jack Greenberg

FOLCS acknowledges the death of one of our former Film Series guests, the legendary civil rights attorney, Jack Greenberg, who passed away on October 12, 2016, at age 91. Greenberg argued 40 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education.

Greenberg was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 22, 1924. His Jewish parents had fled Europe because of anti-Semitism. During the Second World War, he entered the U.S. Navy and fought in Japan.

Greenberg held a B.A. from Columbia College, and an LL.B and an LL.D from Columbia Law School. His strong commitment to the fight against injustice inspired him study the law, and later used it as a tool to advocate for civil rights.

He joined the legal team created by Thurgood Marshall, the founding director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. There, with Robert L. Carter, Constance Baker Motley, Spottswood W. Robinson III, and other lawyers, he fought for voting rights, equal pay work, equal access to medical care and education, and other important landmarks of the civil rights movement. He later succeeded at the director-counsel of the Fund when Marshall became a federal appeals judge in 1961.

He challenged the “separate but equal” standard of racial segregation in the public schools by working on two of the five cases that led to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. He also took part in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education (equal access to education), Griggs v. Duke Power Company (protection against employment discrimination), Furman v. Georgia (the constitutionality of executions). He was a member of Martin Luther King Jr.’s defense team of after his arrest in 1963 in Birmingham, Ala.

Later, Greenberg advocated for the rights of the poor, against the death penalty, for the rights of women, of Hispanic-Americans, and Asian-Americans, and for LGBT rights.

Greenberg helped found the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. His publications include Crusaders in the Courts: Legal Battles of the Civil Rights Movement (2004); Brown v. Board of Education: Witness to a Landmark Decision (2004); Dean Cuisine: The Liberated Man’s Guide to Fine Cooking (with James Vorenberg, 1991). He was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Clinton in 2001.

Greenberg was a memorable past guest of FOLCS. He joined us during the 2009 Forum Film Festival for a screening of Mississippi Burning and a post-screening discussion on the civil rights movement. We were honored to have him as a guest, and we will continue to celebrate and honor his inspirational life. Our condolences go to Greenberg’s wife, Deborah, to his children, David, Sarah, Ezra, Suzanne, William, and to his grandchildren.





The 6 types of lawyer movies (by Thane Rosenbaum)

When it comes to films about the legal system, spoiler alerts aren’t necessary. For the most part, there’s little ambiguity about where a law film is going—no real surprises, few cliffhangers and not much in the way of romance. Movie lawyers are not unlike their real-life counterparts: Long days of reviewing documents and ………

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Cover of the ABA Journal, by director of the Forum on Law, Culture & Society at NYU School of Law, Thane Rosenbaum

FOLCS Remembers Auschwitz Survivor Elie Wiesel

FOLCS is deeply saddened to hear that Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2, 2016, at age 87. Wiesel was an inspirational Auschwitz survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and remarkable novelist.

Wiesel was born in Sighet, Romania, where he lived with his parents and three sisters. In March 1944 when Germany occupied Hungary extending the Holocaust into it, Wiesel was only 15 years old. At this time, Wiesel, his family, and the rest of Sighet’s Jewish population were placed in one of the two confinement ghettos set up in Máramarossziget (Signet). In May of 1944, Wiesel and his family, along with many others in the Jewish community, were deported by the Hungarian authorities to the Auschwitz concentration camp. There, his mother and younger sister were killed. Wiesel and his father were later transferred to Buchenwald, where his father passed away several weeks before the camp’s liberation.

After surviving the Holocaust and obtaining his freedom, Wiesel moved to France to study literature, philosophy, and psychology at Sorbonne. By age 19, Wiesel was teaching Hebrew, working as a choirmaster, and writing for an Israeli-French newspaper. Despite Wiesel’s initial reluctance to write about his experiences during the Holocaust, he chose to write a 900-page memoir titled “Un di velt hot geshvign” (And the World Remained Silent), which was originally published in Yiddish. Wiesel wrote 57 novels, including his most famous work, Night (La Nuit), which is a shortened version of his memoir. The night was translated into 30 languages and sold ten million copies in the U.S. alone.

Wiesel moved to New York in 1955 as a correspondent for the Israeli Daily. While in the U.S., Wiesel continued to write, becoming an acclaimed Holocaust author and political activist. In 1986, Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out against violence, racism, and repression. Wiesel and his wife, Marion, used the prize money to fund the founding of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, to combat injustice and promote equality.

Wiesel was a friend and memorable past guest of FOLCS. He attended the 2012 FOLCS Film Festival screening of The Truce and engaged in a post-screening discussion. Wiesel was an excellent addition to our program, and we are honored to have had him as a guest. He will be deeply missed as we continue to celebrate and honor his brave and inspirational life. Our condolences go out to Wiesel’s wife, Marion, and the rest of his family.

See below for highlights from our conversation with Wiesel.

US/Iran relations: How is the fight for democracy in Iran affected by who becomes the President of the United States? (Part 1, History of democracy in Iran)

Some analysts believe that there are no elements of democracy—such as liberalism, individualism, and pluralism—in Iran and that Iranian society could not accept democracy so far without those elements. While these factors are important in a democratic society,  it is important to know that Iranian society also does not accept oppression, the suppression of ideas, self-indulgence, and other aspects of dictatorship. In fact, Iranians have fought against despotism throughout their history.

The history of democracy in Iran began in 1906 when the Iranian constitutionalists pushed the government to accept modernity and democracy. For the first time, the government formed a parliament and recognized the freedom of speech. At that point, civil society was shaped by the establishment of various new non-governmental organizations, such as the Iranian Journalists’ Union. After going through many conflicts, the 1979 Revolution happened with the resolution of having a democratic government instead of a Shah’s semi-monarchy. At that time, all the opposition groups—secular, democratic, religious, communist, and the student movements—formed a coalition under Ayatollah Khomeini’s leadership, who was influential and charismatic as a revolutionary leader. At that time, Khomeini believed that the clergy should not take power as government leaders. He seemed to support democracy. He had emphasized that there should be checks and balances between the leader and the people in the Islamic republic.

However, after the referendum in which the people voted for the Islamic Republic, things changed. Clergy took power in many ways and religious leaders found new positions in the government. The corruption that contributed to the fall of the Shah’s government remade itself once the mullahs came to power. However, the expanding education system and higher literacy decreased the effectiveness of the mullahs since the new generation did not readily accept the mullahs’ rhetoric. Instead, they learned from reading books, newspapers, watching television, and listening to the radio. New technologies such as the internet and satellite receivers transformed the availability of knowledge. This shift weakened the influence of local religious rules and traditional social principles, diminishing the conservative mullahs’ effect on Iranian society. These changing social dynamics have created a suitable time for the development of democracy.

In 1997, when Mohammad Khatami became the president, the new chapter of democratization has begun. He was the first who initiated the “Reform Movement.” He achieved distinguished success in two cases. First, with more freedom given to the press, writers, book publishers, and film producers, Iranians were better able to express their liberal ambitions; this helped infuse these democratic thoughts into society and strengthen progressive demands.

Second, the formation of councils and local elections during Khatami’s term was an important step towards the establishment of democratic institutions in the country. The next step, which in my opinion is critical, is to develop strong political parties. When there are political parties which can mobilize the crowds to obtain their purposes, liberal forces can better line up against authoritarian forces. However, during his eight years in office, Khatami failed to fulfill many of the liberal and democratic plans he had used as slogans, and that failure became a toll on his activities, resulting in the diminishing of his democratic legacy and, influence on the society after he left office.

Amidst it all, United States has worldwide influence, serving as a beacon of freedom and democracy throughout the decades and it has always affected the democratization procedure in Iran.  Next week, in Part II, we will look more closely at examples of this influences and the importance of the current election and its widespread effects on Iran’s struggle for democracy.

By Shervin Abachi

The Esteemed Character of President Obama

With the race for the 2016 Presidential Election being one of character, with regards to favorability amongst society, we must ask ourselves what are the intrinsic values that we look for in our president? President Barack Obama is regarded as one of the most influential politicians of all times. Being able to lend his voice to the people, champion their cause, and bring them into the political arena is a decisive means of him sharing accountability, in addition to gaining the respect of the general public. From one of his earlier speech President Obama tells the crowd “starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin the work of remaking America.” (Weebly, 2016) With the list of his accomplishments since his inauguration in 2008, reaching 358 we can attest that he has stayed the course with remaking America. Some of his top accomplishments include: The nuclear agreement with Iran; rebuilding our relationship with Cuba; cracking down on Wall Street with new regulations; salvaging the American auto industry; executing his duty as Commander in Chief with ordering the raid to annihilate Osama bin Laden; repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the military; and legalizing same-sex marriage. With our American auto industry and power plants, he has taken a forceful stand against auto efficiency and power plant emission. To combat the effects on climate change, President Obama recently signed a historic agreement in Paris committing every nation on earth to make the necessary changes to minimize the use of carbon emissions. It should be strongly noted that since the economy tanked in 2010, President Obama has created over 14 million private sector jobs. A president who is decisive in making decisions through ethical and moralistic convictions has integrity. About the president, Malcom Friedberg, a licensed attorney and Silicon Valley CEO wrote, ”That’s the man I want to run my country: the man who has the courage to do what’s best for all of us, and not to compromise because it provides him with some short-term gain. Show me the man that will risk losing the election because he won’t compromise his values, and I’ll show you the man that deserves the right to be called the President of the United States of America.” (Friedberg, 2011) President Obama’s journey in the White House to be an effective president has not been a bed of roses and often partisan politicians in congress has harshly criticized the president, taking on a negative dimension, ironically highlighting the destructive character of the congressional body. Some of the caustic behavior used by the congressional body to soil President Obama’s character includes: The birther movement, an unusual propagation that rumored the president’s illegitimacy as a native born American; his name Barack Hussein Obama being linked to terrorism and subsequently an accomplice with extreme Jihadism, an act of treason; requesting to see his transcript at Harvard Law in order to prove his qualifications as Commander in Chief, a disrespect that no president before him faced; and finally the venomous attack on his race. Within one year of his presidency, ABC News compiled a sea of racially motivated remarks and explicitly racist proclamations or actions ensued against the president. Ironically reflecting what stands as the value of American democracy, these came from the government’s election and party officials, in addition to prominent media figures. The years followed “include a New Hampshire police commissioner using the "N" word to refer to the president, a Montana federal district judge sending racist emails, and many others.” (Netter, 2010) President Obama has a strong quality of perseverance and confidence. In addition to compassion, energy, and self-awareness, he has the ability to listen, surrounding himself with a cabinet who thinks differently than he does in order to make sound decisions. This president demonstrates a character of fearlessness. Obama inherited two devastating wars, tackled one of greatest economic crisis in American history, minimized our multi-trillion dollar debt, rebuild international relationships while strengthening America’s foreign policy, reintroduced the legacy of black family values to an international audience, handled criticism from top governmental officials with class, improved the social construct of American democracy, and gained the respect of partisan politicians. This president is one of esteemed character. To win the confidence of the American people, the incumbent president will have to demonstrate similar character attributes and prove itself as an upward vehicle for the people, ensuring the demands of improving the lives of civil society. Works Cited Friedberg, M. (2011, 05 25). Huffpost Politics. Retrieved from obamas-integrity_b_92750.html Netter, S. (2010, 01 27). Racism in Obama’s America One Year Later. Retrieved from ABC News: america-year/story?id=9638178 PCTC. (2016, 05 26). Retrieved from Weebly. (2016, 05 26). Retrieved from Jscd-cl- By Damion Rochester

The Importance of the Youth Vote

Presidential elections are all about capturing the vote. Candidates work to target concerns of every identifiable group—the Hispanics, the Veterans, the Blacks, the Evangelicals, the Working Class, the Unions, and so on. However, one untapped, yet potentially powerful voting block is the body of college students, the 18- to 24-year-olds. Sadly, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, young adults have a historically low voter turnout with less than half of those eligible exercising their constitutional right. Researchers point to a variety of factors that contribute to this lack of involvement.

Young adults’ lack of connectedness to a community plays a key role in undermining the value of voting. Dr. Quentin Kidd, the head of political science at Christopher Newport University, says, “The bottom line is that people generally agree that the extent to which young adults feel they have a stake in the establishment is less than the older voter.” Besides a lower stake in the establishment, he also elaborates that young people don’t typically attach to a community until they become more settled. Young adults often do not become invested in a city until after their educational years. As a result, issues that affect communities and cities aren’t on their radar so there’s no motivation to have an impact even through voting. (

Another significant influence on the turnout of college students at the polls is whether or not the candidates address their immediate concerns. Tuition costs, educational debt, and securing jobs rank high on the 18 to 24 age group’s list of worries. Many in this age range also tend to have noble ideals and hearts to make a difference in areas of social justice and preservation of our planet. Candidates that address these issues get the young adult vote. President Obama received 5 million more of the young adult votes than Mitt Romney in 2012 because during his run for re-election, he campaigned for reduced student loan interest. Barry Sanders has also zeroed on the rising costs of educational institutions. As a result, Sanders is gaining the support of the young adult population. (See;see also

If a large percentage of the 30,000,000 plus young adults exercised their voting privileges, they could have a significant impact on the upcoming elections in 2016 as well as future elections. Young adults don’t realize that by foregoing the vote now, they also diminish the opportunities for their concerns being considered in the future. If they don’t vote because their particular concerns are not at stake, they then cause themselves to become voiceless. The candidates cater to those who vote because that is the way they get in office. Those who don’t vote should not complain because they have chosen not to unleash the power they have been given to effect change.

By Frank J. Bundra

The Forum Remembers Great American Novelist E.L. Doctorow

The Forum is deeply saddened to hear of E.L. Doctorow’s passing just a few days ago. Considered a great novelist in American culture, Doctorow lived a long life full of prestige in the world of literature. His best-selling novels explored the American experience and reinvented historical fiction. Doctorow will be remembered as one of the most important American novelists of the 20th century. He was 84.

Named for Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Lawrence Doctorow was born in New York City, attended the Bronx High School of Science, graduated with honors from Kenyon College, and did graduate work at Columbia University. In 1960, Doctorow published his first novel, Welcome to Hard Times. Following this, he released his second piece of work, Big as Life, in 1966. Doctorow’s reputation as a respected novelist came with his third novel, The Book of Daniel, published in 1971. In 1983, the novel was made into a movie, Daniel. 

Doctorow has received numerous awards for his work, including the National Book Award, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howell Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal.

Doctorow was also a friend of the Forum’s and made his guest appearance in 2006 at a Conversation along with writer Tony Kushner. E.L Doctorow was an incredible addition to our program and we are very grateful to have known him. He will be deeply missed as we celebrate the life of a great American novelist.

Journalist Bob Simon Dies in Car Crash

The Forum is deeply saddened by the news that Bob Simon, one of the most accomplished journalists in American history, died yesterday in a car crash on the West Side Highway. Simon was a longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent and covered virtually every major foreign story in the last three decades. His contribution to the journalist profession cannot be overstated. He was 73.

Simon was a winner of 27 Emmy Awards and four Peabody Awards for his reporting on such stories as “The King of Sushi,” on the over-fishing of bluefin tuna; “Curveball,” the investigation of the Iraqi defector who provided the faulty testimony that eventually led America to war; “The Oil Sands” (2006), about extracting petroleum from Canada’s sand pits; “The Sea Gypsies” (2005), a report on the island-dwelling Moken peoples of Southeast Asia; and “Aftershock” (2005), about paramedics saving lives after an earthquake in Pakistan. Other winners broadcast on the Sunday edition are his profile of Italian actor-director Roberto Benigni (1999) and “Dirty War” (2000), a report about the Argentine government’s murderous campaign against dissidents. While at “60 Minutes II,” Simon received an Emmy Award (2000) and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award (2001) for “Shame of Srebrenica,” a report on heinous acts of genocide in Europe, and another Emmy Award (2000) for “The Lost Children,” a report on orphaned children shipped to Australia. He also received an Emmy Award (2001) and an IRE certificate (2001) for his investigation into the fate of a Navy pilot shot down in Operation Desert Storm. Simon has been honored with a Peabody Award (2000) for “a body of work by an outstanding international journalist on a diverse set of critical global issues.” In 1996 he received an Overseas Press Club (OPC) Award, a Peabody Award, and two Emmy Awards for his coverage of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and another OPC Award in 1991 for his coverage of the Gulf War.

Simon was also a guest of the Forum, speaking with actor David Strathairn and fellow journalist Sam Roberts to discuss Good Night and Good Luck at the 2012 Forum Film Festival. We are honored to have considered him a friend of the Forum, and he will be deeply missed.