The Arty Semite

Sanford Friedman's 'Heroic or Meritorious Achievement'

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

A brave alternative to 1950s “Stoolpigeon Culture,” as described in Joseph Litvak’s influential “The Un-Americans: Jews, the Blacklist, and Stoolpigeon Culture,” the novelist Sanford Friedman, who died April 20 at age 81, proudly assumed his membership in several minority groups.

Leftist, gay and Jewish, Friedman was a Horace Mann School student, where he became friends with a fellow class of 1945 graduate, politician Allard K. Lowenstein. After studying theater at Carnegie Tech, Friedman served in the US Army as a military policeman in Korea, receiving a Bronze Star. Returning home, he became active off-Broadway as a writer and producer, collaborating with Jews on McCarthy’s blacklist such as actor Howard Da Silva; author Ben Maddow; and playwright Arnold Perl. The last-mentioned authored a 1957 play, “Tevya and his Daughters,” co-produced by Friedman and starring Mike Kellin as Sholem Aleichem’s dairyman — a production which inspired 1964’s “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Turning to fiction, Friedman published a 1965 novel, Totempole, about Stephen Wolfe, a New York Jew who serves in the army in Korea, where he falls in love with a male prisoner of war. “Totempole” won critical raves, and was praised by novelist Anthony Burgess, who called it the “most candid, and least pornographic, of studies of the genesis of a homosexual.” Friedman followed this with 1975’s “Still Life,” a novel about Danny Wahl, a young French Jew who is tormented by his homosexuality.

By then, Friedman had witnessed the tragic anguish with which friends such as Allard Lowenstein and the sculptor Fritz Bultman had experienced gay feelings. Always exemplifying a brighter approach to minority status, Friedman lived for many years with the ebullient Cleveland-born Jewish poet Richard Howard, with whom he would invent titles for the paintings of their friend Lee Krasner (born Lena Krassner) at the feisty artist’s request.

Vetting other writer’s efforts, from Howard’s award-winning translations of Baudelaire to gay activist Larry Kramer’s 1992 play “The Destiny of Me,” Friedman also advised lesser-known writers in seminars at SAGE, a social service organization for LGBT seniors. Friedman’s entire service-oriented life and work deserve a Bronze Star.

Watch a 2008 video of Sanford Friedman’s friend and former companion Richard Howard reading poetry:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sanford Friedman, Richard Howard, Lee Krasner

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.