The Shmooze

The Yeshiva University Professor Who Secured U.S. Residency for John Lennon

By Nathan Burstein

All you need is love, but sometimes a good immigration lawyer is also helpful.

That’s what the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is reminding people today, the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. Like countless Jews before him, the former Beatle faced resistance to his efforts to gain U.S. residency — though in his case the problem wasn’t xenophobia or anti-Semitism. An outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, Lennon made himself an enemy of the Nixon administration, which used a drug charge in England as a pretext to seek his deportation.

The lawyer who ultimately secured Lennon’s stay in the United States — over the course of four rounds in federal court — was Leon Wildes, a Yeshiva University law professor who now sits on the board of HIAS.

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