The legacies of jetsetter William Brokaw, artist Max Weber and Rabbi Mordecai Waxman will be explored
Three highly influential Great Neck residents with diverse backgrounds will be the subject of a special presentation by the Great Neck Historical Society on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at Great Neck House.
The new Historical Society series will regularly feature Great Neckers who have made a significant impact on the larger community, according to Charles Schneider, the organization’s program chairman. The presentation is free and open to the community.
William Gould Brokaw would have been called a jetsetter, had there been jets in the late 1800s. He was one of the wealthy estate owners on the Great Neck peninsula and was known for his love of fast cars, fast boats and fast women. He was even in talks to purchase an airship in 1904. Brokaw’s 125-acre estate included a quarter mile racetrack for horses, and when his property was finally sold, it became home to Great Neck High School, the Village Green and many homes. Larger-than-life, some say that Brokaw was writer F. Scott Fitzgerald’s model for Jay Gatsby in his iconic novel, The Great Gatsby.
Historical Society President Alice Kasten will be speaking about Brokaw. Her interest in local history was spurred by her love of ephemera—booklets, letters, trade cards and other remains of the period from around 1880 to 1935—which she collects and sells. Kasten taught regents science in a New York City public school for 34 years, then served as a science consultant for a textbook company and now supervises student teachers, acts as a consultant for science departments and coordinates the New York City Science Olympiad for middle school students. She serves on the board of directors of the State Science Olympiad, as well as the Historical Society, and is a coauthor of the Arcadia Images of America book Great Neck.
Max Weber was a distinguished artist who lived in Great Neck from 1929 until his death in 1961. His early work, drawing on his experience in Paris from 1905 to 1908 where he met and studied with Rousseau and Matisse, was based on African and Japanese art, as well as other influences. He always considered Cezanne his prime inspiration. Returning to the United States, he was one of the first American artists to introduce Cubism to American audiences. His work, initially rejected by critics as too modern and abstract, was, by 1916, critically acclaimed. A one-man show at the newly opened Museum of Modern Art in 1930, followed by shows at the Whitney and other museums, assured his success. He received many awards for his work, which is shown by more than 40 American museums, including all major museums in the New York metropolitan area. His work after 1920 became more figurative, with Jewish themes often playing a leading role. In the 1930s, until the time of his death, he painted Long Island landscapes as well. His last retrospective, at the Heckscher Museum in Huntington in 2012, was devoted to that subject.
Mischa Schwartz, who retired from Columbia University as the Charles Batchelor Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, will be speaking about the artist. Schwartz is the author of ten books and 180 papers on his field and has received numerous awards, including the Japanese Okawa Medal for contributions to the field of telecommunications and the Great Teacher Award from Columbia.
Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, who served as the spiritual leader of Temple Israel of Great Neck for 55 years, became a spokesman for world Jewry and dedicated himself to improving interfaith relations, especially with the Catholic Church. He spearheaded a series of meetings with Pope John Paul, striking up a personal friendship between the two religious leaders. The meetings led to a declaration by the church, ending millennia of blame of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ. In it, the church formally condemned anti-Semitism “directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.” Rabbi Waxman is also the author of the monumental defining book of the Conservative Movement, Tradition and Change.
The presentation about Rabbi Waxman will made by Marc Katz, chairman of the Waxman Memorial Committee of Temple Israel of Great Neck. Katz is president of Great Neck-based public relations firm, Katz Communications, a printing company, KC Graphics, and is active in a number of community organizations.
—Submitted by the Great Neck Historical Society