Where did the money come from? The National Student Association and the CIA.

In August 1967, I attended the Twentieth Congress of the National Student Association. NSA was supposed to be a federation of student governments representing colleges and universities across the United States.

In 1967, NSA’s true character was oozing to the surface. That spring, Ramparts, a left-wing investigative magazine, had exposed how the Central Intelligence Agency had been subsidizing the NSA’s international operations. A lot of soul searching went on during the Congress.

NSA had been notorious for passing ultra-liberal resolutions, such as calling for the admission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations. Consequently, conservative students—who had their own set of adult backers, the kind of folks who could have had CIA ties—ran campaigns for student governments to disaffiliate from NSA.

The CIA revelations had their moments of humor. At my school, the NSA coordinator joked, “They used to call me a communist, but now they call me a fascist.” My buddy, the campus conservative known as Fascist George, had led an unsuccessful anti-NSA drive. He attended the Congress, where he could not figure out whether he was for or against NSA.

With this personal history in mind, I savored Patriotic Betrayal (Yale University Press) by Karen M. Paget, which sets forth the relationship between the CIA and the National Student Association. In an earlier life Paget had her own involvement with NSA and a brush with the CIA. Today Paget, who holds a doctorate in American government, is a Colorado-based writer, teacher and sometime activist.

According to Paget, NSA was the child of the Cold War. In the years immediately after World War II, many anti-communist liberals were working in the intelligence community. They wanted a competitor to the Soviet-backed International Union of Students. Voila! NSA and several international student programs and organizations were born.

NSA operated on two levels. Within the United States, it was a federation of student governments. It busied itself with campus issues. The action was in NSA’s international department. NSA’s international operatives were often selected by the CIA or eventually inducted into the CIA. They were sworn to secrecy and enjoyed careers in and out of government and the intelligence community. The CIA, along with foundations secretly funded by the CIA, financed the international operations. The ultra-liberal resolutions passed by NSA—criticizing the American government which was secretly funding it—gave NSA’s international operations credibility abroad and the look of independence.

In 1967, I left the NSA Congress unable to understand why the NSA was run by so many people way past college age. Where did this bureaucracy come from? How was it funded? Paget gives the answers.

I still don’t understand why the CIA funding had to be secret. Did anyone overseas really believe that the United States government was not behind NSA’s international operations?


The Hebrew foremen over the slaves in Egypt: Collaborators or heroes?

On January 10, 2015, I gave the D’var Torah at Minyan Masorti at Germantown Jewish Center on Exodus, Chapter 5.


When I read that Pharaoh had summoned the taskmasters and the foremen over the Hebrew slaves, I froze on the word “foremen.”  (Older translations use the term "officials”).  I asked myself, “Were they Jewish?”

I looked at the footnotes—and yes, the foremen were Jewish.

I felt a chill. 

COLLABORATORS.  The Jewish foremen, collaborated with their oppressors.

Our tradition treats the foremen kindly.  The editors of the Artscroll Chumash explain that there were two layers of authority over the people– Egyptian taskmasters and Jewish foremen.  The taskmasters set the quotas.  The foremen enforced compliance.

If the slaves fell short of their quotas, the Egyptians beat the Jewish foremen.

But the foremen sacrificed themselves to protect their fellows Jews.

They accepted the beatings and refused to retaliate against the overworked Jews.

As Rashi explains:   As a reward, for their loyalty to the Jewish slaves, these very foremen were made a Sanhedrin.   Some of the spirit that rested upon Moses, was put on them.  Rashi cites Numbers 11:16:  “Gather for Me seventy of Israel’s elders of whom you have experience as elders and officers of he people”  (Numbers 11:16).

How would we view the foremen through the lens of today?

In the years immediately after World War II, the Jewish world wrestled with accusations that some Jews collaborated with the Nazis.  How were we to judge people who collaborted in order to survive?

In an article on the YIVO Encylopedia which is online, Gabriel Finder, a lecturer in Modern Jewish History at the University of Virginia, discusses “Honor Courts.”

Unofficial Honor Courts were convened in Displaced Persons Camps in Germany and Italy to determine “whether during the occupation a member of the Jewish Community behaved in a manner befitting a Jewish citizen."  Reconstituted official Jewish communities, and also Jewish political groups held Honor Courts in Poland, the Netherlands and the United States.

In August 1950, the Knesset passed Law 64 of 1950  "The Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law.  According to law review article by Professor Michael J. Bazyler of Chapman University School of Law, the law was written to provide a way to handle charges of collaboration,  but also to give the persons accused a forum where they could be cleared.

The Law provided for

(1)  Crimes against humanity

(2)  War crimes

These crimes were defined through principles derived from the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial.

Law 64 created a new offense—Crimes Against the Jewish People.  The law sought to punish seven types of behavior:

1.  Killing Jews

2.  Causing serious bodily injury or mental harm to Jews

3.  Placing Jews in living conditions calculated to bring about their physical death

4.  Imposing measures intended to prevent births among Jews

5.  Forcibly transferring Jewish children to another national or religious group

6.  Destroying or desecrating Jewish religious or cultural assets or valuables

7.  Inciting hatred of Jews

Law 64 provided for two defenses styled "Release from Criminal Responsibility”

(a)  If he did or omitted to do the act in order to save himself from the danger of  immediate death threatening him and the court is satisfied that he did his best to avert the consequences of the act or omission; or

(b)  If he did or omitted to do the act with intent to avert consequences more serious than those which resulted from the act or omission, and actually averted them.

Law 64 provided for two grounds to mitigate sentences:

 (a)  That the person committed the offence under conditions which … would have exempted him from criminal responsibility or constituted a reason for pardoning the offence, and that he did his best to reduce the gravity of the consequences of the offence.

(b)  That the offence was committed with intent to avert, and was indeed calculated to avert, consequences more serious than those which resulted from the offence.

According to Professor Bazyler, the Israeli public viewed collaboration as an embarrassment and a disgrace.   There was a desire to suppress the issue.

Consequently, press coverage of the trials was low key.  The general view is that about 40 collaborator trials were conducted from the early 1950’s through the mid-1960’s.   Court records were sealed for 70 years.  

However, one of the defense attorneys held on to his own files.  After his death, the his heirs released his files from four cases to the public.

One of the last cases tried was that of  Hersch Berenblatt.  Berenblatt had been Chief of the Jewish Police in the Polish town of Benedin.   In 1963 Berenblatt was convicted of rounding up dozens of Jewish children from an orphanage and delivering them to the Gestapo.  He was sentenced to five years in prison.

He appealed to the Supreme Court of Israel.

In 1964, the Supreme Court of Israel reversed the conviction and acquitted Berenblatt of all charges.    The Court cited the complete defenses provided in the law.

Justice Moshe Landau, who had earlier presided over the Eichmann trial, noted that:

“It would be presumptuous and self-righteous on our part, us who never walked in the shoes of those who were there … to be critical of these ‘small people’ who were incapable of transcending into an ultimate level of morality … Let us not delude ourselves that if we subject the acts committed by our persecuted brethren there to criminal justice on the basis of pure moral standards, we would ease the weight of the distress in our heart regarding the horrid blow our people suffered … The prohibitions of the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Law, were not written for exceptional heroes, but for ordinary mortals, with their ordinary weaknesses.”

Justice Yakov Ulshan, concurred: “This is a question for history and not for the courts.” 

My initial view was that the Jewish foremen in Exodus Chapter 5 were collaborators.  If tried under post-Holocaust principles, what would be their fate?

You be the Judge.


Exodus 5


Yivo article on Honor Courts


Law 64


Michael Bazyler law review article



The Yankee Comandante. The romance, bravery and tragedy of the Cuban Revolution.


With President Obama’s announcement that he will normalize relations with Cuba, 2015 could well mark the downfall of the Castro regime.  As in the case of the late German Democratic Republic, the exposure to American culture and consumer capitalism will stoke uncontrollable protest, leading to the crumbling of another outpost of Communism.

The release of The Yankee Comandante (Rowman & Littlefield) by  Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss, former Toledo Blade staffers, could not be more timely.   Subtitled The Untold Story of Courage, Passion, and One American’s Fight to Liberate Cuba, the book is the story of William Morgan, the “Americano” who joined the Revolution and was destroyed by it.

Kicked out of the U.S. Army with a dishonorable discharge for desertion, Morgan was unable to rebuild his life in his native Toledo.  After a flirtation with the mob (what would a Cuba story be without the mob?), Morgan left his parents, his estranged wife, and his two children to join the Revolution.

In Miami he linked up with the rebels.  In 1958 he flew to Havana, then made his way to the mountains, where he joined up with the Second National Front of the Escambray, which operated in the central part of the country. 

Reckless and brave, Morgan used his military training and superb marksmanship to build a guerrilla force.   In the mountains he met Olga, a militant student leader who fled her hometown just ahead of the police.  There begins a tragic love story.

The Second National Front was a competitor to Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement, which led guerrilla operations in the Sierra Maestra on the eastern end of the island.  


The Trabant:  Why the German Democratic Republic fell.

After the triumph of the Revolution, the competition between the two movements led to disaster for Morgan.   Apart from personal rivalries, the Second National Front wanted democratic elections, whereas the 26th of July Movement veered towards dictatorship and Communism.  

Therein begins a tale of international plots, the mob, double agents, and counterrevolution. 

In March 1961, Morgan’s life ended before a firing squad in the historic La Cabana fortress.  Olga spent nearly 12 years in prison. She left Cuba in 1980 in the Mariel boatlift.  She settled in Toledo with their two children and remarried.


The Edsel.  Why Cuba will fall.

The Yankee Comandante is well researched.  Using Olga’s handwritten unpublished memoir, interviews with Morgan’s comrades from the Second National Front of the Escambray, and documents from the FBI and the CIA, Sallah and Weiss have recreated battle scenes, family stories, plots, and counterplots.

The Yankee Comandante is a fast-paced adventure story, a spy thriller better than fiction.  Viva La Revolucion.