Librarian as Witness - Three
What a ponderous title, " The Librarian as Witness"! Whatever does that mean?
In my nearly four decades as a librarian in one capacity or another I have come into contact with many remarkable individuals, some of whom have shared remarkable stories from their lives.
The third anecdote I shall relate today came from Jacob I. Dienstag, librarian emeritus of Yeshiva University's Mendel Gottesman Library. Mr. Dienstag, now a nonagenarian, is perhaps one of the few individuals still alive today who persobnally knew Vladimir Ze'ev Jabotinsky (1880-1940).
In the 1920s the noted journalist and writer Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) was a close associate of Jabotinsky, but broke with him and with Zionism in 1931 when he became a Communist. While sitting in a railway car going to London Koestler saw Jabotinsky on the platform and get into a compartment next to his. Afraid of a confrontation with his former colleague and friend, Koestler buried his face in the newspaper and did not put it down for the duration of the trip.
Once the train reached its destination Koestler waited several minutes for Jabotinsky to alight from the train and go on his way. When he thought the coast was clear, Koestler put down the newspaper and began to gather his things, he heard the voice of Jabotisnky behind him.
"Just because we no longer share the same ideas does not mean we cannot still be friends!," Jabotinsky said. The two men embraced and then parted, never to see one another again.
Jabotinsky was known for his generous and gracious personality, and this story exemplifies it.
It is an anecdote not found in any biography of Jabotinsky or Koestler, but deserves to be remembered and repeated.