They made for an odd couple. Henry Linville, soft-spoken and almost courtly, with neither the temperament nor talent for personal confrontation. Not so his longtime and much younger sidekick Abraham Lefkowitz. “He was a fighter,” remembers Ruben Maloff, who served as Lefkowitz’s assistant. “He loved to scrap. He loved to jump to his feet with emotion.”
But Lefkowitz wasn’t just a colorful smart-mouth, says Maloff. “He lacked the delicacy of a Rebecca Simonson (but) he spoke eloquently and logically.” Here’s some vintage Lefkowitz from a 1918 campaign to raise teachers salaries: “If the public desires the services of able, socially-minded men and women, it must pay more for molding character than for molding clay, more for making citizens than for making clothes, more for inspiration than perspiration.”
Brought to America from Hungary in 1885 when he was a year old, Lefkowitz grew up in the city, attended public school and graduated from City College. The Teachers Union’s and later the Guild’s legislative rep in Albany, he was once singled out by the assistant superintendent of schools and charged with “conduct unbecoming a teacher.” Not one to back away from a fight, Lefkowitz and the TU fought back until the case was dropped.