Hopefully it was not Aretha Franklin who invited anti-Semitic, anti-American dregs to her ceremony, but even being friends with Farrakhan is disturbing. 

I grew up on Long Island, New York.

Smithtown was an ethnically diverse community of Italians, Jews, Irish and Protestants, however, there were very few black people. I cannot remember anyone from my high school. The wave of Latino immigrants was in its early stages and they were mostly from Puerto Rico. It was not that our community was so wealthy, I think that it was just far out on Long Island, and I am sure that there must have been prejudice in not letting black families in. When you are a teenager you don’t know these things, especially back in the 60s.

My generation grew up listening to radio and watching television from one of 13 different stations at the time, including from Hartford, Connecticut.

I have often told the story of my rabbi, Rabbi Spar of Temple Beth Shalom (a Reconstructionist synagogue), speaking from the pulpit and encouraging black families (they were called black back then, not African-American) to move to Smithtown from Harlem. The rabbi and synagogue started getting bomb threats and hate mail. I looked up to my rabbi and thought he was brave.

The 1960s were a turbulent time, to say the least, but the events like the riots and the civil rights movement all occurred far away from us. Since there were very few, if any, black families on this part of Long Island, it just was not an issue.

My heroes growing up often were black people. The Mets with Tommy Agee, Don Clendenon Cleon Jones and others. I would watch Kiner’s Korner, an after-game television show. They had black and white players on and they would be dressed up in colorful outfits. They had swagger. They were cool.

I was also a crazy New York Knick fan. I thought that Walt Frazier was the epitome of class and cool. With his fur coats and hats, his rolls Royce. He was Mr. Smooth to me.

My only experience with black people during my teen years was when I would go to different schools and play pick-up basketball games. I would sneak into Stony Brook, St. Anthony’s Catholic school, and jump into the games. I loved their street style of play and held my own.

My first album was a tape my Dad got me from Santana. My older sister would play the radio and her albums. Aretha Franklin was among my favorites. She sang from her heart. Her music was life affirming. I also loved Motown records – Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Michael Jackson and others were all amazing to me. One of my favorite songs still is My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder. It reminds me of my mother who passed a few years ago. She would play this song on the radio while taking my sister and me to camp.

I didn’t look at those people as black performers. They were just cool, amazing performers that I thoroughly enjoyed.

So when I heard that Aretha Franklin passed away, it made me very sad. It brought back fond memories and reinforced my feelings that life is short and we should appreciate every second.

Then, I turned on the television to see part of the funeral service. The front row had Reverend Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton and the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan staring back at me.

L to R: Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton at funeral service for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple, Aug. 31, 2018, in Detroit. (AP/Paul Sancya)

Yes, he was staring at me and any Jew who was watching. Farrakhan was “displayed” prominently in the middle of the front row behind the speakers throughout the ceremony.

My first thought was: How can someone as beautiful and talented as Aretha Franklin befriend such a racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic creep? It is bad enough to have had Jesse Jackson, a notorious Jew hater (remember Hymietown?) and the “Rev.” Al Sharpton, who among other “charming” things is also a notorious Jew hater, and then Bill Clinton who I liked and voted for twice.

How could Bill Clinton speak on the same stage as Farrakhan?

How could Aretha or whoever organized this funeral have this rogue’s gallery of losers speak about racism, civility (a jab at Trump) with straight faces?

(Stevie Wonder proclaimed that Black Lives Matter and then added that All Lives Matter, because they do. Stevie, a man who was blind at birth, has never seen another human’s face, color or hair.)

How could anyone from the left support this? If the former president was at a funeral for someone who befriended and placed in a position of honor David Duke, would he attend and speak? I don’t think so. It is only fashionable to speak up if they are on the other team. It is not fashionable to call out these anti-Semitic, anti-American creeps and extortion artists because they are Democrats.

Aretha, your heart and your soul came through in your music, but this is a slap in the face to your many non-black fans. Hopefully it was not you who invited them and planned your ceremony, but even being friends with Farrakhan is disturbing.

Aretha you will be remembered for your song “RESPECT” – but I wish you had remembered that anybody who wants respect gives must give respect.

You broke my heart.

Article by Larry Levine

Originally from Long Island, New York, Larry Levine lives in Columbus Ohio. He is an award-winning businessman/pro-Israel activist, writer. Also a standup comedian and talk show host whose guests included Jay Leno, Alexander Haig and Paul Reiser.