Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Moses Weinstein

About a month ago, as part of a book I am writing, I tried to find out something about the biography of Moses “Mo” Weinstein, the Queens County Democratic leader in the 1960s. I had never heard of him, and couldn’t find much about him. I looked for an obit in the Times, and there wasn’t one, and wondered whether the Times had neglected to give him one, or whether he was still alive. The answer was the latter, or it was the answer until earlier this week, when Moses Weinstein died at the age of 95, and the Times gave him a proper obituary.

In the course of my research, several people have spoken to me about Weinstein, how he skillfully but unobtrusively shaped the politics of Queens in the 1960s, and how he helped engineer the rise of black political power in southeastern Queens. He wasn’t flashy or controversial, like some of his successors as Queens Democratic leaders, such as Matt Troy or Donald Manes, but by all accounts he was an extremely effective leader. In some ways he was a model for a new type of Democratic leader that emerged in the 1960s, representing post-Tammany politics, liberal and relatively unobtrusive. At its best, party politics is a way of connecting otherwise disparate communities and constituencies in the pursuit of common goals, and as far as I know, Moses Weinstein helped to do this in challenging and difficult times, and one of the people who helped make Queens the remarkable experiment in racial and ethnic diversity that it has since become.