Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Ambassador Nelson Ledsky
So during my college years, I drifted to the social sciences, beginning with a couple of history and international relations courses that I took almost by accident. I was fascinated by their content and I did extremely well in memorizing material and conceptualizing it; I liked those course. I had one or two rather inspirational teachers who made the material very interesting. So, by the third year, I changed my major to history, working under a professor by the name of Donald Barnes, the chairman of the history department. He was a strange, but fascinating man, who was known for having written a history of the Cornwalls of England. He had come from the West Coast; he was a bachelor. He took a liking to me. I participated in some small classes that he led and he inspired me. I had another professor by the name of Holtz who taught political science. He had been a student of Professor Hans Morgenthau, a leading political science figure in those days. Holtz was a terrific lecturer and a vigorous defender of the real politik school of thought. He was by far the best political science instructor at Western Reserve University. He also took a liking to me and I took three courses from him in my junior and senior years. He, and perhaps the history department as well, managed to get me a scholarship to the Western Reserve graduate school for an additional year of studies.
I took the scholarship, which lasted about a semester and a half. I took another five or six additional history courses during that time. My work was not intended to lead to a master's degree, but allowed me to become more deeply immersed in history; it was a post-baccalaureate work. I graduated in January, 1951 and spent the rest of that year at Western Reserve taking these additional courses. That was a seminal year for me for two reasons: my father died in April and I got married in August.
My new wife and I decided that it was time to leave Cleveland. I was offered a partial scholarship by Columbia University in New York. It was provided to me so that I could begin to work on a Master's Degree starting in the fall of 1951.
Q: Let me briefly return to your interest in Zionism. Did that continue when you began college?
LEDSKY: Yes. During most of my college years, I was involved in the Zionist movement. I joined Habonim, an organization that I believe still exists today. It is the labor Zionist youth organization affiliated with the Ben Gurion party in Israel. For a period, before I dropped out of the organization in 1950 or 1951, I was the president of the Cleveland chapter. Our most intense activity period was between 1946 and 1948, when the state of Israel was established. I spent a lot of time during those two or three years working for Habonim. A number of my friends went to live in Palestine during this period. They went there after a training period in New Jersey. Some still live there; some of them returned to the U.S. I briefly contemplated joining them, but by then I had met Cecile, who was also a member of Habonim for a brief time, and other priorities loomed. She was not interested in moving to Israel. After 1948, my interest in that organization waned slowly until I finally left the organization before graduating from college.