Memory Lane: When President Ford Came to Boro Park
Boro Park has in recent years had a voting problem—which has made it even less of an attraction for political candidates. But there was a time when things were different.
President Gerald Ford visited the neighborhood of Boro Park on October 12, 1976 (on Chol Hamo’ed of that year), President Gerald Ford, having defeated California governor Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination, came to Brooklyn to campaign against Democrat rival Jimmy Carter.
He would go on to lose that presidential election on November 2, but on that autumn day, the president came to court the Jewish voters of Boro Park among other neighborhoods, addressing the gathered population via loudspeaker from the presidential motorcade as it made its way down 13th Avenue.
Looking through the president’s schedule of that day (below), it is a study in a precise accounting of every moment and how it is spent—down to every movement that the president made that day.
Rabbi Edgar Gluck recalls that day very well, and another occasion when the president came to Spring Valley for an event for
Congressman Benjamin Gillman, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, with whom Rabbi Gluck was close. “He entered the hotel area where we had a minyan for minchah, and the president insisted on standing respectfully on the side until after aleinu.”
Upon arrival in Brooklyn, the president made his way to Yeshiva of Flatbush where he delivered an address and spent time in the sukkah, and subsequently met privately with 150 Jewish leaders.
The president was greeted by Mr. George Klein, chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and Senator Jacob Javitz, and given a tour of the Center for Holocaust Studies by Dr. Yaffa Eliach, a”h, a renowned Holocaust historian, and author.
The following is a transcript of the presidents’ remarks on 13th avenue at 49th street as he speaks (and a photograph of this is featured here).
BOROUGH PARK (2:30 p.m.)
“Let me say a word for just a minute, if I might. It is a great privilege and a very high honor to have the opportunity of being in Brooklyn with Senator Javits and Senator Buckley and to have an opportunity to thank you all for the very warm reception. Over the years I have had many, many opportunities to come to this great city and know intimately many of the fine people in Brooklyn, New York City. We have a great country….
“Let me in conclusion make this observation. America is strong; America is secure. There is not a single young American boy fighting or dying on foreign soil today. We are at peace, and we should be proud of it. We have the military capability and the diplomatic skill to keep the peace.
“So, I pledge to each and every one of you that we will have a strong and prosperous economy. We will have a peace that is secure. And you can trust your President, who has restored trust in the White House.”
Many of the names in politics and activism from close to forty years ago have not changed much, but it seems that Boro Park is no longer on the political map as a campaign stop for presidential candidates. Perhaps this is because no Republican candidate would consider wasting time in New York 20 days before an election—as they don’t see a chance at winning the state.
But 45 years ago, 13th Avenue in Boro Park teemed with motorcycles, assorted black vehicles, and secret service agents accompanying the sitting president of the United States.