Ruth W. Messinger

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Ruth Messinger

Ruth Messinger is a former New York City Councilor and political activist. She is affiliated with the American Jewish World Service.

Early life and career

From a left wing family, Messinger's mother was once a member[1]of the radical American Labor Party.

Educated at Radcliffe College, where she majored in government, she volunteered at a psychiatric hospital, with an eye to becoming a social worker.

At Radcliffe she married Harvard University medical student, Eli Messinger. After graduating magna cum laude in 1962, the couple moved to Oklahoma, where Eli Messinger worked as a prison psychiatrist. Ruth earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Oklahoma.

Back in New York Messinger joined the board of The Children's Community Workshop School in 1968, until its closure in 1974.

Messinger then ran for the school board and, a year later, for State Assembly, losing in the primary to Jerrold Nadler, by only 73 votes. She then ran for the City Council seat that Ted Weiss had vacated to join the House of Representatives.

Socialist Messingers

In 1977, Manhattan Councilman Henry Berger and his primary opponent Ruth Messinger were both members of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee.[2]

Ruth Messinger joined the New York City Council in 1978:

and could easily have become an irrelevant presence. She had virtually no experience in government. She was a woman in a man's domain. And as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America -- a progressive reform group within the Democratic Party -- she hewed to an ideology more liberal than that of her peers on the Council.

Ruth Messinger had joined[3]the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC} shortly after being elected to the Council-crediting her choice to Paul DeBrul, a long time city activist and urban planner.

When DSOC amalgamated with the New American Movement in 1982 to form Democratic Socialists of America, Messinger was a charter member.

Eli Messinger was a student, and later a teacher, at the New York Marxist School. Dr. Messinger claimed that his involvement with the school began in 1977, a year after he and Ms. Messinger separated. Ms. Messinger stated; It was an interest of his. It was never an interest of mine.

The Messingers divorced in the mid-1980's.

Support for Puerto Rican independence

In August 1979 Ruth Messinger appeared[4] before the UN Decolonization Committee supporting Puerto Rican Socialist Party charges of U.S. repression and in favor of independence.

Messinger appeared as a member of the US people's delegation. In her speech to the UN Commttee, Messinger described the U.S. as the "the colonial power exploiting and oppressing the Puerto Rican people." She said that for twenty years, the U.S. had blocked UN debate on the future of Puerto Rico, but that "In one of history's more ironic twists, this year the United States had moved to undèrcüt United Nations debate on Puerto Rico through a strange eleventh-hour maneuver that acknowledges that Puerto Rico has not enjoyed its right to self-determnation."

Messenge denounced the concept of statehood for Puerto Rico, as "the absolute negation of sovereignty, self-determination and national identity... a desperate push by those in the ruling circles of the United States and Puerto Rico who see Puerto Rico's future as a star on the Amrican flag rather than as a free nation in the constellation of Latin American and Caribbean peoples of which it is an inseparable part."

Institute for Policy Studies connections

Ruth Messinger, City Councillor New York, was listed[5]among those participating in the Institute for Policy Studies affiliated Conference on Alternative State and Local Policies {CASLP} Bryn Mawr August 3-5 1979.

In 1979 Ruth Messinger on the steering committee of the Institute for Policy Studies initiated Conference on Alternative State and Local Public Policies.[6]

Democratic Agenda

More than 1,200 people attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee initiated Democratic Agenda Conference held November 16-18, 1979, at the International Inn and Metropolitan AM Church in Washington 1 DC. The conference focused on "corporate power'; as the key barrier to "economic and political democracy," concepts many Democratic Agenda participants defined as "socialism.'

The Democratic Agenda meetings attempted to develop anti-corporate alternatives" through influencing the direction of the Democratic Party during the period leading to the July 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York.

Workshops included "Relating Local Issues to the Democratic Party" - Michael Bleicher, moderator; Reba Brown, Ruth Messinger, Mary Sansone, Bennie Thompson.[7]

Democratic Agenda/Socialist Caucus

For groups and organizations seeking radical social change within the Democratic Party, the National Convention of 1980 had at least one historic first - formation of a Socialist Caucus of delegates. Organized by the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and by the Democratic Agenda which was DSOC's cadre and supporters within the Democratic Party and was based in DSOC' s New York office and at 1730 M Street, NW, Washington, DC. Some 31 delegates and alternates from twelve states and Democrats Abroad attended the Socialist Caucus.

As a preliminary to the convention's Socialist Caucus meeting, , indeed as a "building event" and as a continued show of support for Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the Democratic Agenda sponsored a convention rally at New York's Town Hall. The speakers included Herman Badillo, Julian Bond, Fran Bennick, Harry Britt, Cesar Chavez, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI}, Douglas Fraser, Murray Finley, Michael Harrington, Terry Herndon, Ruth Jordan, Ruth Messinger, Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem and William Winpisinger.

DSOC works within the Democratic Party, said Harrington, because of the party's relationships with organized workers, blacks, feminists, environmentalists and other "progressive groups."

The Socialist Caucus circulated a list of convention delegates who were caucus members, including;[8]

1982 Democratic Agenda conference


Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski was an invited as a speaker to the Democratic Socialists Organizing Committee organized Democratic Agenda conference, scheduled for 1982 in Newark, New Jersey. Other invited speakers included New York City Councillor Ruth Messinger, SEIU President John Sweeney, Coalition of Labor Union Women President Joyce Miller, and Americans for Democratic Action President Robert Drinan.

Endorsing Major Owens

In 1982 leftist Major Owens (he later openly joined Democratic Socialists of America, ran in the primary to contest the New York City Congressional seat vacated by the retiring Shirley Chisholm. His main opponent was the Democratic Party machine's favored candidate Vander Beatty. Owens prevailed, helped with the endorsements of Council President Carol Bellamy, Congressman Charles Schumer, Councilwoman and DSAer Ruth Messinger, and Communist Party and DSA ally Congresswoman Bella Abzug.[9]

Communist Party fronts

U. S. Peace Council sponsor

As at March, 1982, the published list of U.S. Peace Council sponsors included:[10]

First Annual Fannie Lou Hammer Awards Dinner

According to an article, "Plan award's dinner to honor activists", Daily World, Feb. 19, 1983, p. 4.

"Women for Racial and Economic Equality will honor civil rights activists Julia Wilder and Maggie Bozeman at its First Annual Fannie Lou Hammer Awards dinner on Saturday, February 26."

"Ms. Bozeman and Ms. Wilder were unjustly convicted of vote fraud when they helped elderly people vote in Pickens County, Alabama. They were jailed but later released due to nationwide protests. Currently, ms. Wilder and Ms. Bozeman are on parole and denied the use of their voting rights..."

"Joing WREE will be city and state officials; leaders from civil rights organizations and liberation movement, and representatives from church and women's groups."

Committee for Responsive Democracy

The Committee for Responsive Democracy began a series of hearings in New York, on November 13, 1990, on the "need for significant reform of the two party political system, as well as the feasibility of forming a new party". Sixteen hearings were planned, in eight major cities across the US. New York City Comptroller Liz Holtzman greeted the commission, saying that "many people don't see themselves as being represented".

Witnesses included Manhattan Borough president Ruth Messinger, Simon Gerson, chair of the Political Action and Legislative Commission of the Communist Party USA, Fern Winston of the Party's Womens Equality Commission. Civil Rights attorney Joseph Rauh urged work to invigorate the Democratic Party rather than turn to a third party.

Among the Commission's 49 members were former machinists Union president William Winpisinger, former California Supreme Court justice Rose Bird, former New Mexico governor Toney Anaya, environmentalist Barry Commoner, farm workers union leader Dolores Huerta, former Attorney general Ramsey Clark, author Barbara Ehrenreich, Joseph L, Rauh, Jr. and former Congressman and Presidential candidate John Anderson.[11]

Anti-Apartheid Harvard

In 1987, six candidates ran for the Harvard University Board of Overseers on a Divestment from South Africa platform. They were DSA members Ruth Messinger, and Victor Sidel, Jerome Grossman, Haywood Burns, Consuela Washington, and Peter Wood. $350 million in stock was at stake. [12]

Council politics

Ruth Messinger was a loyal ally of David Dinkins-also a member of Democratic Socialists of America, who was then the Manhattan Borough President, and deferred to him when he ran for Mayor in 1989.

She turned her sights instead on the office he was vacating. Her plan, according to friends and advisers, was to bide her time through two terms of a Dinkins administration, then inherit the Democratic mantle and Mr. Dinkins's job.

In 1993, however, Giuliani upset David Dinkins, which meant that;

Messinger would have to challenge an incumbent if she ran in 1997. Meanwhile, some political observers said, she had lost her high public profile because she had not been able to play a naysaying foil during the Dinkins administration as she had under Mr. Koch.

The first of her two terms as Borough President coincided with a revision of the City Charter which reduced that post's influence. In 1993 and 1994, Messinger ran for president of the National League of Cities, twice winning the usually decisive recommendation of its central nominating committee, only to eventually lose out to politicians from smaller cities.

DSA Elected Representatives, 1990

Democratic Left, Jan. 1990, page 7

As of January 1990, Democratic Socialists of America members holding elected public office included;[13]

Greeting the Peace Marchers

The Great Peace Marchers arrived in New York, October 23 1986, after trekking 3,500 miles with their message of global nuclear disarmament.

They were greeted at the George Washington Bridge by Mark Green, Democratic candidate for Senate, David Dinkins, Manhattan Borough president, David Livingston, president of District 65 UAW, Assemblymembers David Paterson and Jerrold Nadler, and City Council members Ruth W. Messinger, Miriam Friedlander, Carolyn Maloney and Stanley Michaels.

The following Friday, the Communist Party USA's People's Daily World sponsored a reception for 25 of the marchers at Unity Auditorium on West 23rd St.[14]

DSA concert

On April 23, 1991 Democratic Socialists of America brought together a crowd of at least 800 to the Riverside Church in New York City to hear Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, Gretchen Reed, Robin Holcomb, and Kate McGarrigle and Anna McGarrigle. Amid the stunning atmosphere of the church, the performers entertained and inspired the audience with songs and stories of the struggle for social justice. DSA's Rafael PiRoman served as Master of Ceremonies and Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger introduced the event. The concert was sponsored by Youth For Jobs, Peace and Freedom, a project of the Institute for Democratic Socialism and the DSA Youth Section.[15]

New York DSA awards dinner

On June 24, 1993 New York City Democratic Socialists of America held its annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington awards dinner. Local 1199 president Dennis Rivera and DSA member Deborah Meier of the Central Park East Secondary School, received awards.Featured speakers included New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, Manhattan Borough President and DSA member Ruth Messinger and DSA honorary chair Cornel West. U.S. Rep. Nydia Velasquez, who was unable to attend because of Congressional commitments, sent greetings.[16]

Hiroshima Day, 1993

Peoples Weekly World, June 31, 1993

On August 6 1993, a rally to commemorate Hiroshima Day was held at the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold Park, New York. The rally was designed "to kickoff a national campaign to collect a million signatures supporting a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, commend president Clinton for extending the nuclear testing moratorium, urge renewal of the Non Proliferation Treaty, urge swift and complete nuclear disarmament."

The event was sponsored by the Metro New York Peace Action Council and several other "peace' groups.[17]

Speakers included:

Honoring the Sidels

New York City Democratic Socialists of America held a fundraising bash on December 7 1992, at which longtime activists Ruth Sidel and Victor Sidel were awarded the Paul Du Brul Memorial Award. Approximately 150 people gathered to honor the Sidels, to enjoy a performance by Pete Seeger and Randy Harris, and to hear remarks by Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger and other political and labor leaders.[18]

Tabankin soiree

In February 1995, a private party was held in New York to celebrate Margery Tabankin who had been recently chosen to head Steven Spielberg's Righteous Person's Foundation, (Tabankin also ran the Streisand Foundation). Attendees included Jesse Jackson, Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman, Streisand publicist Ken Sunshine, Rev. Al Sharpton, Ruth Messinger, Charles Schumer, Mark Green, Basil Paterson, David Paterson, David Dinkins, New York Urban League President Dennis Walcott, and Warner Records chairman Danny Goldberg. The taslk focused on how "liberals could take the political spotlight back from the conservatives"[19]

Council on Foreign Relations

Messinger serves on the Council on Foreign Relations - Religion Initiative Advisory Committee, as of March 15, 2010:[20]

Responsibility to Protect

As at March 28, 2011, Ruth W. Messinger served on the Advisory Board for Responsibility to Protect[21] The primary mission of the organization is to convince the American people and its leaders to embrace the norm of the responsibility to protect as a domestic and foreign policy priority. This "responsibility to protect" is defined by the organization as follows,[22]

"While sovereign Governments have the primary responsibility to protect their own citizens from such catastrophes, when they are unable or unwilling to do so that responsibility should be taken up by the wider international community ” with it spanning a continuum involving prevention, response to violence, if necessary, and rebuilding shattered societies."

North Star Fund 35th Gala

In 2014, at Chelsea Piers, North Star Fund held its annual Community Gala. This 35th Anniversary Community Gala was a spectacular celebration of North Star Fund and the achievements of our diverse community of philanthropic and grassroots activists and organizers. The event raised $870,000, which broke every previous record.

Notable guests included Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray, Katherine Acey, Nisha Atre, Martha Baker, Andrea Batista Schlesinger, Jay Beckner, Ingrid Benedict, Bill Bragin, Peter Brest, Art Chen, Bobby Cohen, Joe Conason, Larry Condon, Anne Delaney, Maddy deLone, Deni Frand, Elizabeth Gilmore, Elspeth Gilmore, Mark Green, Gary Hattem, Pierre Hauser, Michael Hirschhorn, Sarah Kovner and Victor Kovner, Dal LaMagna, Josh Mailman, Christine Marinoni, Christina McInerney, Pam McMichael, Ruth Messinger, Cynthia Nixon, Shola Olatoye, Ana Oliveira, Erica Payne, Lisa Philp, Mark Reed, Rinku Sen, Tani Takagi, Elizabeth Wagley, Michael Waldman, Maggie Williams, Barbara Winslow, and Kyung Yoon.[23]

Metropolitan College gala

Metropolitan College of New York celebrated its founding with a 50th Anniversary Gala, Thursday, October 23, 2014 at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Themed, “Amplify the Dream”; the Gala highlighted the school’s dynamic history. The Gala’s honorary chair was Mayor David Dinkins, New York City’s first Black mayor.

“I am honored to serve as honorary chair of MCNY’s Anniversary Gala,” said Mayor Dinkins. “For half a century, MCNY has not only produced professional citizens in New York City, but those who are also socially-responsible and share a commitment to give back and make our society a better place for all New Yorkers.”

The distinguished members of the honorary committee include: Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President; Ruben Diaz, Jr., Bronx Borough President; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; Carmen de Lavallade and the late Geoffrey Holder; Fernando Ferrer, Vice Chairman, MTA and former Bronx President; Ruth Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service; Senator Charles E. Schumer and Reverend Al Sharpton. The Gala honorees include: Helen LaKelly Hunt (Changemaker), Dr. Edison O. Jackson (Trailblazer) and R. Rick Baker (Champion). Robert Sargent Shriver was honored posthumously.[24]

External links


  2. New York Magazine 22 Aug 1977, page 10
  4. Information Digest Aug 24 1979 p 253
  5. Information Digest August 24 1979
  6. Information Digest August 24, 1979
  7. Information Digest, December 14, 1979, page 370/371
  8. Information Digest, Septemer 19, 1980, p 333
  9. {New York Democratic Socialist October 1982]
  10. War Called Peace
  11. PWW December 8, 1990, page 4
  12. [NY Democratic Socialist April/May 1987 page 2]
  13. Democratic left, Jan./Feb. 1990, page 7
  14. PDW Oct. 23. 1986, page 3, 'Full schedule in NYC for peace marchers' by Richard Hoyen
  15. DEMOCRATIC LEFT MAY/JUNE 1991, page 13
  16. Dem.Left, July/Aug. 1993, page 10]
  17. Peoples Weekly World, June 31, 1993
  18. Dem. Left, Jan./Feb. 1993. page 9
  19. [Barbra and Jesse split an egg roll. New York Magazine 20 Feb 1995 page 13]
  20. Religion Initiative webpage: Religious Advisory Committee
  21. Responsibility to Protect: Structure (accessed on March 28, 2011)
  22. R2P website, Mission, accessed March 25, 2011
  23. MY Social Diary 2014. North Star Fund