Arthur Isaac first came to the 92nd Street Y in 1935, when he was 14—he grew up on the Upper East Side, where his parents owned and operated a laundry business. A few years later, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Arthur enlisted in the Air Force, eventually winning a Purple Heart.
He missed New York. He asked his mother to mail dozens of bagels from the neighborhood—but by the time they arrived they were rock hard. Never one to let bagels go to waste, the next day Arthur took them along on a mission over Frankfurt, tying them to the tail-fins of the bombs he dropped on enemy targets, along with a message: “To Adolf. From the 92nd St. YMHA.”
How did this story come to light? In 2018, thanks to a generous grant from the Henry Leir Foundation, we have methodically digitized the entire run of 92Y’s house newspaper, the Y Bulletin, published from 1900 to 1980. It’s an invaluable historical resource not only for 92Y, but for anyone who cares about American Jews and cultural life in the 20th century.
This is our history. As we look to the future, it is crucial that we take stock of what we have always been—a local haven for Jews in New York and a major cultural center with global reach. Arthur Isaac’s story is just one infinitesimal part of a rich tradition that continues to this day.
The neighborhood bagels are still good too.