My Conversation with Tom Malinowski – Three Women as his Political and Personal Pedigrees – and a Major Presence of Foreign Policy Gravitas

Malinowski at the crux of democracy.

I didn’t think it would go well.

On a Wednesday, I received a phone call from the Tom Malinowski for Congress reelection campaign, requesting that I meet privately with the Congressman.  Naturally, I accepted the invitation immediately – such meetings are invaluable for a columnist seeking insight into the personal values and policy beliefs of the candidate.  Actually, the personal values aspect is usually of greater significance to me, since while policy and political positions can change, values usually are both more deeply held and comparatively immutable.

In the case of Tom Malinowski, I had never previously met him, but I was well aware of two factors that gave me a feeling that the meeting might be somewhat contentious.

The first was our differing foreign policy ideologies.  The second was Tom’s birthplace of Poland.

I never discriminate against anybody because of their ethnic origin, but my paternal Polish Jewish family had been victims of virulent antisemitism in Poland, which endures to this very day.  And I am one of those Jews who wears his “Jewishness” on his sleeves in all aspects of his life, religious, political, and social.

I knew, however, that the differing foreign policy views of Tom and me would not cause any personal discomfiture. I often describe myself, in the words of William F. Buckley, as a man with many transideological friendships.

Since my days as an undergraduate at Northwestern University, I have been an adherent of the Hans Morgenthau realism school of foreign policy. This school evaluates foreign policy measures in terms of their impact on national interest and security.  While rejecting isolationism, the Morgenthau school seeks to limit foreign military interventions to those absolutely necessary for the protection of national security and vital national interests

By contrast, Tom Malinowski is an advocate of the liberal internationalist foreign policy school, which has two basic underlying principles:  First, international organizations should achieve multilateral agreements between states that uphold rules-based norms and promote liberal democracy.  Second, liberal international organizations can intervene in other states in order to pursue liberal objectives.

While my inspirational foreign policy individual has been, as mentioned above, the late Hans Morgenthau, Tom’s leading influence has been former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, for whom he served as a speechwriter during the Clinton administration.  Although I have expressed disagreement with Ms. Albright on the issue of American military interventions, she is a magnificent advocate for democracy.  She is definitely a political pedigree for Tom Malinowski of which he can be most proud.

Although the philosophies on foreign interventions of Tom Malinowski and me are different, I was pleased that at our meeting, he reaffirmed his opposition to any American military intervention in Ukraine. There is a difference between us, however, in terms of emphasis of factors involved in the Ukraine-Russian conflict.

I am opposed to Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.  He is a thuggish war criminal.  I am not, however, anti-Russian.  Long after Putin leaves the scene, the Russian people will retain understandable, justifiable fears of Western invasions, stemming from the German invasions of World Wars One and Two and the American invasion of 1918 in an imperialistic attempt to overthrow the Bolshevik government.

Admission of Ukraine into NATO would be a foolhardy, counterproductive move, increasing the chances of a future war between a post-Putin Russia and other Eastern European states, which would also draw in American participation in an endless war.  While Tom Malinowski has not advocated NATO membership for Ukraine, he does not accept the explanation that Ukraine’s prospective membership was Russia’s reason and motivation for the invasion.

None of these policy differences led to a contentiousness at the meeting between Tom and me.  Furthermore, he displayed both an encyclopedic knowledge of foreign policy and genuine gravitas in any discussion on this topic.  It is apparent to me that the Republican nominee, whoever that may be, will suffer from a serious gravitas and knowledge deficit if he debates Tom Malinowski on foreign policy in the November campaign.

The issue of Polish antisemitism did cause me significant discomfiture prior to the meeting.  I visited Poland on a New Jersey-sponsored Holocaust Education tour in 1995, and upon my return, in front of audiences, I described Poland as a land of antisemitism without Jews.

As for Ukraine, the election of a Jewish President, Volodymyr Zelensky will never drench the blood of generations of Jewish mass murder victims from its soils.  I will support nonmilitary American assistance to Ukraine in their resistance to Putin’s murderous invasion.  I will never wear the colors of the Ukraine nationalist movement, for its history is one in which murderous antisemitism has played a central part.

The famed Ukraine Cossack revolutionary, Bohdan Khmelnytsky with his massacres of Jews in the mid-seventeenth century was history’s worst perpetrator of Jewish genocide prior to Adolf Hitler. Khmelnytsky is regarded as a Ukrainian national hero today.

During the Second World War, many Ukrainians actively collaborated in the Holocaust, whether through the Ukrainian fascist movement the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the Waffen SS Galicia Division or the Schutzmannschaft auxiliary police. The trial in Israel of John Demjanjuk showcased one of the many Ukrainians who served as concentration camp guards.

Accordingly, I will never be able to have the enthusiasm for Ukraine nationalism displayed by so many leading national figures of both political parties.  Ukraine has a heritage of antisemitism second only to Nazi Germany.  And my paternal family in Poland experienced Polish and Ukraine virulent antisemitism firsthand.

Members of my paternal family, known as Malovany in Europe, fled from their homes in Rozan and Pultusk, Poland after the Nazi invasion in 1939.  They arrived in Kyiv – yes, the Kyiv you keep hearing about in the news.  In Kyiv, the Russians advised them to go to areas of Jewish settlement in Siberia.  It’s a good thing my family listened to the Russians, because otherwise, they would have been massacred later by the Nazi Einsatzgruppen and their Ukraine collaborators at Babi Yar in Kyiv.

And the antisemitism in both Poland and Ukraine persisted after the war.  In 1945, my uncle and his family attempted to return to his home in Rozan.  He was told that if he returned to his former home, he and his family would be murdered, because Poles had now occupied the homes of Jewish victims of the Holocaust and would not give them back. The irony is that my uncle and family found refuge in a displaced persons center in Wroclaw, a city that had been part of Nazi Germany and was transferred to Poland in connection with the Yalta accords. He and my other relatives then emigrated to Israel, where their survivors have resided ever since.

There was no way I could or should conceal these feelings from Tom Malinowski.  He was most sensitive to my feelings and then proceeded to reveal something to me which left me stunned and awestruck, something few human beings on this planet have been able to do with the voluble Alan Steinberg.

Tom Malinowski’s grandmother and great-grandmother, Helena and Zofia, respectively, were Polish women who for altruistic reasons risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination.   Had their neighbors learned of their activities, they would have been murdered by the Poles themselves or transported by the Nazis to the extermination camps at Auschwitz or Treblinka.

For me, there is no greater exemplar of goodness and greatness than the good deeds of Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews.  I asked Tom if anybody ever sponsored Helena and Zofia for Righteous Gentile status at Yad VaShem, the memorial museum in Jerusalem for the Holocaust.  His response again achieved the impossible of leaving me speechless.

“They refused to apply, because they felt they didn’t do enough to rescue Jews.”

Political candidates boast all the time about their personal and political pedigree.  I have to ask, however.  Can anybody match Tom Malinowski in having three outstanding women, Madeleine Albright and Helena and Zofia as his political and personal pedigrees?

There was only one matter regarding Tom Malinowski I found objectionable.

I told him that I was a major fan of both the Borough of Brooklyn and its sports teams, the late, lamented Brooklyn Dodgers and the presently frustrating Brooklyn Nets.

At this point, Tom gave me a look of major embarrassment and issued the following shamed mea culpa.

“When I came over from Poland to New Jersey, I wanted to root for a sports team, just like the other kids.  I made the New York Yankees my team!”

I guess that at that time, Tom never heard the words, “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for US Steel!”  His liberalism would have compelled him to root for the New York Mets!

It is too early to predict whether Tom Malinowski will be reelected.  I can, however, predict that some day in an incoming Democratic presidential administration, Tom Malinowski will be on the short list for Secretary of State.

That seems to be his destiny.  And hopefully, his allegiance to the New York Yankees will not disqualify him!

Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

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6 responses to “My Conversation with Tom Malinowski – Three Women as his Political and Personal Pedigrees – and a Major Presence of Foreign Policy Gravitas”

  1. If you wanted to write an article that was mostly about yourself, why didn’t you just do it? Why get Tom involved at all?

    And while you were writing about women in his “personal and political pedigree” you missed probably the most direct influence of all, on both counts: The late Anne Clark Martindell, former NJ state senator and a U.S. Ambassador, Tom’s aunt (the sister of his stepfather.)

  2. As a New Jersey voter, personal values weigh heavily on my decision when voting.
    As Rep. Adam Schiff stated, you don’t know how important character is in a president until you have one without character. Character is of vital importance in any legislator, actually in any person.

    I applaud Tom Malinowski, not only for his knowledge and political wisdom, but for his personal values and his exemplary character.

    TOM MALINOWSKI IS THE TYPE OF REPRESENTATIVE WE NEED NOW MORE THAN EVER… Bless him.

    Interesting that this column mentioned three exceptional women and was first posted on
    International Women’s Day.

    Yankee fan…..remember, Alan Steinberg, your dear friend, Nick Acocella, was a passionate fan of the Yankees. He went to every Saturday home game.

    Thank you for keeping Insider NJ readers informed.
    I, for one, appreciate your insight and wisdom.

  3. We now know in depth what Alan Steinberg thinks about Poland and Ukraine, but he is not running for congress.

  4. Thank you, Alan Steinberg. I am so glad to read someone who understands the irony of now applauding and honoring the Ukraine. I too know the land as one of incredibly violent, denigrating anti-semitism. BUT. Much of the land has now turned to the West for a time, Ukrainians have traveled to Europe and America, away from the Iron Curtain lands, and things do change. We have to welcome that as it happens. Still, it is important to me that my friends understand the ironical situation people like me are now in, helping, applauding, sending money, and I very much appreciate the historical background Alan Steinberg has given here. Like him I cannot get myself to wear the Ukranian colors in solidarity. (but they are the colors of Sweden, as well!!) I share Steinberg’s horror that the murderous rebel Cossak Bhodan Khmelnitzky is considered a hero and an example of democracy in the Ukraine (!! I heard that only a few days ago). But visiting the sins of the fathers on the sons cannot be our way.

    As for Tom Malinowski himself, he is simply a national treasure. He is “my” congressman. I worked hard for him in 2017-2018, and cheered wildly when he won his seat in Congress. I worked hard for him again in 2019-2020, and will do so again now. It’s not only New Jersey which needs him, it’s the nation. There’s not a word of political jargon or hype that comes out of his mouth. He’s not a politician, he’s a Statesman. When is the last time we had one of those in Congress? I agree entirely that he is headed for Secretary of State.
    As for Yankess being US Steel — as a little girl growing up in the Bronx I didn’t know that . . .
    Looking forward to reading more of your columns,
    Styra Avins Eisinger

  5. HR6600, an Economic War in support of TPLF !!!

    Ethiopians and Eritreans protested at the Somerville, NJ office of Congressman Tom Malinosky on March 10, 2022 from noon to 3pm waving Ethio Eritrea and American flags.

    On a blue sky small airplane displayed a huge banner which says “Tom Maliownski Aiding Terrorists, Stop HR6606 !!!”.
    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=934669737216222&id=100020196121797
    Protesters from NY, DC, Philadelphia and NJ stood at Tom Malinowski’s quiet neighborhood shouting his name and denouncing HR6606 for what it is.

    “Tom supports terrorists” was the banner caught many passers by asking and noddig their heads that someone they vote for was not doing the right thing.Tom is unmasked and he is given a second chance to correct.

    Indeed HR6600 that Tom Malnowski sponsored is designed to punish Ethiopia, the victim of TPLF’s war of Nov 2021 that still goes in Afar State/Kilil displacing more than 300 thousands killing and injuring many hundreds.

    Organizers went to the congressman office and formally submitted their letter of protest. The staffs graciously welcomed them and agreed to organize a direct meeting with the congressman to discuss why this bill is against Ethiopia and Eritrea in particular and destabilising the Horn in general like it did under USA and TPLF coalition of three decades of terror that pushed tens of millions to deep poverty by inflaming tribal and religious conflicts in the Horn of Africa !!!

    The failed alliance of USA and TPLF that was rejected by popular opposition 4 years ago is once again tried to revive using the HR6600 pro TPLF resolution.

    The protester organizers thanked all who joined this successful rally and all who called the congressman’s office in supporting the rally.

    Similar protests are scheduled throughout the USA in the coming days to put pressure on senators and congress to stop HR6600 from being put on floor for discussion.HR 6600 is an economic war against Ethiopia and Eritrea and must be stopped on its track !!!

    The pro HR6600 group’s call for regime change by pushing Ethiopians to deep poverty under HR6600 is shortsighted and anti Ethiopia and Eritrea which is rewarding TPLF,OLA, Gumuz rebels etc and must be condemned by all Africans.

    The pro HR6600 TPLF supporters and the very few uninformed Ethiopians must be challenged under the banner of African Solution for Africa Problems.

    Sanctioning the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea is an economic war of America similar to Afghanistan that crippled the country’s economy as a payback for NATO’s defeat !!! Afghans are dying by starving them !!! TPLF is blocking aid trucks to Tigray in similar fashion !!!

  6. After 9/11 the American interventionists brought more than hundreads thousands death in non whites world and millions displaced. As Ethiopian, Tom Malinowski reminds me of Obama who bombed Colonel Mohammed Gadafi’s Liby and destroyed Libya. Libya was home for black Africans. Libya has been without govt since 2011. Congressman Tom Mslinowski wrote a resolution HR6600 to return to power an American supported minority dictatorship TPLF that was toppled by mass movement four years ago after 27 years of looting and human rights violation. Tom Malinowsky foreign expertise is the continuation of Obama and Biden that is pro Europe/white and Africans will reject it. HR6600 sponsored by Tom Malinowski is a anti Ethiopia and Eritrea resolution. We will fight it by exposing it to the American public like we did it at NJ Tom Malinowski’s office last Thursday. We will make sure democrats that backed HR6600 will be punished in Nov 2022. Tom Malinowski is not an African expert. He is just a “White” Obama!!!

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