His papers document the early years of TFGL, Fishman's collaboration with other activists, and the issues surrounding being an openly gay professional in the late-1960s and early-1970s.
Israel David Fishman was born on February 21, 1938 in Westerly, Rhode Island. His given name was Israel Fishman; he took the middle name “David” as an adult. His parents, Minnie C. and Benjamin Fishman, were Orthodox Jews; his father was an ordained rabbi, although he never held a pulpit position or earned a living as a clergyman.
In September 1946, Israel Fishman was sent to Yeshiva Torah Vodaath in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In letters, he described his childhood as one of much turmoil and loneliness. At the age of fifteen he was hospitalized for twelve weeks and treated with electric shock therapy. His early adult years were filled with the typical yearnings of youth and with his particular struggle to recognize, understand, and enjoy his life as a gay man. Although Fishman rebelled against the confines of Orthodoxy, in fact found them inconsistent and irreconcilable with an openly gay life, the early years, imbued with the rule-and-calendar-based thinking of Orthodox life, formed a major part of his character and were an essential part of his personal conflicts.
Israel David Fishman was best known for founding the Task Force on Gay Liberation, a section of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Libraries Association. In 1974, Fishman met Carl Navarro at the West Side Discussion Group. The two became boyfriends, and began living together, beginning a lasting relationship. The couple's activities included, for a number of years, lengthy annual trips to Italy, where they established many friendships. Together from more than 30 years.
In 1958 he used the name “Yisroel Fishman”, his Hebrew name, on a receipt; later he wrote on a scrap of paper,”I can't believe I ever used 'Yisroel'.” In January 1964 a check was signed “I. Ronald Fishman” but in June 1964 he changed his name on his Social Security documents to Israel Fishman, “my original name to which I have returned.” His writings are punctuated with Talmudic references and perspectives, and a recurring subject of interest, reflected in these papers, has been the lives of homosexuals under the Nazis.
According to his own resumes, Fishman worked in various New York businesses as an office assistant between the years 1956 and 1965. In 1958 he entered the City College of New York, enrolling as an evening student and working during the day. He graduated from City College with a B.A. degree, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, in Philosophy in June of 1965, having become a full-time day student for several years prior to his graduation. In May 1966, he received an M.L.S. from Columbia University's School of Library Science.
For the next year Fishman worked as Head of Technical Services in the library at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Richmond College of the City University of New York, on Staten Island, was the location of his next job, Acquisitions Librarian, which he held until 1970. He was subsequently hired by Upsala College in East Orange, NJ.
Fishman was hired as Circulation Librarian at Upsala College, at the rank of Assistant Professor, in September 1970. In the Spring of 1973 he learned that he had been denied tenure. After considering the appeal process and other options, he requested and was granted a six month sick leave, at the conclusion of which, on January 15, 1974, his salary and all remaining benefits ended. This was to be the conclusion of Fishman's career as a library professional.
Ironically, those Upsala-era years marked his greatest influence on the profession's social awareness. It was at the American Library Association meeting in Detroit in 1970 that, according to his account, Fishman conceived the idea of a gay liberation group within the library profession, and he a few others organized the Task Force on Gay Liberation, a section of the Social Responsibilities Round Table. The group's activities at the Dallas convention the next year (June 1971) gained national attention in the gay and mainstream press. Fishman said in his correspondence that these public activities were responsible for the demise of his career in librarianship. He was succeeded in leadership of the Task Force by Barbara Gittings, a lesbian who was not a professional librarian. The two had a mostly affectionate friendship and collegial relationship, punctuated by times of disagreement on issues of their relative power and influence.
After leaving librarianship, Fishman went to Los Angeles, California for a period of work and study at the Gay Community Services Center. He returned to New York in the winter of 1973. A course in Swedish massage led to a new career as a masseur.
On February 2, 1974, Fishman met Carl Navarro at a performance of the play “Out of the Frying Pan” at the West Side Discussion Group (a regular gathering of gay men in New York City). The two became boyfriends (their preferred term), and began living together shortly thereafter, beginning a lasting relationship. The couple's activities included, for a number of years, lengthy annual trips to Italy, where they established many friendships. They celebrated their twentieth anniversary with a festive dinner party in 1994.
Fishman's letters reveal him to be a man of strong opinions and clear expression. He gave serious and thoughtful attention to all his choices and actions. A disappointing purchase would prompt a letter to the manufacturer; so too, a disappointing action on the part of a friend often resulted in a strongly-worded reply. The same strength of feeling made him a friend whose love and encouragement was often noted.
Israel David Fishman, 1989, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123786)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digital
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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