Gertrude Milberg Kleinman
AGE: 95 • Highland Park
Gertrude Milberg Kleinman died on Thursday Jan. 31 at 95 after a brief illness. Gertrude Kleinman was a visionary civic activist and a pioneering management consultant. Professionally her work ranged from serving as a 20-something Appointments Secretary to New York Governor Herbert Lehman to supporting her young family by writing true confessions morality novels to managing the New Brunswick-based private practice of her husband of 60 years, Milton L. Kleinman to establishing with him the Center for Behavior Therapy, later CBT Associates, which became a successful and groundbreaking management consulting firm, also headquartered in New Brunswick. She remained active as a consultant until the time of her death. Gertrude Kleinman engaged in lifetime of work for peace and for social justice -today such work might be called human rights advocacy.
Born in Romania in 1917, the seventh of nine children to Tauba and Moishe Milberg, Gertrude immigrated to Brooklyn (via Marseilles, France) before she was three. Growing up in Brooklyn and graduating from Erasmus Hall High School, Gertrude told tales of hanging out in the high school clique that included the athletes, Marty Glickman and Sid Luckman. One would-be high school suitor told her younger son in a random encounter some 60 years later that "Gert was hot stuff, way out of my league." But Gertrude was far more than a pretty face. Her life was shaped by what she learned about the pervasiveness and potential invisibility of racial discrimination when as a young woman she spent time in the social circle of the academic and activist Eward Guinier.
Gertrude Milberg Kleinman was a woman both of her times and well ahead of them. A committed activist for peace and against racial discrimination, she was involved one way or another with the many of the touchstone progressive movements and demonstrations of the second half of the twentieth century, fighting against the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, supporting Paul Robeson, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King against racial discrimination in Washington in 1963 and against the Vietnam War in New York in 1968, and more. She was one of the early advocates in NJ, speaking out to end the Vietnam War, and served as co-chair of the NJ campaign to nominate Senator Eugene McCarthy, the first serious anti-Vietnam war presidential candidate. Although a lifelong Democrat, these activities led to her being offered (and declining) the opportunity to run against Rep. Edward Patton as a Republican candidate for Congress in 1970.
While tackling these large issues, Mrs. Kleinman also has a legacy of local change that is testament to her courage and her vision. She viewed public education as central to advancing social justice. She recalled how she and Murry Bergtraum ran successfully as insurgents to be elected Secretary and President of their Queens PTA Board, effectively launching the piece of Bergtraum's career that led to him serving as President of the New York City School Board. In New Brunswick, Gertrude Kleinman had a vision for early childhood education and headed the Community Action Project nursery school - called Come Take My Hand - to establish what is now known as early intervention or preschool in New Brunswick. She served without pay and the downtown New Brunswick school was free of charge, including free pediatric services. Her work provided evidence of the potential for preschool intervention programs, and laid the groundwork for New Brunswick being selected as an early site for the National Head Start program.
As co-chair of Plan C, Gertrude Kleinman spearheaded the fight to build a new high school in New Brunswick, which was completed on Livingston Avenue in 1964. Her passions for education and social justice were manifest again when she helped to establish the Tutorial Program, in which high school students in Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple's after school and weekend programs would serve as academic mentors to inner city New Brunswick youth. Her activism could be seen in her role on the United Fund's (now United Way) Budget Committee, her Presidency of the Council of Parents Associations at Rutgers University, and her appearance on the front page of the Home News after one civic meeting or another.
With her husband and partner, Milton, she developed a sophisticated and nuanced philosophy of how to use language to support the legitimate manifestation of power within the business environment. Before there were such terms, she developed herself into a professional or life coach, a professional guru, and a highly sought after consultant. As a consultant, Gertrude Kleinman taught her clients how to expand the options through which they could perceive and experience the world. Mrs. Kleinman worked with her clients to help them to develop their capacity to take it in, but she taught them how to employ this expanded understanding of the world to walk and talk a more nuanced - and more effective - path that better defined them and expressed who they are. She was a master of nuance in communications. Once upon being introduced to a President of the United States with whom she shared little political philosophy, she deftly commented, "Mr. President, I cannot believe I am shaking your hand." Those who know her recognized that she was truly one of a kind.
For all of her success outside the home, nothing was more important to Gertrude Kleinman than family. For her children, Gertrude Kleinman lived as a powerful example of the importance of having values and communicating them both by what you said and how you lived. She had strong beliefs and let you know them; still her respect was for those who engaged with her with authenticity and commitment, rather than only for those who agreed with her. Gertrude Kleinman touched her family, friends, and strangers with acts of kindness, small and large. The generosity she displayed was as boundless as the joy she felt when others benefited from it. Her beloved husband Milton predeceased her in 2007. She is survived by her five children, Margaret, Jonathan, Toby, Marsha, and Lawrence, one sister Dorothy Price, as well as 11 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. Her legacy remains strong in her family and in those who knew her.
The family asks that those wishing to make donations consider supporting the Gertrude M. and Dr. Milton L. Kleinman '38 Scholarship Fund with a donation to the Brooklyn College Foundation at 2900 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11210. Funeral arrangements were entrusted to the Crabiel Parkwest Funeral Chapel, 239 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ.