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Harvey Francis Fireside

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ITHACA, NEW YORK - Harvey Fireside died Friday, February 1, 2008, at his home in Ithaca, after a four-year battle with multiple myeloma.
He was born December 28, 1929 in Vienna, Austria. At the time of his birth, and until he came to America in 1940, his name was Heinz Wallner. His father had changed his name from Feuerzeug to a more neutral name. His mother, Franceska Wallner, died when he was five. His father, Norbert, and his stepmother, Sidy, also predeceased him.
In March 1938, when the Nazis took over Austria, Jewish citizens listened in horror as the streets were filled with cheering Viennese, many of them sporting gold Nazi emblems, identifying them as members of the once illegal Nazi party, now a badge of special import.
Eight months later, the full impact of the Nazi invasion became clear. On Kristalnacht," the Night of Broken Glass," Hitler Youth marched through Vienna smashing Jewish-owned shops and taking anything of value. Harvey's father owned a small photography studio. A Christian friend who was now a Nazi official called Norbert to come to his shop. When he got there, the place was looted, but the official had chased the thugs away, and allowed Norbert to take out one professional camera and a guest book. Within days, Harvey's family was forced from their home and resettled in the Jewish Ghetto with members of his stepmother's family.
Harvey's family frantically looked for a way to leave Vienna, and help came from Norbert's brother in Illinois. Harvey accompanied his father to the U.S. Consulate, where their fate would be sealed. The Consulate physician hesitated to approve Norbert because he had a limp, but Norbert noticed a brand new camera on the physician's desk and commented on its virtues, and by the time he explained to the physician how it worked, the doctor said, "You will have no trouble earning a living in America.
In April of 1940, Harvey, his father and stepmother left for America, and suddenly, Heinz Wallner became Harvey Fireside, the same last name as Norbert's brother.
In 1944 Harvey and his family moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, where Harvey attended high school. He was valedictorian of the class of 1948, and went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard University, class of 1952. He earned an MA from Harvard in 1955, and a Ph.D., from the New School for Social Research in 1968.
In 1959, after a whirlwind romance of just ten weeks, he married Bryna J. (Levenberg) Fireside in New York City. By 1968, with two small children in tow, they left Greenwich Village for Ithaca, where Harvey accepted a teaching position with Ithaca College in the Politics Department. He later became the Charles A. Dana professor of politics. Harvey encouraged his students to take part in the Ithaca community by volunteering in a service organization of their choice. Many of his students volunteered at the Ithaca Youth Bureau, others at the Mental Health Association (of which Harvey served as president for several years). Harvey also encouraged his students to work in local and national political campaigns, several of whom campaigned for Matt McHugh for D.A. who became the first Democratic D.A. in Tompkins County since the Civil War. He retired from Ithaca College in 1996 where he was name professor emeritus.
If there is one thing that can be said of Harvey Fireside, it is that his was a life well lived, and one in which he sought no honors. In those early years at Ithaca College, Harvey and several of his colleagues organized a group of professors who were always available to the African American students who were being actively sought for admission to the college. He also joined others who were opposed to the Vietnam War, aligned himself with Father Daniel Berrigan, and helped students get conscious objector status.
In 1973, he formed the Ithaca chapter of Amnesty International. It has been helping political prisoners ever since.
Later, he joined the local Sanctuary Movement, which helped Salvadorans who were fleeing repression in El Salvador find sanctuary. Ithaca was named as a Sanctuary City by the Common Council. Fifteen years ago, when Harvey and his wife, Bryna, took a trip along the U.S-Mexican Border to visit sanctuaries there, they returned to Ithaca with a new understanding of the terrible problems faced by those who fled their homelands. After writing articles about the situation they found, Harvey conceived the idea of starting The Border Fund, which raised funds for places along the U.S. border that were providing sanctuary for victims of torture and repression.
In addition, Harvey and Bryna were founding members of Congregation Tikkun v'Or-The Ithaca Reform Temple. Each year the children of the religious school donated gently used toys and children's clothing to each of ten shelters, including one shelter in Buffalo. Additionally, through the Temple, Harvey organized a group of volunteers to plant flowers each spring in front of Southside Community Center. Neighbors responded by planting flowers in their own front yards, as well.
Then in 1994, with war raging in the former Yugoslavia, in which the hideous term, "ethnic cleansing" was used by the Serbs to destroy Bosnian Muslims, Harvey, with Bryna and many friends, organized a branch of the Bosnian Student Project to get at-risk college students scholarships at various area colleges. TC-3 immediately responded with an offer of a scholarship to a student from Sarajevo. The Bosnian Student Project raised money to support first one, then several more Bosnian students, who then earned degrees at Cornell, Ithaca College, SUNY Binghamton, Hartwick College, and others. These students did exceptionally well, and after graduation from various colleges, several were granted refugee status.
With that war over, no more students were arriving in the United States, but Harvey soon came up with a new idea. When a refugee from Burundi, now living in Ithaca, learned that a son believed to have been killed was alive in a refugee camp in Rwanda, and needed funds for DNA testing and airfare, Congregation Tikkun v'Or came to the rescue by offering the woman an interest-free loan, to be paid back as she could. It took two more years before the young man was able to come to Ithaca. Out of this act, The Eleanor Roosevelt Loan Fund was established to provide no-interest loans to immigrants and refugees in the Tompkins County area. Since 2000, over 100 small loans in amounts up to $1,500 have been made. The committee recently renamed the Fund, the Harvey Fireside Loan Fund. It is open to immigrants and refugees only.
Harvey is survived by his wife, Bryna, of 48 years; his children their spouses, Leela Ruth Fireside and Patrick Choiniere, Douglas Leonard Fireside and Laura Weeldryer, and Daniel Ephriam and Lisa Rivera; as well as six grandchildren, Ella Fireside, Sophie Fireside, Lucienne Fireside, Noah Choiniere, Ariela Choiniere and Ximena Fireside.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Lansing Funeral Home. The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 3, 2008, at Congregation Tikkun v'Or, 2550 North Triphammer Road, Ithaca. Internment will follow at Lakeview Cemetery. Shiva will be held at the home of Bryna Fireside Sunday evening beginning at 7 p.m. through Tuesday evening.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the library or rabbi fund of Congregation Tikkun v'Or or the charity of your choice.

Published in Ithaca Journal on Feb. 2, 2008
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