Neil Abelson
Roslyn High School - Class of 1957
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"Worry kills me, I'm too young to die ." (Anon.)

"Abe" .  .  .  English pro  .  .  .  silent (?) type  .  .  .  Roslyn News reporter
  .  .  .  dancin" feet  .  .  .  bowler .

  Neil is currently living in Belle Terre, Long Island

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  Neil on Cruise - Click to Enlarge

As a result of the superior education I received at Roslyn High School I had the good fortune of being accepted at Brandeis University, where I graduated “With Honors in Politics” in June of 1961 and developed a strong sense of social responsibility. I was honored to be selected as one of six Americans and six foreign students to participate in a year-long class on “The United Nations and International Law” taught by the chairman of the Politics Department and Eleanor Roosevelt, in her only year at Brandeis; got my picture with her in Life Magazine ; became a good friend of hers until she died; and have a series of letters from her which I will always cherish. In my sophomore year I served as chairman of Homecoming Weekend, bringing to the university Theodore Bikel, “Dizzie” Gillespie, and an unknown folk singer who I got for a mere $50 named Joan Baez. In the meantime, due to the wonderful Spanish education I had received at Roslyn from my favorite teacher, Amideu Cunha, I was exempted from Brandeis’ foreign language requirement.

Neil & Samantha, Shanghai, 2005   Click to Enlarge  
While at Brandeis, I attended the Brussels World’s Fair of 1958 and was lucky enough to win Grand Prize in the world in an essay contest sponsored by the Israeli Government --- a free trip to Israel, which I took during the summer of 1960 in addition to visiting England, Holland, Germany, Greece, Turkey and the summer Olympic Games in Rome, where I sat on the 50-yard line in addition to seeing many athletic contests. In 1961, I toured the U.S. with my brother and a friend who later became an ambassador during the Clinton administration. During our travels we sat in at the Greyhound terminal lunch counter in Anniston, Alabama while the federalized National Guard stood armed in the streets; and I photographed much of the then-segregated South.
        In June of 1964, I graduated from Cornell Law School, finishing high in my class. The summer before that I was involved in the March on Washington, where I marched three lines behind Dr. Martin Luther King, was near him when he gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech, and got to know him personally. As the Viet Nam war was heating up, I volunteered to serve as an officer in the navy and then the air force, but was rejected for service in each due to physical disability. The army then sent me a draft notice but I was rejected for the same disability.
  Neil at Great Wall of China, 2005   Click to Enlarge
        After admission to the New York bar in December of 1964, I was appointed as an Assistant County Attorney of Nassau County in the administration of County Executive Eugene F. Nickerson and County Attorney and Columbia Law Professor Jack B. Weinstein ( both of whom later became federal judges) . After successfully trying negligence cases, I was given the honor of conceiving of and wrote laws which the County Executive would, if approved, submit to the New York State Legislature for consideration. In that capacity I am proud to say that I proposed, drafted and got passed by the state legislature, the first conservation easement law and the first prisoner work release law enacted in the State of New York.
        In 1965, at the N.A.A.C.P.’s annual convention, I was elected to serve as national co-chairman of the organization’s Constitution Committee and had the honor of serving with Basil Patterson, a distinguished attorney who later was the Secretary of State of the State of New York.
        In 1967, I left the Nassau County Attorney’s Office and opened my law office as a sole practitioner, in Hauppauge, Suffolk County. I became the Village Attorney of the incorporated Village of the Branch; and in the latter capacity I wrote zoning laws which gave incentives for preservation of the village’s historic houses on Middle Country Road while permitting office use of those structures. It became a model for preservation with expenditure of public funds and was followed by other municipalities and private associations such as the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities.

Neil & Friend, Mexico, 2006  
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        In 1971, I won what was believed to be the first “reverse discrimination” case in American history, and Suffolk County’s appeal of the same, after 3 minority officers in the Suffolk County Police Department had been promoted over white candidates who were the 3 highest candidates on the civil service list, and the county also kept on throwing out the list of candidates for police officer and advertising new tests when they thought they were not getting enough minorities passing. As a result, Mike Wallace called me and he and his crew came to Hauppauge and did a “60 Minutes” story about the case (which was repeated on the program’s 25th anniversary show as one of the top 10 stories they had reported); and was also asked to be the Conservative Party’s candidate for Suffolk County District Attorney. That election resulted in my getting the highest vote in NY State history for a candidate running solely on a third-party line (about 50,000 votes, or 20% of the total vote, and also brought me the good fortune of having me meet my wife and soul mate for almost 32 years, Denise Eileen Dougherty, until her untimely death in February of 2002 from esophageal cancer.
       In 1973, Denise and I were married and moved into the beautiful waterfront village of Belle Terre, where I served as Police Commissioner for 10 years and Denise served as Youth Program Commissioner for about 13 years. Our daughter (and only child), Samantha, was born in 1976; and our family was enriched with both Denise’s Irish heritage and my Jewish heritage. Among other things, I became interested in genealogy, which passion led me to trace my mother’s roots back 54 consecutive generations, through the greatest and most famous rabbis in all of Jewish history, on three separate lines traditionally held to directly descend from King David of bible fame (who for Christians was also the ancestor of Joseph, the natural father of Jesus). My research also showed me to be a direct descendant of the father of the 11th century Pope Gregory VI (who was kidnapped as a child and forcibly converted to Christianity); a cousin of the great composer, Felix Mendelssohn; Louis Dembitz Brandeis, the U.S. Supreme Court Justice after whom my alma mater is named (I discovered this long after graduation!); three Nobel prize winners; and that my 2nd cousin, (Roslynite) Richard Haass, was the chief political advisor to the State Dept. in the administrations of presidents Clinton and Bush II, a special envoy to Northern Ireland, and is the current president of the Council on Foreign Relations. I also discovered that I am a relative by marriage of Jacob Fuchsberg, a former Chief Judge of the NY State Court of Appeals, and billionaire philanthropist and former CEO of Citicorp, Sanford Weill.
Neil in Bermuda, 2004
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       In the second half of the 1980’s, I became heavily involved in Irish issues and discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland. We participated in, and I was the only non-Irish person of the Fund-Raising Committee of, Project Children, which brought 1,000 Catholic and Protestant children to the US every summer, to get away from the bigotry in which they were brought up and get to know each other and see what life was like in the United States, through living with host families for 6 weeks during the summer. We were given the unique privilege of being allowed to have the same girl, from a single-parent household in Derry, live with us every summer for 5 years; and we exchange correspondence to this day (she is now the first one in her family to be off of welfare and to own her own business) and she calls me “Dad”! During one visit to Northern Ireland, I had machine guns pointed at my head for about 20 minutes by soldiers of the British army, while their fingers were on the trigger as they laughed; photographed armored cars patrolling the streets of Derry; and saw old ladies being required to turn their shopping bags over and dump their market purchases on the ground by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (police), who were supposedly looking for arms! Needless to say, due to the long arm of British intelligence at the time, I turned down invitations to testify before Congress and appear on “Good Morning America”. On a positive note, I was often able to get tickets to sit in the Grand Marshal’s reviewing stand at the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade (we were there, and sat five rows behind the top-hatted Grand Marshal’s cabinet and wound up in the newspapers’ photos), in the now-infamous incident when the cabinet turned their backs on the Irish Gay and Lesbian Organization as they marched by. The newspapers, as usual due to their bias, never reported that the back turning occurred only after certain marchers gave them obscene gestures!
        During this period, among our extensive worldwide travels we visited Ireland, Israel and Italy many times; and as a result of my genealogical avocation I was able to discover and locate, and we were able to meet, hundreds of Denise’s relatives in Ireland (and many of mine in Israel) --- including Martin Dully, a cousin who was the head of the Irish Tourist Board and former president of Aer Lingus (the Irish national airline) and Peter Ryan, another cousin who is now the right arm of the prime minister and the former appointments secretary to the president of Ireland. I also served on the National Subcommittee on Discrimination of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith and the Long Island Regional Board of the A.D.L.; and I co-founded both the Jewish Genealogical Society of Long Island and the Irish Family History Forum. I was also one of the three founders and builders of the Long Island Cultural Center at Bald Hill (an open concert amphitheater in Farmingville), and its executive vice-president and board member, as well as a board member of the Smithhaven Ministries, an anti-poverty organization. I was also the Suffolk legal counsel to the Irish Immigration Reform Movement. Politically, I was one of two attorneys for the then Republican County Chairman, Anthony J. Prudenti; president of the North Shore Republican Club and successfully handled important election law cases up through the New York State Court of Appeals; and was president of the Brookhaven Town Republican Presidents’ Club (a club comprised of the presidents of all of the Republican clubs in Brookhaven Town); chairman, for one year, of the Law Committee of the Brookhaven Town Republican Committee; and a Republican county committeeman for the 117th election district in the Town of Brookhaven. At the same time, I served as police commissioner of the village of Belle Terre (for about 10 years); counsel to, and a member of, the Shomrim Society of Suffolk County (Jewish police officers, other law enforcement personnel, and judges); president of the Men’s Club of the North Shore Jewish Center (conservative) and, when we switched to Temple Isaiah of Stony Brook (reform), served as president of its Brotherhood (men’s club). Denise and I were also active, and I still am, in Planned Parenthood.

Striped Bass Caught Off Montauk, 2005
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        Our daughter, Samantha, had a 3-day-long bi-ethnic (Jewish and Irish) Bat Mitzvah at age 13, which was one continuous “hooligh”; and in school she won the U.S. Dept. of Education presidential award for the highest grade-point average in the first 8 grades of elementary and middle school. She then went on to become a top student-athlete at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson, serving as president of the student body in her senior year (the school’s 100th year), and as captain of the women’s varsity soccer and softball teams, and the men’s varsity basketball cheerleaders. She was voted by the sportswriters to the All Tournament Team when her softball team went to the finals of the state championship and lost by one run as she was caught trying to steal home; and she was selected to the first string of the Suffolk County All-Academic Women’s Soccer Team. She also garnered many academic awards and thereafter earned her undergraduate degree from Williams College, where she was elected to the College Council all four years and served as its secretary, as well as the president of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Organization after her team went to the national championships. Samantha then earned a masters degree in education at the University of Pennsylvania; and is now a tenured 9th grade global studies teacher in Media, PA, and teacher’s union
        On Veteran’s Day in 2006, Samantha married Stephen V. Weigman in another Jewish- Irish blast (Steve is of half Irish and half German extraction ) in Avondale, PA; and they live in their new home in Garnet Valley, PA, about 15 miles outside of Philadelphia and 2 miles from tax-free shopping in Delaware.
        I am still living in Belle Terre, in semi-retirement. Although I have been dating, Denise has been sorely missed. Samantha is my best friend and we speak to each other regularly and see each other every month. Roslyn High School, and its teachers (especially Mr. Cunha) and students, remains close to my heart.

Neil J. Abelson
September, 2007