Faith traditions played a formative role in Ken’s childhood.
Following the end of the war, Ken’s father went back to New York and became a painter. Not a house painter, but an artistic painter. He had a remarkable ability to see the colors and how they would fit together. Ken would sit with him for hours, watching him create the patterns in oil, either from a picture as the source, or just freehand. He would then use that to transfer the designs onto slipcovers for furniture and draperies. His father was credited with being the first person to use actual gold in oil paints. He was a perfectionist with his paints and colors.
Ken and family went to his grandparents’ home on Jewish holidays, where he would learn about the Old Testament, and the historical aspects of what was to become Israel. The Jewish heritage was very important in these gatherings; learning about the Jews crossing the River Jordan, and God speaking to them. His message was that while the Jews were farmers, God said to their leaders that they needed to focus on education. They believed God favored them. They learned they would likely be persecuted in life, and hence needed a good education, with transferable skills. For example, if one wanted to be in the building trades, one should be an architect.
Many Jews left the faith as a result of this pressure, which they felt was a change in their traditions. Orthodox Jews still concentrate on education, reading and study, and keeping the Torah.
These traditions were very important in Ken’s youth. The family was not rich but they were comfortable, and good in business. Ken felt they were a bit ahead of the game, in comparison to some others in his community.
Ken’s father also did accounting work, and had studied that at NYU, entering college at 16 and graduating at age 19. He had a job in the Fulton Fish Market, and one time claimed that his boss was making him work so hard that he turned the hose on him. Ken doubts that is true, but it signifies the beliefs his father had. He was very strongly non-prejudiced and non-judgmental; he totally respected all people. He would get angry with people because they were bigoted. Ken recalls that as his father aged and could no longer drive safely, he would sometimes cut people off and then blame them for it. He practically never cussed or used bad language,
All of these traits were solidly implanted in Ken. He learned to stand up for what you believe in.