Flossie Gluckman-small in stature, but a giant for human rights
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the signing into law of the Civil Rights Act, The Heritage has been running a series of articles about members of the Orlando Jewish community who helped bring about racial changes in Central Florida. This is the fourth of a series.
Florence Gluckman, better known as Flossie Gluckman, was a lot like her brother, Jerry Bornstein, when it came to justice, fairness, and respecting human beings simply because they are human beings.
"Making a difference was in her DNA," said her niece Roz Fuchs. "She had a strong sense of human dignity and opportunity for everybody."
Although he was very young, Flossie's son Jeremy Gluckman remembers going with her to Woolworths for a sit-in at the lunch counter back in the 1950s.
It was a small stand for equal rights, but Flossie and her dear African-American friend, Lylah Hankins, would go from restaurant to restaurant and wait in line to be seated together-an action that was unacceptable in the '50s and '60s here in Orlando. They were always booted out of each establishment, but that didn't stop them from continuing to try again and again.
According to her sister Bea Ettinger, the two women ended up waiting in line at the dining room at the Orlando Airport, now the Executive Airport on Colonial Drive, and because it was a federal facility they were eventually seated.
"She was a dynamo, very intellectual and a mover and shaker. She was able to open doors that community leaders couldn't," said Fuchs.
"She was a member of the NAACP and we went with black friends who were also members," said Gluckman. "We socialized with her black friends at other times as well."
"She'd have the ideas and then delegate the work and move on to her next idea!" said Fuchs.
Flossie once volunteered her son to be part of a teenage panel at an NAACP meeting back around 1961. "I remember being asked what I thought about interracial marriages. I got loud cheers when I told them that I thought it was a matter of love and not race," said Gluckman.
Growing up, Gluckman and his brothers and sisters (there were five of them) were taught that as Jews they had both a responsibility and self-interest in supporting integration.
"After what happened in World War II, she said that protecting other minority groups made very good sense, both on a moral basis, and because once other minorities suffered prejudice, we were certain to be the next in line, if we had not already been made targets. I think that her own experience as the object of bigotry gave her a very strong prejudice against those who were bigots, no matter who they hated or why they hated them," Gluckman told The Heritage.
Flossie fought for many causes. When she was Central Florida Jewish Community Council president, she heard about a low income, elderly housing program offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was instrumental in forming a Jewish senior housing council that brought into being Kinneret apartments, the Jewish senior housing facility in Orlando. Flossie became the first president of its board of directors.
After the Civil Rights bill passed, things didn't get better right away. In fact, it got tougher for the African-American children who were now thrown into an integrated school situation without equal educational backgrounds. It seems that the quality of the education in the black schools was not on par with the white schools.
"It was a recorded fact that most of the black schools were almost two years behind their white counter-parts," said Ettinger.
Flossie lobbied the school board seeking tutoring for these children who were falling into the gaping cracks in the system. The school board responded that there was not enough money to fund such a program. Not one to take no for an answer ever, Flossie, along with Ettinger and her sister-in-law Rita Bornstein (Jerry's wife), organized a program called Wider Horizons that worked with the black families to tutor their children using college students to teach them during the summer. They also were the liaisons between the parents and the schools. A lot of the black children were going hungry at lunch time because their parents couldn't write and were ashamed to put down an "X" to sign forms for their children to get free lunches. Flossie and her crew smoothed out a lot of these problems that developed because of a lack of communication.
Flossie also had a late night call-in radio show. "We did a few shows together based upon my expertise as a consumer law specialist for poor people, but I know that she talked about race and prejudice a lot of times with callers," Gluckman remembered.
After graduating from law school in 1965, Flossie ran her own legal aid office and represented a lot of minority clients in family law cases, often offering her services for free to the indigent.
That same year, along with her husband Sidney, she received the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award for their diligent service for human rights for all people.
Reflecting on his mom, Gluckman summed her up with this, "Flossie was a very small person, but she had a very large brain, large heart and a large commitment to seeking what would be best for all of the human race."