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The clown prince of the New Left, Abbie Hoffman died by his own hand on this date in 1989 at the age of 52. Using ridicule and audacity against the political, military, and judicial systems that were helping to prosecute the Vietnam War, Hoffman worked to transform the anti-authoritarian sentiments of many young people of the 1960s counterculture into political consciousness. Active in Mississippi during the civil rights movement’s 1964 Freedom Summer, Hoffman became best known for throwing dollar bills from the visitors’ gallery to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (April, 1967); for his “Exorcism of the Pentagon” in October of that year; and for founding, with Jerry Rubin and others, the Youth International Party, or Yippies, who led protests at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago, provoking a police riot that led to the Chicago Eight Conspiracy Trial. Hoffman lived underground from 1974 to 1980 after being arrested for selling cocaine, but nevertheless worked as a very public environmental activist in upstate New York under the name “Barry Freed.” His books include Revolution for the Hell of It, Woodstock Nation, Steal This Book, and Soon To Be a Major Motion Picture.
“Jews have to make a big choice very quickly in life whether to go for the money or to go for broke. Wiseguys who go around saying things like ‘Workers of the world unite’ or . . . ‘E=mc2’ obviously choose to go for broke. It’s the greatest Jewish tradition.” -Abbie Hoffman
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.