November 22, 2013

Jay man worked for JFK in 1963

JAY — Nathan Farb is considered a pre-eminent photographer of the Adirondacks, but before that acclaim, he was a young man working for President John F. Kennedy.

In the spring of 1963, Farb, a psychology major, graduated from Rutgers University. He took a cross-country trip and returned to land his first job with Mobilization for Youth, an experimental program in New York City testing social programs for the underprivileged.

Though the program was a Kennedy initiative, Farb never met the president. But he did meet and photograph his brother, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Here, Farb shares his memories of the president’s assassination, which is overlaid by memories more personal:

“The date, November 22, is deeply and painfully burned into my consciousness. It is the day Esme, my daughter, was in a car crash that left her brain injured, disabled, and forever changed my life and hers and her mother’s and her sister’s.

“What happened in her yellow Renault Alliance on Nov. 22, 1991, whitewashed the dark events in that black limo in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

“The personal events that were broadcast almost nowhere were a tsunami wiping out almost all memory of the ‘63 horror.

“I struggled to untangle ancient, buried dreams and memories that lay beneath the tides and seasons of many years — they were hard to recall, and I wonder how accurate and true these memories are. 

“I am even more suspect of my memories because (one recent) evening I watched ‘First Cousin Once Removed,’ a brilliant and challenging film about memory by HBO.

“I say all of this in spite of the fact that I was working for JFK in New York City when he was killed. I was young, idealistic and had been a bit politically involved at Rutgers University.

“I did not completely buy JFK’s ‘Ask not what your country could do for you, but what we could do for our country’ rhetoric but I felt some moral responsibility to move the country away from Jim Crow and the class system that I grew up with in Arkansas and in Lake Placid, as well.

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