I first met Sam Blumenfeld many years ago in Washington D.C., at the late Marshall Fritz’s “Alliance for the Separation of School and State” conference. I had already been familiar with his books and was very encouraged by his work on education and the Christian faith, and was eager to meet him. For those who have never met Sam he is a wonderful anomaly. Although he is short of stature, he is a giant of a man. Meeting Sam was a thrill that I believed, at that time, would be a once in a lifetime event. I was wrong. We would eventually meet again and even work together in the future. In fact, we would become friends.
My initial introduction to Sam while in D.C. was brief. We shook hands and I actually kissed him on the forehead as a sign of respect. Being of Italian decent, for me, that was the utmost token of sincere affection. Sam deserved that.
A few years later Chalcedon asked me to represent them in Massachusetts for a homeschool conference close to Sam’s hometown. Mark Rushdoony told me that although I would be going alone, I would have some help. That help was Sam. That was all the encouragement I needed.
Sam was born in 1927 in New York. That was our initial connection since I, too, was born there. The connection was to prove more than simply both of us being from New York. It was to extend into our upbringing and our strange connection with the Jewish people. Sam was of Jewish decent, and while I was not, my grandmother along with her three sisters spoke fluent Yiddish and were able to pass themselves off as Jews in order to gain access to explicitly Jewish New York resorts. This fascinated Sam. While together in Massachusetts, I entertained him with the amusing, albeit sometimes wacky, stories of my Italian/Yiddish heritage. It was at that conference that I shared my vision for our Geneva Leadership College and Library.
Sam is as down to earth as they come. He is generous and straightforward. After hearing of our work in Virginia he promised to donate his library to the college. That next summer my wife and I traveled to his home to collect the books and visit with Sam. We decided that after loading the books we would take Sam for lunch.
That is when I witnessed firsthand the boldness of a man passionate for the glory of God in the field of education. During our meal, Sam, in an uplifted voice which turned many heads and raised many eyebrows, detailed for Jane and me the graphic evils of the government school system. His indictments were accurate and cutting. While he continued in his public condemnation of the schools I scrambled for every scrap of paper napkin or whatever I could find, to take notes. It was a no-holds barred sermon in the midst of the lunch crowd at the local Chinese “All You Can Eat Buffett.” After his wonderful tirade, he noticed all eyes turned our way. He smiled and told us that his age gave him license to speak out, especially when it was the truth. “What are they going to do? I’m old.”
Sam and I kept in touch from that time until recently, when I discovered that his health was failing. I called Sam simply to tell him that I loved him and that he had been a very important part of my life. It is not usually easy to discuss one’s imminent death, but with Sam it was not difficult. In typical Blumenfeld style he asked me if I had read his most recent book. I had not but promised to purchase it and read it. I then told him that I would see him again with all the beloved saints one day soon. Perhaps when that time comes for me, I will kiss his forehead once again just as sign of honor and respect for a man who is a giant.
His commentary on educational issues and his speaking engagements brought him to every state in the United States as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and England. He is internationally recognized as a leader in the intensive, systematic phonics movement, and has written for many online and print sources on a variety of subjects. His writings have appeared in such diverse publications as Home School Digest, Reason, The Education Digest, Boston Magazine, Vital Speeches of the Day, Practical Homeschooling, Esquire, and many others. Sam has also written for the John Birch Society. His book titles include, N.E.A.: Trojan Horse in American Education, Why Schools Went Public, How to Tutor, The Whole Language/OBE Fraud, The Victims of Dick and Jane, Alpha-Phonics: A Primer For Beginning Readers, Homeschooling: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching Children, New Illiterates and How You Can Keep Your Child from Becoming One, Is Public Education Necessary?, Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question, and his newest, Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children.
Sam never married. His extended family lives in New Jersey where he sometimes visits. I will miss him.