When he heard that Marv Davidov had passed away, one of my co-defendants suggested I write a letter to the editor for our group. But I couldn’t. I’m terrible at expressing myself in such circumstances. Besides, the football games were on. Marv would have understood that — well, maybe more so if it were the Twins or the Final Four.
Now that I’ve given it a day, I felt I had to write something. But anything I had to say about Marv someone had already said or written, or was about to say or write, far better than I could. So I thought I’d write about me instead.
Marv had this thing about civil disobedience. He felt it had this magical quality of radicalizing people. And he had the utmost respect for people who had done time for political activity. I felt this most at Honeywell Project meetings. When he talked in those meetings, I consciously looked down because I thought he was making eye contact only with me. Only years later did it occur to me that everyone else in the room probably felt the same way. You could be in a meeting or a talk with a roomful of people, and when Marv was talking, he seemed to be speaking to you personally, and only to you. He had that effect on people.
One of my greatest privileges was having done time with Marv. We were locked up together — actually in separate cells, and he was several cells down — at the Hennepin County Workhouse.
After the largest civil disobedience action at Honeywell headquarters, where something like 500 or 600 people were arrested, there were so many trials scheduled in the courts that the county worked out a deal with about 125 of us. A dozen or so of us would go on trial and represent the rest of the group, who would be bound by the verdict. Some defended themselves; some had a lawyer. I was one of the representatives; Marv was one of the represented. This may have been due to considerations of time. This misdemeanor trial actually took a couple of days, and it may have been we didn’t want it to take a couple of weeks — with all of Marv’s great stories if he ever got on the witness stand.
Well, we lost. So I guess I was partially responsible for Marv getting convicted yet again. The judge sentenced us individually, and everyone was getting two days. When it came my turn, I asked if I could serve it on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This wasn’t some kind of political or martyrdom-like statement. I was working at the Post Office at the time, and we had split days off, so this was the only time I had two days off in a row.
When Marv’s turn came, I was surprised when he made the same request. He, of course, saw the political side of it, and how the media would focus on Christmas and wouldn’t realize it was two Jewish boys who wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas anyhow.
I think others also did their two days at the same time. And I think we were let out a day early. For all his lifetime of lawbreaking activity, Marv didn’t do too well even for that little time in the Workhouse. He didn’t like being locked up one bit. Me? I survived, but I will always cherish the memory that I did time with Marv Davidov.
Finally, Marv was so Jewish. He probably hadn’t been in a synagogue for decades. He won’t be honored by having any Jewish institutions or awards named after him. He was never featured in Jewish fundraising appeals. He was alienated from the established Jewish community, and it was probably equally alienated from him. He was embarrassed by them, and vice versa.
From time to time during the last couple of years when Marv was ailing, I thought it would be most appropriate for some Jewish institution, maybe some congregation, to honor Marv. I really regret never having approached any of them with that suggestion.
Marv was the best Jew I have ever met. The world is a better place, and for those of us who knew him, we are better people because of him.