Remembering Nathaniel S. Lehrman: 1923-2020

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Messages of condolence have been pouring in from Israel, Europe, Australia and across North America for the family of psychiatrist, activist and musician Nathaniel S. (aka “Nat” or “Nucky”) Lehrman, M.D., who died in his sleep, age 96, on Jan. 19 at the Tuttle Center, part of The Amsterdam at Harborside in Port Washington, where he and his late wife Emily had resided nearly eight years.

But their roots had been firmly planted in Roslyn since September 1954, when they bought the model house in Nob Hill, in East Hills. Emily served as PTA President and with the Friends of Bryant Library; Nat was Nob Hill Pool Association President and active in the Brotherhood at Temple Sinai, where their children, Leonard, Paul and Betty, were bar/bat mitzvahed in 1962, 1965 and 1968. Fighters for social justice, Nat and Emily were proud to have been the first in their development to sell their house to an African American family in March 2011.

At the memorial for Nat on Jan. 24, attended by his children and their spouses, his granddaughter Laura, and many other friends and relatives, Barbara Roaman recalled how active Nat and Emily had been in the Roslyn Committee for Civil Rights, raising $16,000 in June, 1963, just before the March on Washington, which Leonard’s father took him to.
In 1988, Nat became a charter member and principal supporter of the Metropolitan Philharmonic Chorus (MPC), organized by Leonard to perform the Manhattan premiere of Elie Siegmeister’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Cantata on Jan. 15, 1989 at Harlem School of the Arts and over WQXR and WBAI. The MPC is still ongoing and will dedicate to Nat’s memory its next two performances: the NY premiere of Sacco and Vanzetti, at Hofstra, Sept. 13, and Community Church of NY Oct. 18.

Professionally, Dr. Lehrman was a psychiatrist, an ardent supporter of talking therapies, marital and family counseling and continuity of care, who became Clinical Director at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center and was nominated for State Commissioner of Mental Health. His writings included an unfinished book Getting Away with Murder: The Insanity Defense as a Mask for Terrorism; 175 published articles and the first draft of an autobiography, Me and Psychiatry. His website, www.nslehrmanmd.homestead.com, includes an April 21, 2014 lecture he gave: “Psychiatry and Its Problems: A 67-Year Retrospective.” His papers will be housed in the Alumni Collection of the Library at his medical alma mater, Albany Medical College. They include many articles and letters published in The New York Times, Newsday and (especially) the Roslyn News.

An accomplished amateur violinist, Nat played last-stand second fiddle (until he switched to first-stand second-chair viola) in the Pierian Sodality of 1808, aka the Harvard Orchestra. Second youngest, of 1200, in his Harvard College Class of 1942, he was one of only ten to make it to their 75th Reunion in 2017. Other orchestras he played in included Ralph Alan Dale’s Long Island Community Orchestra (1955-1958) and more recently various groups under Stephen Michael Smith and Frank Verbsky, who called him “a great asset” to the ensemble.

Just one week before his death, Nat sang and played violin in a memorial at Tuttle, honoring the fifth anniversary of Emily’s death. Videos of his funeral have been posted online, in 33 segments, viewable at www.tinyurl.com/24Jan2020.

At Nat’s funeral, videos were shown of him singing alone, playing the violin with Leonard, singing a duet with Leonard’s wife Helene and reading poetry with Emily. Paul sang some of Nat’s psychoanalytic parodies of Gilbert & Sullivan and Mozart. Betty read a message from her elder daughter Alison:

“My grandparents lived in a house full of books….But what I remember most about Grandpa is how alive he always was, and how happy he was to be surrounded by his family.”

Betty also noted with pleasure the delight Nat experienced, enjoying his two grandchildren, and how much it meant to him that Laura, currently a third-year medical student, had decided to become a doctor.

The service at Gutterman’s in Woodbury opened with Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” which Nat had sung just last May at an MPC concert at Trinity Church in Roslyn honoring Seeger’s centennial; and closed with a song he always enjoyed booming out with his bass voice at Seders (“I’m really a shortstop,” he would say, “but they needed a second bass.”): “Go Down, Moses,” after which Rabbi Joshua Minkin invited the crowd to New Montefiore Cemetery, to reluctantly, but lovingly, “Let Nat Lehrman go.”

The family welcomes contributions made in memory of Dr. Lehrman to Planned Parenthood, Doctors Without Borders, and the organization Nat founded in memory of his brother: The Prof. Edgar H. Lehrman Memorial Foundation for Ethics, Religion, Science & the Arts, Inc., 33 Court St., Valley Stream, NY 11580.

—Submitted by the Lehrman Family

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