WASHINGTON (Dec. 21)
Harold Brown, the precocious Bronx High School of Science student who became the first Jewish Secretary of the Air Force and is now president of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, was designated today by President-elect Jimmy Carter to be his Secretary of Defense.
Brown, a scientist and administrator with a long series of notable achievements in military and educational services, was graduated from high school at age 15 and received his doctorate in physics from Columbia University before he was 22. He is the son of A.H. and Gertrude Cohen Brown and was born in New York City September, 1927.
Brown’s Jewish origin was reported by Time magazine when he was being considered by Carter for a Cabinet post. Who’s Who named his parents including his mother’s maiden surname. In the Los Angeles area, leaders of Jewish communal organizations told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in telephone interviews that he is “nominally Jewish” and not identified with the Jewish community’s efforts. “He may do things quietly we don’t know about but in terms of public identification, I know of none,” one leader said. He noted, however, that Brown “may be a better Jew than you or me.”
A basis for his comment was that he lent his name and prestige to break the anti-Jewish barrier at the prestigious California Club in Los Angeles, one of two “downtown” groups whose membership is limited to top corporation leaders. When the California Club was founded some 70 years ago for chairmen of corporation boards, one or two Jews are believed to have been members but for decades no Jew has been admitted. Three years ago Brown’s name was proposed for membership in the California Club but his name is “still in the works,” the JTA was told.
Another instance of Brown’s views was that he became involved in the Soviet Jewish struggle a communal leader observed to JTA. Brown invited the Soviet government to allow Benjamin Levich, the famous Soviet physicist and leader in the struggle for emigration and civil again for Soviet Jewry, to come to Cal Tech. Brown wrote to the highest levels of the Kremlin, a communal leader said in his fruitless effort to bring Levich to the school for special study.