Mike Gousha and his wife, Lynn Sprangers, donated several photos and documents this winter to Jewish Museum Milwaukee, all of it related to Golda Meir’s 1969 visit to her former elementary school in Milwaukee.
Some of it, like a striking photo of Meir hugging a girl, is not new. The museum already had that shot (see cover). But the documents do shed more light on the Israeli Prime Minister’s brief visit to the school where she had been valedictorian, which is now named for her as Golda Meir School, 1555 N. Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Mike is a distinguished fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School, and previously served as a longtime news anchor and television interviewer, but the materials are unrelated to all of that. Instead, it all comes from his father, former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Richard Gousha.
“After he passed away, I spent hours at his apartment in Saratoga, California going through things,” Mike said. “These records that he kept, he was fastidious about it. In these boxes of documents, in literally box after box of documents, we found things like that itinerary that I’ve never seen before.”
The itinerary is a schedule of events for the day of the prime minister’s visit.
Other documents found include correspondence with a lawyer, Harry Zaidins, that helps explain what’s happening in the photos.
Mike and his wife are not Jewish, but they donated the materials to Jewish Museum Milwaukee because they wanted them to go someplace where they would be appreciated and cared for.
“He always kept a lot of pictures from his career in his office wherever he was living,” said Mike, speaking of his late father. “And there among those photographs were the picture of him with the Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and a wonderful picture that he had, that I’ve seen in some other places, of Golda Meir hugging one of the children at what was then Fourth Street grade school.”
The prime minister had attended Fourth Street School as a child in Milwaukee through 1912. She later attended North Division High School and emigrated to Israel in 1921. In March 1969, she was elected prime minister, and six months later she flew to the United States to meet with President Richard Nixon at the White House.
“The story of modern Israel is essentially the story of the return to the ancestral homeland of exiles from persecution, insecurity, and fear in quest of freedom, human dignity, independence, and peace,” Meier said at a welcome session with the president. “Today, no Jew need remain homeless because of oppression and insecurity. I am gratified to be able to say this here in this great land which has been a haven for the oppressed, including many of my own people.”
A few days later, she was at Fourth Street School. The itinerary suggests students sang the Israeli and U.S. national anthems, with various dignitaries present.
Mike said his father saw Meir’s visit as “a monumental event for Milwaukee … we did talk about it from time to time; he was still very excited about it, even in his later years, the fact that the city would host this event.”
“He had the honor of being on stage with her and actually presenting her a book, I believe, from the time she was a student at Fourth Street School,” he said. “The pride he still expressed in talking about that visit, it’s not every day that the city of Milwaukee has someone who grew up here and goes on to be a world leader. I think as he looked back on his seven years as superintendent in Milwaukee, that was a moment that was very, very significant for him personally.”
“When he passed away in August of 2019, we were going through his belongings, and my wife and I talked about it. And we said, you know, we should give that to someone who would value that and appreciate that. We can make copies. We don’t need to hang on to this. Let’s give it to someone so it has another life, and so we ended up thinking, of course, let’s give it to the Jewish museum.”