Queer Places:
1117 Manor Ave, Bronx, NY 10472
Cornell University (Ivy League), 410 Thurston Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850
1724 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
217 Mott St, New York, NY 10012

Igal protesting war in Vietnam, July 4, 1966 in Copenhagen.jpegIgal Roodenko (February 8, 1917 – April 28, 1991) was an American civil rights activist, and pacifist. Living in separate apartments, both gay men, Igan Roodenko and Bayard Rustin, one Jewish and the other African American, took part in the influential Journey of Reconciliation in 1947 and contributed to other civil rights causes and anti-war campaigns during their time at 217 Mott Street, New York. From the 1940s to the 1970s, a commune of artists, radical pacifists, conscientious objectors, and activists lived in a building behind the tenement building at 217 Mott Street on the western edge of the Lower East Side. Two notable gay residents were early civil rights activists, conscientious objectors, and pacifists Igal Roodenko and Bayard Rustin.

Igal Roodenko was born on February 8, 1917 in New York City. His parents, Morris (Moishe) and Ida (Ita) Gorodetsky were from Zhitomir, near Kiev, in present day Ukraine. They fled persecution under the Russian Tsar, and emigrated to Palestine in 1914, leaving there soon after to escape the Turks drafting Roodenko's father into WW1. They arrived in New York City in 1916, rejoining many members of their family who'd arrived a short time earlier. Morris Roodenko started with a push-cart on the Lower East Side, and eventually had a small dry goods shop. Roodenko decided to become a vegetarian at a young age, and his entire family followed suit - mother, father, and younger sister. He was raised in a Zionist, Socialist, vegetarian home. He graduated from Townsend Harris High School in Manhattan, New York.[1] where he was active in theater. He attended Cornell University from 1934 to 1938, where he received a degree in horticulture, with the intention of taking these skills to Palestine. However, at the university he became a pacifist and decided to stay in the United States: "aware of the conflict between my pacifism and my Zionism, and then ceased being a nationalist." Roodenko was a gay man,[2] and a printer by trade.[3]

He was an active member of the War Resisters League (WRL), and was a conscientious objector to military service in World War II. Roodenko was on the executive committee of the WRL from 1947 to 1977, and was the league's chairman from 1968 to 1972.[1] Early in the war, he was sent to a camp in Montezuma County, Colorado to perform Civilian Public Service in lieu of military service. Roodenko's principles led him to refuse to work, which in turn led to his arrest, conviction, and imprisonment at the Federal Correctional Institution, Sandstone.[4] He sued the United States government, challenging the constitutionality of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. On 22 December 1944, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit found against Roodenko,[5] and the United States Supreme Court denied a writ of certiorari on 26 March 1945.[6] He and conscientious objectors in six other federal prisons began a hunger strike on 11 May 1946 to draw attention to the plight of war resistors. Roodenko was not released from prison until January 1947.[4]

217 Mott St, New York, NY 10012

Roodenko was an early member of the Committee for Nonviolent Revolution, a pacifist group founded in New York City in 1946. Other prominent members included Ralph DiGia, Dave Dellinger, George Houser, and Bayard Rustin.[7]: 128  After his release from prison, Roodenko lived in a tenement at 217 Mott Street[8] on the Lower East Side of New York. Rustin rented an apartment one floor below Roodenko, and this proximity, along with the exceptional number of young radicals living on Mott Street and on nearby Mulberry Street and elsewhere in the neighborhood, enabled Roodenko's continuing activism.[7]: 175  In 1947 he was arrested with Rustin and a number of other protestors[9] during the Journey of Reconciliation for deliberately violating a North Carolina law requiring segregated seating on public transportation.[10] At their trial, Rustin and Roodenko were both convicted. Rustin was sentenced to 30 days on a North Carolina chain gang. The judge said to Roodenko, "Now, Mr. Rodenky (sic), I presume you're Jewish." "Yes, I am," Roodenko replied. "Well, it's about time you Jews from New York learned that you can't come down bringing your nigras with you to upset the customs of the South. Just to teach you a lesson," the judge sentenced him to 90 days on a chain gang - three times the length of Rustin's sentence.[11] Roodenko was arrested numerous other times throughout his life: in 1962 for leading a peace rally in Times Square (his sentence was suspended, as the judge was sympathetic with the aims of the protestors).[8] At other times for protesting against mistreatment of Soviet dissidents,[3] against Cornell University's investments in South Africa, and, in Poland in 1987, along with four other members of the WRL, for trying to strengthen organizational connections with Polish dissidents. At the time of his death, Roodenko was a member of Men of all Colors Together.[1] In 1983, discussing the difficulties of political activism with a reporter from the New York Times, Roodenko memorably stated that "if it were easy, any schmo could be a pacifist."[12] Roodenko died on 28 April 1991 in Beekman Downtown Hospital in New York of a heart attack.[1] He is survived by his niece, Amy Zowniriw.

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