Murray Polner, founding and only editor of Present Tense magazine, dies at 91

Murray Polner, founding and only editor of Present Tense magazine, dies at 91

He ran the American Jewish Committee’s liberal publication from its inception in 1973 until it’s demise in the Regan era, also authored or edited eight books

Murray Polner in his Long Island home in April, 2017.  Robert Polner/Wikimedia Commons)
Murray Polner in his Long Island home in April, 2017. Robert Polner/Wikimedia Commons)

Murray Polner, the founding editor of Present Tense magazine who served as its editor until it folded, has died.

Polner, who also authored or edited eight books, died on Thursday at the age of 91. He was a resident of Great Neck, New York.

Polner founded Present Tense in 1973 and remained its editor until the American Jewish Committee ended the publication of the magazine with a liberal bent during the Reagan era. He later founded and ran a newsletter called “PS: The Intelligent Guide to Jewish Affairs,” in order to continue the same kind of work.

He was a pacifist, anti-war writer and activist, according to The Island Now blog, and often wrote magazine articles as well as letters to the editor about subjects of war and peace. Days before he died he dictated to his friend Rick Shenkman, founder of the History News Network, a letter to the editor of the New York Times, asking why the editorial page had not warned about a possible US war with Iran, Shenkman told Polner’s son Rob, according to a remembrance posted on the HNN website.

Polner also was a vegan, and he and his wife Louise hosted vegan Passover seders, writer Ralph Seliger recalled.

The child of Russian immigrants, he served in the US Naval Reserve from 1947 to 1952 and then in the US Army from 1953 until 1955, eventually becoming a pacifist and working with anti-war groups to prevent the reinstitution of a military draft.

He taught through the early 1960s at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, and then at Brooklyn College, Queens College and Suffolk Community College. He received his undergraduate degree from the City University of New York. By the late 1960s he earned a Masters degree in history from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in Russian history at Union Institute and University in 1972. He also worked as executive assistant to the first chancellor of the New York City public schools, Harvey Scribner.

He served as book editor for the History News Network until May 2017, and was the editor of Fellowship magazine, published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, from 1991 to 1993.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Louise; a daughter, Beth Polner Abrahams; sons, Rob and Alex; and six grandchildren.

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