|All interviews were taped and documented. They are available through the Reference Department of the Teaneck Public Library. The Library is not responsible for the accuracy of the statements nor does it necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||February 29, 1984|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kenney (8/1985)|
February 29, 1984, Vivian Thompson interviewing John Anderson at 75 Werner Place, Teaneck, NJ:
(I) John, when did you move to Teaneck?
(I) John, why did you move to Teaneck?
(N) My wife inherited part of the estate of her sister and we bought off the other heirs and moved here.
(I) Where did you move from?
(N) Douglaston, Long Island, Queens county. New York City.
(I) What was Werner Place like when you moved here?
(N) It hasn't changed insofar as the house are concerned. The trees are a little larger.
(1) What was the composition of your family when you moved in?
(N) Just the two of us.
(I) Do you have any children?
(N) Two. A boy and a girl. John and Joan.
(I) Which schools did your children attend?
(N) Not here. They graduated in Long Island.
(I) They didn't go to Teaneck High School?
(N) They didn't go to high school here. They went to school in Bayside, Queens county.
(I) This was before you moved to Teaneck?
(I). Would you please explain to us about the principles of the Bahai religion?
(N) Most gladly. The Bahai faith recognizes the unity of God and of his prophets. Upholds the principle of an unfettered search after truth. Condemns all forms of superstition and prejudice. Teaches that the fundamental purpose of religion is to promote common good and harmony. That is must go hand in hand with science. And that it constitutes the soul and ultimate basis of a peaceful and ordered progressive society. It inculcates the principle of equal opportunity, rights and privileges for both sexes, advocates compulsory education, abolishes extremes of poverty, abolishes extremes of poverty and wealth, exalts work performed in the spirit of service to the rank of worship, recommends the adoption of an auxiliary international language and provides the necessary agencies for the establishment and safeguarding of a permanent and universal peace.
(I) When was the Teaneck Bahai Center established?
(N) In 1912.
(I) What was your role in the Teaneck Center?
(N) I declared myself a Bahai in 1917 and was elected to the local spiritual assembly shortly after we moved here and I've been connected in that capacity and other capacities since that time.
(I) What are the boundaries of the center, the streets and how much property is involved?
(N) Well, it covers the block on Alicia Avenue from where the Wilhelm house property corner on to the parking lot of the other corner and then it goes to (forgot the name of the street) I should say the property is approximately 3-1/2 acres. I don't know exactly.
(I) Who owns the property?
(N) The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of America.
(I) The original property, was that left to you?
(N) That was given, dedicated to Abdul Baha who was here in 1912. Abdul Baha gave the son of Baha-u-llah who established the Bahai faith and announced himself as the establisher thereof in 1863.
(I) What is the ethnic composition of the members of the Bahai faith in Teaneck?
(N) I would say approximately 30 as of today.
(I) 30? That's the number of members?
(N) That's about it.
(I) How many buildings are on the property?
(N) Well, there is the main house and then there is the secondary. I would say three. Three buildings.
(I) What are each of the buildings used for?
(N) Well, the cabin is for community activities. The homestead building, the original Wilhelm home, has been designated as a shrine for the Bahais of the world as Abdul Baha slept in that room during his visit at the time of dedication of the property during his visit from the east coast across to the west coast and back to the east coast in 1912.
(I} How many different races are a part of the membership today?
(N) Oh gracious! The national membership, I would say, at least, well the international, there is only one race and that is the human race to begin with. On the classification of races, if you say on national backgrounds, I would say on a worldwide basis, there are National Spiritual Assemblies as of today, in 280 nations so there are 280 national peoples who are active members of the Bahai World Faith.
(I) The Teaneck property, is it used by people from other parts of the world?
(N) Yes, very much so.
(I) How do they go about arranging for housing these people?
(N) Well, the souvenir of Abdul Baha's dedication is the last Saturday of May and the local people, members of the faith or non-members are invited to observe that celebration. The Bahais come from all over the world but they plan for their living during the living quarters on their own arrangements including such hosting as may be done by the members of the faith throughout the area of which there are many. I mean there are six local Spiritual Assemblies in the immediate area who also use the building for their; many of their affairs.
(I) How does the community react to the Bahai Center; Teaneck?
(N) The recognition of the establishment of a prophesized reappearance of the spirit of the creator has rarely been rapid in adoption by those who are members of a prior religion which has been the history of comparative religions from the time of such beauties as Hinduism. The basic of progressive revelation is so fundamental that certain apparently prescribed conditions obtained. The divinely ordained revelator begins his message, is abused for his audacity and effort to save the idolatry worship that the prior message has fallen into and the revelator for the day is condemned, jailed, persecuted as has been the lot of Baha-u-llah who declared himself in accord with the prophecies of all the prophets, the divinely ordained prophets have promised to come again as did Krishna, Budda, Abraham, Jesus V. Christ, Muhammad, The Bab(inaudible) the coming of Bahawa who declared himself in 1844 and was anniliated by 75 bullets for the crowd to enjoy in Persia and as the gate said - PREPARE FOR THE COMING OF THE PROMISED ONE - in accord with our bible by such prophets as Isiah, Hosea, Daniel.
(I) Which bible or which version of the bible do you use?
(N) The bible of all of the entire. . which version? We use the old .bible. This is my uncle's bible. It was given to him by his mother, my grandmother, in 1887 for Christmas, 1887. And it is the English version of the Bagster's Polyglot Bible.
(I) That's a precious document you have there. It is quite old.
(N) It has his original markings.
(I) What are some of the implications of the problems that we have in Iran today in connection with your religion?
(N) What are some of the implications?
(I) The Iran situation that is going on in the world?
(N) The persecution of the Bahais by the official government of Ayotollah Khomeini. The revealed word by the manifestations of God from time immemorial has been split by individual interpretations of the message, the pure message, as given. Poor Muhammad, one of the manifestations as promised, was illiterate. He could neither read nor write. His secretaries wrote what he said at his various speeches throughout that area where the quality of life had reached the bottom of idolotry and to the point where the female babies were thrown into the volcanoes. When he passed, the human desire for power interpreted the Koran to suit those desires so that when Baha-u-llah gave his message and declared himself in 1863, the entrenched living from the Muhammaded faith ecclesiastics, many of them followed and became active Bahais and many of them became haters of Bahais. It started with The Bab in 1844. He said ANOTHER ONE IS COMING. They, those who were living from the faith and were so convinced by the auritory and the leaders of Muhammadism, Islam, said, WE CAN'T HAVE A COMPETITIVE FAITH. STOP IT. So they stopped The Bab with 75 bullets. There was a great public demonstration. Baha-u-llah, was persecuted because he was a follower of The Bab and they transferred him into the jail of Tehran, the head of Persia, until he was freed as a result of the pressure of the Russian ambassador who said, WE KNOW YOU MAKE YOURSELVES SO OBVIOUS. YOU HAVE YOUR TIE IN WITH THE GOVERNMENT. WE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO DO. YOU ARE GOING TO TRY TO WIPE THE BABIES AND THE BAHAIS OFF THE PLANET. This was way back in 1864 and the persecution came in waves and waves and waves. Now when Ayatollah Khomeini was in Paris, the promise to take over the government with the aid of the land of godlessness, that aid was very voluminous. The fundamental - we cannot have competition -- was pumped into the increasing power of that government set up by that Ayatollah and so false premises were set up and to the point where the ecclesiasts were official members of the government...
(END OF SIDE 1 - BEGIN SIDE 2)
...official members of the government plus the ecclesiastical support collecting Babs have destroyed the sanctuaries of the home of The Bab, the other sacred properties throughout Iran and the persecution and prosecution as of the last three years, hundreds of Bahais have been treated most brutally, deprived of their income, estates confiscated, children prevented from going to school, and the official edict of the government is that they must not continue to exist in Iran. The usual technique is to condemn, put them in jail, tell them that everything will be returned to them of their possessions if they will deny their faith. Baha-u-llah, among other prescriptions prescribed two: one of which is THOU SHALT NOT DENY THY FAITH. In the petition by the president of the United States, plus confirmations by the Congress to the government of Iran to cease and desist their persecutions have so far been completely ignored by the official government of that nation. A conclave of 19 nations of Europe jointly passed a resolution a year and a half ago pleading with that government to desist.
(I) How are new members recruited to the Bahai faith?
(N) They are not recruited. If they are interested in hearing more about it, they are given a form to begin with of pamphlets and so forth and then the official books giving the history of The Bab and Baha-u-llah and of the faith and what it stands for and if and when they are ready to declare themselves as a believer that the Baha Aula is the manifestation of the word of God for today, they are accepted as a member. Proselating is forbidden.
(I) Does the Teaneck Bahai Center belong to the interfaith organization?
(N) To the which?
(I) Interfaith. There is an organization in Teaneck that consists of different religious. . .
(N) Well we've cooperated with them on an off for a number of years. As to the official membership, I don't believe that, I don't know because before we came here, there were an enrollment of about 150 people in this particular community and then when the effort by the International House of Justice which is located in the property in Haifa on Mt. Sinai, Mt. Carmel, the headquarters of the Bahai World Faith is on Mt. Carmel, Haifa, Israel, Israeli, and they then suggested that these larger communities disperse and form communities in other areas. Not to concentrate too much. So that sizable group moved to what we call pioneering in various other places and have spread, many of them, out of this country and other countries. Some of them in local, there is a community in Hackensack, there is a community in Montclair, there is a community in and so forth, there is eight or nine, there is one in Englewood, there is one in Bergenfield, there is one in the next town after Bergenfield, north, Dumont and so forth.
(I) How does the Bahai Center help the Teaneck community with its problems?
(N) Well we try our best with our limited numbers now. The old crowd was very active in civic affairs. I mean cooperative on drives and all that sort of thing. But we are so few now that we are not doing as much as we should be doing on civic matters. I admit it as a member of the Assembly, I admit it. But we have hopes that some day a few more people will recognize what the problems of the planet are and if the Bahai Faith objectives as revealed by Baha Aula are an answer to some of the basic ills of what's going on on the planet, and many more will come in and we will be active again on civic affairs as well as our own affairs.
(I) What is the age level of most of the 30 people that belong to the Center now?
(N) We have some vigorous youth, believe it or not. Not all the youth are satisfied with the frailty of the basic effort to destroy the youth. I mentioned that we have a three room cottage down in the North Sea area of the eastern portion of Suffolk County, Long Island, four miles north of South Hampton village where I have my Bahai library which is fairly well supplied with the history of the faith in this country. The revelation of Baha-u-llah was first reached the shores of North America continent in 1898 at the Chicago World Fair in the building of religions and it was the seeds planted there which rapidly spread in the circle of those interested in the new message and such people as Mrs. Hurst, mother of William Randolph Hurst, took groups over to Haifa to meet Abdul Baha on several visits and it was such interest as that by substantial people who accepted the truth of the faith who finally succeeded in securing the visit by Abdul Baha to make that long journey at his age in 1912 to this country.
(I) Who is the head of the Center today in Teaneck?
(N) Well there is no, the chairman of the local Spiritual Assembly is Dr. Ed Carpenter who you possibly know. Well Dr. Carpenter was the colored gentleman who established the Harlem Prep.
(I) What are some of the plans of the Teaneck Center for the future?
(N) To attract more believers.
(I) Do you have any more information that you would like to share with us?
(N) This is particularly pertinent. Iran increases pressure on the Bahais. This is a new one that came in a few days ago. This is the March issue of . . pressured against beleaguered brothered cradled faith unceasingly. Mr. Abdul Butaha (?) imprisoned in Islaham, 4th of September, '83. Died shortly after confinement. 250 Bahais, over 250 Bahais including infants and children, have been arrested in all parts of the country. 70 of these were detained between the 31st of December, '83 and the 4th of January, '84. Those three days. 70 of them. Other despicable acts against Bahais includes the following and so forth. The United Nations planner looks towards the future for the planet. I'll be very happy to give you that if you'll promise to read it. He is not a Bahai but he rotates his whole talk around the principles of the Bahai Faith because on the subcommittees of the United Nations, those world planetary interest things were trying to have a better world from the standpoint of unification and he's, so take that with you and see what you get from it insofar as the merits of the answer to the ills of the world today. And this man seems to think the faith could help save the planet as it was adopted by all believers in unity of nations, unity of religions, unity of races, one race, see, the human race. Unity.
(I) What are your personal plans for the future?
(N) To be as active as I can in the service to Baha-u-llah.
(I) Are you planning to leave Teaneck?
(I) What is your reason?
(N) Well, the overhead of two houses is getting very impossible, number one. Number two, we are getting on in years and our activities are decreasing. Mrs. Anderson is an artist. That particular picture hung in the National Watercolor Show. That one is a prize picture that she got a prize for so on and so forth. And housework is becoming less attractive to her and I'm very anxious to see her pick up the brush again and so, as I say, we are not getting any younger.
(I) So you plan to sell this house and move to Long Island?
(N) Well we will move to begin with to North Sea and we will see what happens then. We might go on the road doing little pioneering which might be, we've been invited to do such things.
(I) We'd like to thank you for your interview Mr. Anderson and this will be the end.
(N) Regarding the unique building called the cabin on the Wilhelm property, which is a two story building following the basic concept of constructed from logs, it was started by the Wilhelms in 1916 and it took ten years to complete.
(I) What is it used for?
(N) It is the community center used for meeting sand the library and classrooms for Sunday School and meetings of the various committees in connection with the administration of the faith.
(I) This concludes our interview.
(END OF TAPE)