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Although less than 3% of clothing sold in the US is actually made here, Greenfield Clothiers has thrived for decades in the heart of Brooklyn; it is the last unionized men’s clothing factory in all of New York City.
His son, Tod, the co-owner of Greenfield Clothiers, echoed that sentiment. “We operate on an ethical level, thinking about what’s good for our customers, employees and the local neighborhood,” he said.
This emphasis on home-made, top-notch quality must work, as their client list boasts a number of high-profile celebrities and politicians including Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Shaquille O’Neal and Jimmy Fallon, as well as past presidents such as Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, and Barack Obama. As Martin likes to say, “I dress both sides of the aisle.” Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson were also customers.
And the Greenfields give back to the community in other ways. Tod shared with me how his father worked with St. Nick’s Alliance in the 1980s to create Evergreen, a membership organization that champions economic development in North Brooklyn, and works with 10,000 local businesses there. The group’s website states, “These businesses, which employ over 15,000 residents, depend on Evergreen for free, quick and reliable assistance with tax credits, incentives, financing, real estate and relocation assistance, energy and green issues, workforce needs, and advocacy.”
When I asked Martin what motivated him to work so arduously on behalf of keeping jobs in America, he responded emphatically, “Whenever I speak to young people about working in America, I tell them that here you only need to set your mind to something [and you will succeed]. I started out as a floor-boy, working at this factory and when I bought it a few years later, my father-in-law told me I would fail due to President Carter’s interest rates. I told him, ‘I will succeed.’ I picked six people and started from scratch, and I’m where I am today for one reason only: we worked hard to be the best.”
A president for all Americans
In his inaugural speech, President Trump stated, “We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.”
Yet this past election was one of the most divisive that I can remember, with many friendships being threatened and even families torn apart. I am continuously engaging in healthy debate with my friends and family members over the policies of the new administration, but I believe that our conversations, social media posts and attitudes must show respect for one another.
This ideal is so perfectly expressed and embodied by Martin Greenfield, who was a victim of persecution and discrimination, yet never forgot what it meant to treat a fellow human being with dignity and respect.
As a teenager in Nazi Germany, the wife of the mayor of Weimar caught Martin eating rotten, left-over food from a rabbit cage, and reported him to the Nazis, who almost beat him to death.
Vowing revenge, he returned with a machine gun after the war, and caught the woman standing outside her home, holding her baby. Upon seeing the baby, Martin broke down crying and ran away. As he writes in his memoir, “That was the moment I became human again. All the old teachings came rushing back. I had been raised to believe that life was a precious gift from God.”
When I asked Tod what he learned from his father, he remarked, “I remember Dad used to call the union when he needed new employees, and he would ask if they could send veterans over. He felt such gratitude for the American soldiers who liberated him from the concentration camp and wanted to give back to them. One time, they sent an African-American veteran to his office. The company had never had an African-American work there before, and it caused a local outcry.”
Tod’s brother, Jay, another co-owner at Greenfield Clothiers, added, “Remember this was in the 1940s, around the same time Jackie Robinson was breaking the baseball color line. It was unheard of.” Martin refused to buckle under the pressure, and kept the African-American veteran gainfully employed.
If President Trump were to wear a suit crafted by a man who treats everyone with such dignity and equality, Trump would send a message that he is a president for all Americans — and that he will show that same respect for others.
Martin Greenfield represents exactly what our people can — and have — achieved in America. As Martin told me, “I’m the proudest American you’ll ever meet. There’s no place like it, and when I speak to young people, I tell them that I am an immigrant [from Czechoslovakia] and I love it here.”
As Jay Greenfield told me, “There is no greater honor as an American suit-maker than to dress the president of the United States!”
In conclusion, permit me to disclose that I am unashamedly biased, and proudly wear a Martin Greenfield suit.
Every time I feel the fabric, I picture Martin’s constant smile. I think of how his incredible life story has taught me to never forget the ability of the human race to sink to the darkest recesses of evil, but also to rise again and to thrive. I think of how we are all “created in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27) and are truly “one Nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”