Pines People- Jack & Rita Lichtenstein.
A chance encounter in a subway station in Manhattan in 1949 led a young Jack Lichtenstein to follow a young woman named Rita, and asked her to go for an ice cream cone. Rita was born in Greensboro, NC, graduated from Syracuse University. She was a clothing buyer for Federated Dept Stores and was a fashion plate. Like the many theater musicals they would later star in, it was Kismet. They would build a life together of shared values and ideals, that they then shared with their growing family of son Mark and daughter Betsy. Jack was a CPA Attorney and through clients he heard about Fire Island Pines. After a visit they would settle into this community filled with a culture foreign from there own, but the curiosity to learn got the better of them. They opened a liquor store in 1964, and it is there that Jack found his stage for his storytelling. The store became the hub where people would meet and greet. The children as Rita saw were in the best classroom in the world where a liberal education was being taught on a regular basis. There minds were being expanded as well as Rita and Jack’s. They got deeply involved in the community in both a professional and casual level. Theater would become an outlet for both of them. Even daughter Betsy got into the act…
1981 Pines Needles . 1981 Shine it on. Betsy Lichtenstein.
Community meant everything to both of them. So they got involved. Specifically Jack with LAMBDA. Founded in 1973, Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. Throughout the 1960’s and early 70’s Jack with owner John Whyte would post bail for the many arrested on the island in police raids.
1997 SAGE Honors…
They became celebrities in their own right throughout the community.
From judges at the annual Invasion to the master story teller that Jack became. Keeping guard at his beloved Liquor store you would find him there putting a smile on all who visited.
Jack even was the subject of famed caricature artist Al Hirshfeld. In our early days Jack helped us in getting our 501c-3 status.
In 2011 Jack himself was the topic of a “Boardwalk Talk. ” Thank you Jack & Rita Lichtenstein. You leave behind your legacy children, Mark and Jessica, Betsy and Matt, and grandchildren, Claire, Diana, Sam, Molly, and all their loved ones. Who you gave the greatest gift to. Tolerance, kindness, and acceptance to all people. First you make history…then you become part of it.