April 20, 2024
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Remembering the Exodus

There is just so much going on around the world that it is sometimes easy to overlook milestones of historic impact. That’s what occurred earlier this week, on July 11, when we reached the 70th anniversary of the journey of the Exodus.

Before it was the Exodus, the ship was known as the President Warfield, named after the head of the company that built the vessel that cruised the Chesapeake Bay and was moored in Baltimore’s harbor.

The President Warfield would go on to see action as the headquarters of beach operations at Normandy during World War II. It would eventually be purchased by the Haganah to be used in the role of bringing Holocaust survivors to what was then still the British Mandate of Palestine. The ship would have to break through the British blockade on Jewish immigration.

The President Warfield became “the Exodus” on the trip that left the French port of Sete with its manifest of 4,500 Jews, including 1,700 women and 655 children.

Sadly, many of us only have a passing knowledge of the plight of the ship and its precious cargo from the 1958 Leon Uris novel and the 1960 Otto Preminger film “Exodus,” starring Paul Newman.

It was on July 18 that a British destroyer rammed the Exodus and boarded it, killing two immigrants and a crewman while wounding 30. The Exodus was towed to Haifa and the immigrants were deported back to France. They would refuse to leave the ships’ holds for 24 days and then would ironically be taken to Germany to the camps there.

Though it certainly wasn’t the only reason or the major reason, the world outcry of the treatment of these immigrants was in the world’s thoughts when the political discussion of the time focused on the need for a Jewish homeland.

Months later, on November 29, the world passed U.N. Resolution 181 dissolving the British Mandate of Palestine and creating a partition plan calling for Jewish and Arab states.

Yes, there are issues on the table for us as Jews that stretches from Teaneck to Washington, D.C., to Israel. But sometimes we need to take the time to remind ourselves and teach our children of significant events in Jewish history. The world reacted positively to the plight of immigrants aboard a ship called the Exodus.

Seventy years later and in the future, we can never forget.

 By Phil Jacobs

 

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