Realizing the Dream: Washington-Area Teens and the Birth of the State of Israel. Local Stories

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1 Realizing the Dream: Washington-Area Teens and the Birth of the State of Israel Local Stories EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

2 JEWISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF GREATER WASHINGTON LILLIAN & ALBERT SMALL JEWISH MUSEUM The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington and its Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum preserve, chronicle, and present the story of the local Jewish community through archival collections, exhibits, educational programs, publications, and the restoration and preservation of the oldest synagogue building in the nation s capital. For more information about the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, including our educational programs, youth and family walking tours, and field trips, or to order additional copies of the poster and resources, please visit our website, or call (202) Created by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum With additional support provided by The Sulica Fund, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Mara Kamerow 2008 Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington Classroom resources developed for the Jewish Historical Society by Joshua Feinberg, with assistance from Laura Cohen Apelbaum, Executive Director; Erin McCormally, Education Specialist; Amy Federman, Education Consultant; and Barbara Shapiro. Poster and resources designed by Jeanne Krohn, Krohn Design. All images, unless noted, are from the Jewish Historical Society Collections. Image of flag-raising at Jewish Agency The Washington Post, Reprinted with Permission. Image of British Embassy Protest. Gift of Carl Allentuck. Image of Camp Moshava, 1940s. Gift of Shirley Cohen. Image of Habonim dancing the hora at the Jewish Agency. Gift of Judith Bernhardt. Image of Jewish National Fund Blue Box. Gift of Judith Bernhardt. Article: Two Surrender, Arraign 8 in TNT Shipment, February 4, Courtesy of Dassah Aylat. Map: British Control of Palestine. Courtesy of Random House/Knopf Card: Daughter of Zion, Gift of Myrna Goldenberg. Document: President Truman s Official Recognition of Israel. Courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

3 Introduction JEWISH AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH President George W. Bush has designated May as Jewish American Heritage Month. Jewish American Heritage Month provides an opportunity for educators to raise awareness about Jewish American history, culture, and heritage, and highlight the contributions of Jews to American life. To that end, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington releases a teaching poster and companion resource guide each spring that focuses on one aspect of our local Jewish history. LOCAL STORIES 2008 In recognition of Israel s 60th anniversary, this year s poster and educators guide highlight the Washington Jewish community s passionate commitment to Israel in the period just before Israel s founding in Members of the Washington community worked tirelessly for the establishment of the Jewish state. Young people, in particular, played an important role. ABOUT THIS GUIDE This resource offers background information and suggested activities to help you use this year s Local Stories poster in your classrooms. By analyzing photographs, documents, and oral history excerpts from the collections of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, students will: learn about the role members of the Washington Jewish community especially teens played in the establishment of the state of Israel; be inspired by the actions of Washington teens who acted on behalf of Israel; consider the ways they too can support causes they feel strongly about today; and imagine what life was like for those who lived through the historic events of Israel s founding. The enclosed materials fit naturally into curricula related to Israel, Zionism, 20th-century history, and social activism. They have been designed for a range of students in grades Please choose those elements that align most closely with your teaching needs. Realizing the Dream JHSGW 1

4 Washington Teens and the Birth of Israel During the 1930s and 1940s, young American Jews joined dozens of Zionist youth organizations, including Young Judaea, Hoshomer Hatzair, Masada, Junior Hadassah, and Habonim. These groups helped prepare young Jews for future leadership in the community and played a fundamental role in mobilizing young people for the Zionist cause. In Washington, one of the most active youth group was Habonim (literally builders in Hebrew). Sponsored by Labor Zionists, Habonim teens raised money to buy a 287-acre farm near Annapolis that became Camp Moshava. There, campers (ages 10 and older) learned about life on a kibbutz (a collective settlement in Israel) and the necessary skills to help rebuild a Jewish national homeland through scouting, carpentry, and seminars. After 1946, local Habonim members became increasingly active. They organized demonstrations protesting British control in Palestine and Britain s harsh treatment of Jewish refugees survivors of the Holocaust wishing to emigrate. Some Habonim members loaded guns and supplies onto boats headed for Palestine and staffed ships transporting illegal immigrants to Palestine from DP (displaced persons) camps in Europe. After 1948, Habonim campers were among the first American Jews to make aliyah (immigration to Israel). Habonim bought a 278-acre farm near Annapolis that became Camp Moshava. Camper Leo Cohen is in the foreground. Members of Habonim march outside the British Embassy, Summer Realizing the Dream JHSGW

5 Introductory Discussion Ask students to look closely at the photograph at the bottom of page 2 and share their observations. Some sample responses are included below. What do you see in this photo? a large gathering of people, people holding handmade signs, one that says Justice for Our People, American flag on the left; the photo is black-and-white, the people seem to be dressed in an old-fashioned way, etc. Based on what you see, what do you think is going on in this picture? Members of the Habonim youth group rally outside the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., in They re petitioning the British to open Palestine to Jewish immigration, particularly for Jewish DPs and refugees. Many young people offered their time, money, and effort to help establish the state of Israel, because they believed it was important. Offer students some background on the image and the historical context. See Historical Background: Zionism and the Birth of the State of Israel, page 14, for more information. Why do you think it seemed so important to Jews in Washington to advocate for a Jewish state even though Palestine was thousands of miles away and most Jewish Washingtonians had no plans to move there? Many felt a strong connection to the historical dream of a Jewish homeland. They also understood that Jewish survivors of the Holocaust needed a place to go where they could be safe and where they could start their lives over. In addition, the Holocaust indicated to many Jews that they could never be completely safe without a homeland. Many early Zionists wrote letters to officials and protested outside embassies to make their voices heard. Have you ever participated in these types of activities? Do you think these kinds of efforts can be effective? Why or why not? Students can complete the worksheets on the following page. Realizing the Dream JHSGW 3

6 Personal Stories Local teens acted in many different ways to help establish the state of Israel. Shirley Cohen recalls her fundraising efforts in the 1940s: In the Habonim, they would send us out. We had our little blue JNF boxes [to collect money for the Jewish National Fund]. I can remember at the old Willard Hotel that there was a Labor Zionist dinner. Mrs. Roosevelt came to speak. I was at the elevator with the little box and she had the Secret Service man put money in it. I also remember collecting money downtown. We knew what time the theaters let out and that there were a lot of service people [soldiers] out at night. Can you imagine standing on 13th and F with a JNF box at age 11 or 12? Those are the kinds of things that we did. Miriam Ezekiel Bernhardt was an active member of Habonim in the 1940s: My family, the Ezekiels, lived in a large tall house at 34th Street and Woodley Road close to the British embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. When my father cleared out the house in 1972, there were still cans of paint in the basement left from youth group activities in the years Groups of people from Habonim and Masada more than once left our house late at night with paint to inscribe the driveway of the British embassy with the words, Open the Gates of Palestine. Coins collected in the Jewish National Fund blue boxes helped purchase land for Jewish settlement in Palestine. Which of these actions would you be willing to participate in? 4 Realizing the Dream JHSGW Some members of local Zionist youth groups participated in clandestine operations to supply Jewish underground armies in Palestine, such as the Haganah. Washingtonian David Duvvy Glassman was a Habonim youth group leader. He was arrested by the FBI when a crate of dynamite labeled used industrial machinery split open while being packed onto a ship headed for Palestine.

7 Taking Action Do you think it s acceptable to break the law in order to accomplish something you believe is right? Why or why not? What issue do you feel strongly about today? List some actions you might take to support this cause. Realizing the Dream JHSGW 5

8 In the summer of 1947, the ship Exodus, a former Chesapeake ferry carrying nearly 4,000 Jewish refugees from Europe, arrived off the shore of Palestine. The Jewish underground army, the Haganah, had brought the refugees to Palestine in defiance of British law. British soldiers, trying to turn the ship away, shot at those on board. The beleaguered refugees fought back with potatoes, soup cans, and bare hands. The British ordered the boat to Cyprus, where the refugees refused to disembark. The British then commanded the ship to return to Germany. Underground radio operators broadcast every detail. While a horrified world audience listened, soldiers dragged refugees off the ship. In Washington, Jews raised their voiced in protest. Local rabbis and Habonim teens marched on the British embassy shouting Let my people go! Many Washington teens opposed the British troops s treatment of the Jewish refugees. They slapped protest stickers, like the one at right, in public places all over downtown D.C. Some of the young people were arrested. The Exodus episode galvanized Zionist supporters around the world. It was also the basis for Leon Uris s best-selling 1956 novel Exodus, and for the 1960 movie of the same name. Read the book and/or view the movie and discuss the historical circumstances and the issues it raises. 6 Realizing the Dream JHSGW

9 Signs of Protest Look closely at the words and symbols on this sticker. The symbol in the middle is a swastika, the emblem of the Nazi Party; surrounding it is the Union Jack, the flag of Great Britain. Why might someone put these two symbols together? What might the person be trying to say? This sticker compares the ship Exodus to Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp. In 1947, activists tried to smuggle Jewish refugees into Palestine aboard the Exodus. British troops ordered the boat to Cyprus, and when the refugees refused to get off in Cyprus, the British sent the ship back to Germany. After the Exodus was turned back, many Washington-area teens were outraged. This sticker was one way people protested the treatment of Jewish refugees. Why might they equate the Exodus with Dachau? How do you think you might have reacted? Design your own protest sticker, using words and symbols, for a cause you feel strongly about. Realizing the Dream JHSGW 7

10 The Washington Post Look closely at this photograph or at the Local Stories poster. It shows a crowd gathered outside the Jewish Agency building at 2210 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., to celebrate Israel s independence on May 14, On the next page there are oral history quotes from teenagers who were there that day. Washington Jews played crucial roles both clandestinely and publicly to support creation of a Jewish state. When David Ben-Gurion finally proclaimed Israel s independence on May 14, 1948, a jubilant crowd gathered in Washington at the Jewish Agency building at 2210 Massachusetts Avenue. At 6:11 that evening, eleven minutes after the British Mandate over Palestine expired, President Harry S. Truman became the first world leader to officially recognize the Jewish state. Washington Jews celebrated wildly praying, singing, dancing and crying for joy. 8 Realizing the Dream JHSGW

11 Living History: INDEPENDENCE DAY What do the quotations on this page tell you that the photograph doesn t? On May 14, 1948, a phone chain was used by some of the youth movements to urge members to go down to the Jewish Agency building. My brother and I were members of Habonim and went with our parents. the real scenario began with the adults crying and praying, and then the kids were formed into circles to dance and sing so gradually the older generations joined us. But the tears and shehechianu prayers [prayers of thanksgiving] really came first. Judy Bernhardt Oral History Collection of the Jewish Historical Society Think of an important event that happened during your life. Find a photograph showing the event, and write a paragraph describing how you felt that day. Standing in front of the Jewish Agency office on the day the State of Israel was declared, I felt a torrent of emotions, some conflicting excitement, exhilaration, fear for the new State, enormous relief, and, with the beauty of this beginning, a sense that a rich era in my family s history was at an end and that a new one was about to begin. Mendelle Tourover Woodley Oral History Collection of the Jewish Historical Society Realizing the Dream JHSGW 9

12 Historical Background: Zionism and the Creation of Israel In the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., Jews spread out across the Roman Empire. Although some Jews remained in Palestine, the major centers of Jewish life eventually moved elsewhere. Jews that had scattered around the world longed to reestablish a homeland in the area known as Palestine. In the late 19th century, this desire became a political movement known as Zionism. Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl is known as the Father of Zionism. He believed the creation of a Jewish state would solve the problem of anti-semitism and ensure Jewish survival. In 1896, Herzl described his dream in his book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). The following year in Basel, Switzerland, he organized the first annual World Zionist Congress. There, debate centered on the pragmatic realities of achieving a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Throughout the early decades of the 20th century, Zionist leaders worked persistently toward this goal as small numbers of Jewish pioneers immigrated to Palestine from Europe. In 1917, as a result of the outcome of World War I, Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration and took control of Palestine. The Balfour Declaration announced support for a Jewish homeland, but as tensions between Jewish and Arab settlers increased, the British issued another proclamation known as the White Paper. On May 17, 1939 on the eve of World War II the White Paper severely limited the number of Jews who could immigrate to Palestine. Since other countries had already closed their doors to immigration, millions of Jews were trapped in Europe, where they became victims of the Nazi Holocaust. The end of World War II in 1945 revealed the Nazi extermination of six million Jews. A quarter-million Jewish Holocaust survivors remained behind barbed wire in DP camps, housed in congested barracks and eating prisoners s rations. British Palestine kept its gates locked to immigration. The Holocaust proved that Jews could not rely on world leaders to speak for them. When the Allied nations (those that fought against Germany and her allies in World War II) met in 1945 to organize the United Nations, American Jews demanded inclusion. Jewish presence at the conference laid the groundwork for U.N. support of a plan to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. On November 29, 1947, the U.N. General Assembly voted 33 to 13 in favor of partition. Less than one year later, on May 14, 1948, Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel s independence. 10 Realizing the Dream JHSGW Daughter of Zion, a women s Zionist organization, distributed this Jewish New Year s Card in 1910.

13 Timeline of Israel s Establishment February 14, 1896 Theodor Herzl publishes The Jewish State. August 29, 1897 The First Zionist Congress is held in Basel, Switzerland World War I November 2, 1917 Britain issues the Balfour Declaration, which expresses the government s support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. July 22, 1922 The League of Nations gives Britain a Mandate over Palestine. May 17, 1939 The British White Paper limits Jewish immigration to Palestine on the eve of World War II World War II November 29, 1947 The United Nations votes to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. May 14, 1948 The State of Israel is declared; the War of Independence begins the following day. January 25, 1949 Israel holds its first election; David Ben-Gurion becomes Prime Minister. President Harry S. Truman s official recognition of the State of Israel, signed and dated at 6:11 p.m., May 14, Realizing the Dream JHSGW 11

14 Resources ISRAEL AND ZIONISM This site for kids, created by the Israeli Embassy, offers an animated virtual tour of Israeli life and history. Compelling+Content/Eye+on+Israel/ Resources and links from the Jewish Agency An online resource for educators teaching about Israel Altman, Linda Jacobs. The Creation of Israel (World History Series). San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, This exploration of the development of the Zionist movement and the establishment of the state of Israel includes photographs, a timeline, and carefully drawn maps. Upper elementary and middle school, 112 pages. Map depicting British control of Palestine after WWI. Hertzberg, Arthur. The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader. Jewish Publication Society of America, 1960, Hertzberg s classic compilation includes writings by three dozen key Zionist thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries. High school and adult, 648 pages. TAKING ACTION Constitutional Rights Foundation: Implementing a Civic Action Project Inspiring stories of inspiring kids making a difference in their world An online resource for Tikkun Olam ( Repairing the World ) Lewis, Barbara A. The Kid s Guide to Social Action. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, This lively book intersperses stories of young people taking action with ideas, helpful tips, worksheets, sample letters, and additional resources for kids who want to do the same. Elementary to High School, 211 pages. 12 Realizing the Dream JHSGW

15 Glossary Aliyah Hebrew for going up. The phrase making aliyah is used to refer to the act of permanently moving to Israel. Aliyah Bet Illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine that occurred in the 1930s and 1940s, in defiance of the immigration policy of the British Government s Mandate. Anti-Semitism Prejudice or discrimination against Jews. Balfour Declaration Issued in 1917, a statement of the British government s support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. DP (Displaced Persons) camp Camps set up in Europe after World War II for people who had been in concentration camps or whose homes had been destroyed during the war. Haganah The Jewish underground defense force in Palestine from 1920 to The word Haganah comes from the Hebrew word for defense. Kibbutz A collective settlement in Israel. Theodor Herzl Generally considered to be the father of modern Zionism. In his book, The Jewish State, he outlined his ideas for a Jewish national homeland. He organized the First Zionist Congress in 1897 and became a tireless advocate for the Zionist cause until his death in Partition Plan As the period of the British Mandate in Palestine neared its end in 1947, the United Nations was given the power to make decisions regarding the future of the land of Israel. A special committee reviewed the options and proposed a plan that would partition the territory into two states a Jewish state and an Arab state. The partition plan was approved by the U.N. General Assembly on November 29, White Paper The British government issued this official statement in 1939 essentially closing Palestine to Jewish immigration. This action sealed the fate of thousands of European Jews who already had few options for immigration on the eve of World War II. Zionism The movement concerned with establishing and maintaining a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. The term comes from the Hebrew word Tzion, a biblical name for Jerusalem. Although Jews have had a spiritual yearning for the land of Israel since ancient times, the modern Zionist movement began in the late 19th century. Realizing the Dream JHSGW 13

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