Named not in hubris but in honor and memory of Austin M. Wright, who taught me critical thinking, and his teacher, Wayne Booth, who coined the phrase.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


In 2000, pre-blog days, I wrote an essay about "Discarding."  It's long been an issue for me:  the tug between saving what's meaningful and traveling lightly.  I even touched on it when I wrote my blog about my cancer earlier this year.

By 2000, I had dismantled two households that each lasted more than fifty years:  my parents and my in-laws.  Since then I was responsible for moving my aunt from a series of apartments and finally into a nursing home.

Each time, I have been forced to give a lot of thought to what material objects mean to me and others.  For my aunt, who had hundreds of swizzle sticks, 40 black skirts, 65 pairs of black leather gloves, and no savings, they represented the freedom to spend her hard-earned money on herself, to be stylish, to eat at the newest restaurant, to follow her whims.  (I also credit her for my first New Yorker subscription while I was away at college, a subscription that continues to this day.)

Now I am in serious discarding mode, as I described in my last blog about donating my mother's letters to the American Jewish Archives.  In February I was declared "disease-free"; in May I learned that my cancer had returned and instead of a discrete mass was now an uncountable number of tumorlets in both lungs.  I first underwent testing to see if I was a candidate for a relatively new drug.  I took it, but at the three-week mark I had to be hospitalized.

Since July, I have been back on conventional chemotherapy. Our post-retirement plan to travel the world has been shelved.Discarding has become my life’s work.  It is what I do when I'm not sitting in doctors' offices.  

Discarding is very hard work, especially if you believe that everything has a place but not necessarily a price.  I just want to find people who will cherish what I have.  Ebay is of no interest to me:  no time, no desire, no patience.

There are clothes that I should have discarded earlier.  Even groups like Suited for Change or Dress for Success don’t want anything more than two years old, no matter how timeless it is, and certainly the consignment stores demand fresh blood – I mean merchandise – dry-cleaned, inventoried, photographed.

Most of my “stuff” is paper:  my father’s mystery books, my Classics Illustrated, Playbills, and New Yorker covers.

Finding the right home can be enormously gratifying.

One of the first pieces I “placed” was a 1940 map of California’s John Muir Woods.

Shortly after they married on November 16, 1941, while my father-in-law was serving in the Pacific, my mother-in-law moved to San Francisco. She never stopped talking about those two years:  released from her large family, she tasted independence in exotic northern California.

Among her possessions when she died, I found the map, a free souvenir of a long-ago adventure.  When I sent it to officials at the Woods, they were excited:  the map showed trails they hadn’t known existed.

That convinced my husband to write to the Consul General of Tonga and offer his father’s photo album filled with what turned out to be rare snapshots of Tongan life in the 1940s and is now in the Tonga National Museum.

I found my grandfather’s Northwestern University Pharmacy School Class of 1904 graduation photo and contacted NU’s archivist.  That turned out to be one of their “missing” years, and in return for the photo, the archivist copied my grandfather’s letter of application – and his transcripts – and sent them to me.
Hyman Sime, 2nd from left

Finding appreciative recipients is gratifying because it validates the importance I have put on these items and justifies my saving them.  Without the internet, my “placement” of various items would be possible but incredibly difficult.

More important, however, I am coming to realize, is my own life review.  I cannot control what will happen in the future, but I can better understand my past.  So far, my curiosity it has helped me to face the next day and the next day and get up each morning.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The First IM

On Monday morning, September 28, 1964, the day after my parents dropped me off at the University of Cincinnati for freshman orientation, my mother IM'ed me: 

That was the first of more than 30 years of little “Tweets” from the nest, frequently on 4¢ postcards.  “Dad got you some Picasso posters for your wall.  Will keep them here ‘til you come home. Sears came yesterday to look at the refrig door and needs a new handle.”

Financial matters were a frequent topic. “If your books cost more than you think, let us know.” “Your state tax refund check of $21.55 came, so I took the liberty of depositing it in your saving account.”  “Your bank statement arrived but will hold it till you come home.” “Dad says you are due a 48¢ tax refund but I’ll combine it with whatever else we owe you.” “Rather than send you the coins, I enclose some stamps.”  “Please don’t hesitate to call collect because we don’t want to miss hearing from you just because you’re low.” “Take this $2 for your shampoo.” “Please inform Dad well in advance when your next Quarter payment is due.”

She was my agent on my recurring search for a summer job. “Mrs. P. will mail the application to me and I’ll send it right away.” “Ida Lee is quitting Richard’s for the summer. Shall I inquire for you? $1.25 per hour.” “Just wanted to let you know Alma called and gave me the name of the woman in her personnel office for you to call.”

My mother, like many women of her generation, did not work regularly outside our home once she was married.  When my brother and I went to college, she worked part-time.  While I was much more of a feminist than most of my friends, I did not question my mother’s way of life.  I thought of it as her “choice,” and I am still mostly convinced that it was the choice my father preferred too.  She had one year at Northwestern, but dropped out because of the Depression. 

When my father returned from the Pacific, they married and dad began a nearly 30-year career as a lawyer with the Veterans Administration, work that filled him with great pride as he helped his fellow soldiers find their way through the GI Bill for education and medical benefits.

Her source of pride was being encouraging and helpful to everyone. She was the willing receiver of all kinds of communication, and the smiling and contented fountain of comfort and tenderness. She took a sincere interest in everyone’s achievements. She was as attentive to my brother’s needs as she had been to mine when I was still home. Pick up kids? Call Neal’s mom! Even after we both were no longer living at home, she was the one they all depended upon. She looked after her mother, her younger sister, and my father's father, bringing them frequently to our house from Chicago for days at a time.  She tweeted it all.

She never told people what to do, but her wisdom was accepted and appreciated widely.  She got at least one or two calls a week from my high school friends, now away at college too, eager to speak to the mother who always had time to listen. “Sorry to hear M.’s using such poor judgment but like I said, people will do what they want and live as they like, whether or not you worry about them.” “S. brought the baby by after her 3-month check-up. Baby’s fine, but S. needs a kidney test.”  She baked batches and batches of cookies that she sent to my friends and cousins.

She was always occupied, not watching television or drinking coffee with friends. "Had a busy time at the penny end of the candy counter yesterday.” “This coming Monday is sisterhood opening dinner [turkey, $1.99], so I’m going, to collect the money.  Mrs. S. said we wouldn’t have to give any reports.”

“F and R are coming Thurs. and hope they will stay for dinner this time.  I will make a chocolate malted cake and freeze a piece for you.”

“Saw S.C. at airport and he asked about you . . . He’s still going to school and feels the hot breath of the draft.”

She did occasionally have lunch with friends.  She weeded.  She grew tomatoes and gave them away.  She didn’t like housework and moaned about dustballs, but whenever I went home, they were still there. “Don’t let it get around that your mother scrubs a floor without a mop, or your marital prospects will be nil.”

I wrote back, not so frequently, also postcards:  “This Saturday is Homecoming.  Guess I’ll go to the Library so I don’t hear the sounds of the game.  The concert last night was great, especially Belafonte’s now famous rendition of ‘Hava Nagila.’”

She was our Internet Service Provider, the center of a vast network, our Google.  She was, I realize, the reason that staying in touch with my friends and being a connector came to mean so much to me.  I saved most of her letters and postcards, and she saved mine.  Who knows why?  My historian friends have convinced me that these three decades of Tweets offer a rare written record of a few moments in 20th century history, so I will be donating them to the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati. They are a precious source of reflection and life review to me, but they also provide a glimpse of everyday lives.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Zionist Mayflower, Part X: Were your Relatives on the SS President Arthur?

Exactly who was on the three voyages of the SS President Arthur is of most interest to genealogists exploring their families' histories.  In 1925, the U.S. did not maintain lists of travelers departing the U.S., but a partial and not-totally-reliable list can be cobbled together from a number of sources.
The New York Times of March 12, 1925 (page 22), names 322 passengers, although a subhead on the article is “500 to sail this morning.” My great-grandfather, Jacob Drapekin, is not listed; he was a second-class passenger, and it is possible that the Times included only first-class passengers. Others not listed were officials of the American-Palestine Line, such as Philip Wattenberg, his wife and his daughter.

The Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem has arrival lists, but there are some shortcomings.  One is that they do not list where the passenger boarded the ship.  Because the SS President Arthur stopped at Naples en route to Haifa, one cannot determine if a passenger embarked from New York or Naples.

A Central Zionist Archives list with 184 names and ages of people arriving in Palestine on March 31, 1925, includes some who had not been on the Times list (the Wattenberg family).  It is typed in Hebrew and it is legible.  Contact and request ISA1/15489/2.

A Central Zionist Archives list with 167 names and ages of people arriving in Palestine on May 31, 1925, the second voyage of the SS President Arthur, is also in Hebrew and typed. It is called a “List of Immigrants” (Olim), but clearly not all are immigrants; many names can be found on either the U.S. manifests of returning passengers on the SS President Arthur or other ships.  This list (S104/560) was mistakenly referred to as the “Prince Arthur” by the archivist and wrongly dated 1924.  Go there if you can, but if you cannot, be persistent!  I suspect other pages have been misfiled.

Similarly incomplete and inaccurate are the manifests of citizens returning to the U.S. on the President Arthur on May 8, 1925; July 14, 1925; and September 18, 1925 (all microfilmed and on-line at  The on-line manifest of July 14 includes the same page copied nine times.  Unfortunately I learned from a query to the National Archives that the original manifests were destroyed after being microfilmed many years ago.

The Mariners' Museum Library at Christopher Newport University, Newport News, VA, has brochures, charts, and other materials relating to the SS President Arthur at the time it was owned by the American Palestine Line.  They are from the collection of Lt. Col. Richard Newman, USA. Information about all of the library's rich holding are online.  

Happy hunting!

Friday, August 31, 2012

The SS President Arthur: The Zionist Mayflower Part IX: A Dream Goes Up in Smoke

Five weeks after Strahl claimed to buying another ship, the company was in receivership. With assets valued at $1 million and liabilities of $300,000, American Palestine Lines released a statement that put a most positive spin on its situation, claiming that the action was “the best means of preserving the interests not only of creditors . . . but also its stockholders, who have invested in this enterprise not only for financial reasons but also in furtherance of the plan of opening up direct communication with the Holy Land.” Ever hopeful, the general manager reported, “active negotiations already have begun to put the [company] on a sound and profitable basis financially. These plans include the acquisition of at least two new steamers.” [i]

It was not to be. A week later, a small item at the bottom of page 28 of the September 20 New York Times reported “Fire on President Arthur.” Five mattresses had caught fire, and the “flames spread quickly to the walls of the room and to the forward companion stairway leading to the engine room.”[ii] Damage was estimated at only $500, but it permanently damaged this particular Zionist dream, though publicly no one was willing to let go. The Palestine Bulletin reported on September 21, “We have been asked by Mr. L.M. Jeune, Manager and General Agent of the American Palestine Line . . . Notice has appeared in some of the local papers to the effect that the . . . Line has been disolved [sic] and that another Company has been floated. I wish to deny this statement . . . ”[iii] On September 30, the Bulletin noted, “We are officially informed that the ss. ‘President Arthur’ will sail from New York on the 14th October and arrive at Haifa on the 1st November.”[iv]

By December 1925, events were moving swiftly downhill. On the 3rd, charges of fraud were filed as part of a bankruptcy suit by two insurance companies and others. They alleged that the officers knew the company was insolvent even as they had borrowed additional funds; moreover, some officers were also charged with falsifying financial statements.[v]

Less than two weeks later, Joseph W. Gottlieb, secretary of the American Palestine Line, filed a response that “denied all charges reflecting upon the honesty of the line’s officers.” The complicated response to other charges in the bankruptcy petition included an explanation of a counterclaim against the Morse Drydock Company, which had allegedly made negligent repairs to the ship. In addition to the court filing, Gottlieb released a letter:  “We desire to make it clear that although Justice Strahl is President of the American Palestine Line, Inc., he at no time received compensation and that no provision that he receive compensation at any time in the future had been made. He gave his services unstintingly for an ideal alone.” [vi]

On December 21, 1925, thirteen months after the announcement of its purchase, the President Arthur “was sold at auction in foreclosure proceedings.”[vii] While the ship itself had been purchased for only $60,000, the company still owed much of the $500,000 that had been spent on refurbishing it. Interestingly, many of the details of the financial downfall appeared only in the Canadian Jewish Review, and not – given all the previous coverage – the New York Times.[viii]

There was one other commercial attempt to promote Palestine travel and tourism in the 1930s. In 1933, the Gdynia-America Line “established a new service to Palestine to accommodate Polish-Jewish communities in the United States.”[ix] While the president of the line claimed that “the new service . . . would provide the most economical means” of travel, it was certainly not the most direct. Passengers would sail from New York to Gdynia, a port about 35 miles northwest of Gdansk, “travel through Poland by train to Constanza,” a Rumanian city on the Baltic, then board a ship – the Polonia – that would take them to Palestine via Istanbul.

Jacob S. Strahl continued to play a leading – and highly visible – role in American Zionist activities. He remained president of the Judea Industrial Corporation, a holding company for two insurance companies that represented “business men who are interested in the economical development of Palestine.”[x] When he died in 1965 after several terms on the bench, his obituary noted that as the first chairman of the American Jewish Congress he had accompanied Chaim Weizmann in 1925 “on a tour from New York to St. Louis when Dr. Weizmann introduced the Palestine Foundation Fund (Keren Hayesod) to America.”[xi]
President Harry S Truman and Chaim Weizmann, May 25, 1948

In September 1948, well before Strahl died, El Al Airlines had made its first flight, bringing Chaim Weizmann home from a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, to Israel.[xii] Americans can now travel from New York to Tel Aviv in about 15 hours. Strahl was a visionary and an entrepreneur but perhaps not a shrewd businessman.

[i]  “Palestine Ship Line in Receiver’s Hands,” New York Times, September 12, 1925, 7.
[ii]  “Fire on President Arthur,” New York Times, September 20, 1925, 28.
[iii]  “A Denial,” Palestine Bulletin, September 21, 1925, p. 3.
[iv]  “S S ‘President Arthur’s’ Sailings,” Palestine Bulletin, September 30, 1925.
[v]  “Say Palestine Line Got Bond by Fraud,” New York Times, December 4, 1925, 11.
[vi]  “Palestine Line Upholds Officers,” New York Times, December 15, 1925, Radio section, 18.
[vii]  “Liner Sold for $137,500,” New York Times, December 22, 1925, Financial section, 29.
[viii]  “Palestine Line in a Tempest of Financial Turmoil,” Canadian Jewish Review, November 13, 1925, 20.
[ix]  “Gdynia Line to Open Palestine Service,” New York Times, September 8, 1933, Weather reports, Shipping and Mails section, 39. There is one recorded arrival of the Polonia in late October 1933, at a time when demonstrations against Jewish immigration to Palestine were flaring up throughout the country. Scheduled to land at Jaffa on November 1 with “several hundred Jewish immigrants,” the Polonia was redirected to Port Said. From there, according to an article a week later, “about 1,000 immigrants” would take the train to Palestine. (Joseph M. Levy, “Jerusalem Scene of Arab Rioting; 3 Killed, 70 Hurt,” New York Times, October 30, 1933, 1; and Levy, “Wauchope Orders Release of Arabs,” November 6, 1933, Radio section 16.
[x]  “Celebrate Stock Sale,” New York Times, August 15, 1927, 11.
[xi]  “Jacob Strahl, 88, Ex-Judge, is Dead,” New York Times, January 14, 1965, 81. In fact, this controversial trip was in 1921; whether or not Strahl was with him is not recorded.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The SS President Arthur: The Zionist Mayflower Part VIII: High Hopes, Low Results

The second voyage of the President Arthur attracted much less attention. This time, only two dozen passengers were important enough to be listed in the New York Times on May 11, 1925.[i] Again its departure was delayed, the paper reported the next day, but this time for the loading of freight; the biggest story was that Hemda Ben-Yehuda was on board, returning to Palestine:  “President Arthur Carries Widow of Compiler of the Modern Hebrew Dictionary.”[ii]

The Palestine Bulletin carried a small, significant, but hardly noticeable, brief: “We are requested to state, that notwithstanding the differences among the officers of the American-Palestine Line, Inc. and the arrest of one of the Line’s officials . . . the schedule of sailing has not been affected in any way.”[iii] Confirmation appeared in three large display ads, on May 17, May 22, and May 28 announcing the schedule of the second voyage, then underway.[iv] Jacob Strahl continued to spin, announcing in New York, “the first voyage . . . was so successful” that he was negotiating to buy two additional ships:  “Within a few months I expect that we will have at least one more steamer plying between New York and Haifa, flying the American and Judean flags.”[v]

First-class Suite
Second-class "Stateroom"
The shipping line published a 30-page brochure announcing the next two departures, May 11 and July 9, 1925, “And Every Sixty Days Thereafter . . . Via the Sunshine Route.”  The first half of the brochure emphasizes the safety features of the ship, the comfort and luxury of the suites, the dining room, the card room that “produces the spirit of an old English Inn,” the promenade deck, the music room, the social hall, the swimming pool, children’s dining room, and numerous other special facilities on the newly refurbished ship.  Two pages are devoted to photos of the “thousands” who thronged the first departure. 

The second half of the brochure – also heavily laden with photos – is devoted to describing the sights of the Holy Land (as well as a possible side trip to Egypt) that the steamship line offered for an additional price.  This concept of Holy Land tourism was not new.  For the middle- and upper-class Europeans or English, in particular, travel in Palestine, Egypt, and other parts of the Oriental world had been popular throughout the 19th century, but for Jews such travel was quite a novelty.
David Bomberg, "Jerusalem, Looking Toward Mount Scopus," 1925, Tate Gallery

While the President Arthur was back on the high seas, however, there was more bad news, again from Naples. Edward Turner, a 59-year-old retired policeman who lived on Staten Island, was responsible for keeping the crew from “bringing liquor on board the ship at foreign ports,” according to the Associated Press dispatch published in the New York Times on June 24, “and this may have been the cause of [a] quarrel”[vi] in which he was killed. John Wiffere, the accused steward, was later acquitted by the Italian court.[vii] 

The first sign of a genuine setback to the shipping line appeared on August 2, 1925, when the New York Times published a brief story about the Mount Clay of the United American Lines, which had been
chartered for the Floating University World cruise. . . . The announcement caused a little surprise in shipping circles, as about two weeks ago Jacob Strahl . . . had announced that his company was going to purchase the Mount Clay for the New York-Haifa service, and that the name of the steamship would be changed to Nathan Straus.[viii]

Strahl was reportedly on his way to Europe to “confer.” Significantly, he was not on the President Arthur though by then it was on its third voyage to Haifa; he already had left on the Resolute. [ix] In August (while the President Arthur was running later and later behind schedule), in September (after an onboard fire), and even into October (though the company had been put into receivership in September), ads continued to appear in the Palestine Bulletin advertising fall and winter departure dates through January 1926.[x]

[i]  “Liner Sails Today for the Holy Land,” New York Times, May 11, 1925, Amusements Hotels and Restaurants section, 21. The Chicago Daily Jewish Courier earlier had reported that “Jewish bankers” had reservations for the second voyage, according to Jacob Strahl, and represented banks that had assets “in the neighborhood of a billion dollars.” April 28, 1925.
[ii]  “Zionist Ship Sails After Delay in River,” New York Times, May 12, 1925, Sports section, 25.
[iii] “S.S. ‘President Arthur,’” Palestine Bulletin, May 15, 1925.
[iv]  “’President Arthur’” Big fast steamer of 21000 tons displacement . . .” Palestine Bulletin, May 17, 22, 28, 1925.
[v]  “More Ships to Holy Land,” New York Times, June 5, 1925, Wholesale Market section, 21.
[vi]  “Kills Master-at-Arms on President Arthur,” New York Times, June 24, 1925, 2.
[vii]  “Acquits American Sailor,” New York Times, February 14, 1926, 25.
[viii]  “Steamer to Circle Globe.” New York Times, August 2, 1925, 26.
[ix]  Ibid.
[x]  “Build Up Your National Home and Be Patriots,” Palestine Bulletin, August 6, 11, 14, 18, 20, 25, 27; September 1, 3, 8, 10, 24, 29; October 6, 13, 20, 27, 1925.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The SS President Arthur: The Zionist Mayflower Part VII: A Troubled Return to New York

While the Jewish world’s attention turned largely to the ceremonies marking the opening of Hebrew University, Judge Strahl continued to ensure that his ship remained in the public eye. On April 8, the New York Times announced:  “Passengers on President Arthur Pledge $500,000 for Project.”[i] 

The article was ostensibly a “response to numerous inquiries concerning the $190,000 gift made by Philip Wattenberg of New York.” In fact, Strahl declared, “the passengers had called a mass meeting aboard ship and raised the nucleus of a fund” totaling “nearly $500,000 for the erection of a new city in Palestine, to be called Zebulun.” The letter from Strahl to the Times continued,
Before sailing these pilgrims promised that something really constructive for the upbuilding of Palestine would be done, by them. They were determined that suitable hotels should be erected at Tiberias and Haifa, and laid other plans for the practical demonstration of the American Jews’ desire to help in the reconstruction of the Holy Land.[ii]

These hotels, the Courier noted, would be “Modern Hotels on American Style.”[iii] Zebulun was never built, nor were the hotels, and where the money went was never revealed.

The Courier, among other Jewish press outlets, attested to the obvious cascade of press releases and special bulletins emanating from the offices of the American Palestine Line. On April 21, in fact, there were no less than four articles about the President Arthur.[iv] The April 28 issue continued the litany of announcements about the ship and its passengers: “Jewish Bankers to Study Palestine:  Represent Capital of Billion Dollars,” “President Arthur Sets Sail for America; Plan Gala Reception Here,” “Plan Palestine Touring Parties from Many Cities.”[v]

The return trip did not go so smoothly, however. A “special cable dispatch” in the Washington Post on April 24 reported “Amreican [sic] Seamen Clash With Fascisti.” According to this brief article,
The seamen quarreled among themselves about a bill for refreshments. Several fascists, dressed in black shirts and full regalila [sic], including clubs, intervened. . . . fifteeen [sic] Americans swam to their steamer to evade the police.[vi]

Joseph Gottlieb
A different account of the incident – from the crew’s perspective – appeared in the New York Times the morning after the President Arthur arrived in New York, dismissing it as sailors becoming “involved” with the local police in Naples “and three were locked up.”[vii] More significant, however, were rumors that the crew had mutinied on the return voyage. The ship was met by police captains, sergeants, detectives, twenty uniformed patrolmen, and four mounted police officers. There had been no mutiny, but police arrested Hyman Epstein, general manager of the American Palestine Line, on a charge by the secretary of the line, Joseph W. Gottlieb, that Epstein had misappropriated $500. “A thorough reorganization of the line as well as changes in the personnel will be effected shortly,” reported the Palestine Bulletin.[viii]

Poor Epstein! A year later, the Canadian Jewish Review, detailing the collapse of the shipping line, reported that Epstein had spent his first night back in jail because he could not raise the $5,000 bail. Even worse,
When he was arraigned, it is declared that an attempt was made to have him committed to Bellevue for observation, and again at a subsequent hearing Gottlieb tried to have the proceedings against Epstein changed to an inquiry into his sanity.[ix]
Hyman Epstein

Epstein was indicted on a charge of grand larceny; the charge was dismissed by the judge; Epstein sued six officers of the shipping line for “malicious prosecution” and asked for $350,000 in damages. Three years later, after a one-day trial, the six “signed a statement exonerating Epstein from any charge of misappropriating funds,” which Epstein claimed was all he really wanted. [x]

The Times article describing the return of the ship also bodes ill, however, in its note that “147 passengers were on board.” Although the ship was due on May 3,[xi] it actually arrived on Friday night, May 9, at 11 p.m. The late Sabbath eve arrival kept the crowd meeting the ship to “less than 500 persons,” who sang Hatikvah with the arriving passengers; the crew outnumbered the passengers by two-to-one. Sharing the space were 75,000 bags of onions from Egypt; 16,000 cases of lemons from Italy; and “two boxes of Jaffe oranges for Nathan Straus . . . as a token of appreciation from the fruit growers of Palestine.” [xii]

[i]  “Start Fund to Build a City in Palestine,” New York Times, April 8, 1925, Business Opportunities section, 44.
[ii]  ibid.
[iii]   “To Build Modern Hotel on American Style in Haifa,” Chicago Jewish Daily Courier, April 21, 1925.
[iv]   “Jewish Steamer to Use Same Pier as the Leviathan,” “Stahl Confirms Building of Merchant Marine City in Palestine,” “Pravda, Official Organ of Soviet Russia, Comments on Jewish Steamer,” Chicago Jewish Daily Courier, April 21, 1925.
[v]   Chicago Jewish Daily Courier, April 28, 1925.
[vi]  Washington Post, April 24, 1925, 1.
[vii]  “Big Police Squad Meets Jewish Ship,” New York Times, May 9, 1925, 6.
[viii]  “S.S. ‘President Arthur’ Met by Police,” Palestine Bulletin, May 11, 1925, 1.
[ix]  “Palestine Line in a Tempest of Financial Turmoil,” Canadian Jewish Review, November 13, 1925, 23.
[x]  “Six Exonerate Epstein,” New York Times, June 20, 1928, Steamships and Tours section, 52.
[xi]  “Pier 86 for Palestine Liner,” New York Times, April 11, 1925, 3.
[xii]  “Big Police Squad Meets Jewish Ship.”

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The SS President Arthur: The Zionist Mayflower Part VI: A Very Late Arrival

Despite the drumbeat of hype about the President Arthur's speed, the ship did not arrive in Haifa until Tuesday, March 31, not a week early but a week late, and the day before the dedication ceremonies for Hebrew University. It was too late for the anticipated “special trains . . . from Jerusalem . . . with delegations to welcome the President Arthur.”[i] 

When the ship arrived, Jacob Drapekin’s coffin, "draped in the American flag . . . was placed on deck. The last rites were performed in Hebrew and English by Rabbi Ashinsky. The Captain also said a few words” and Drapekin's body was taken across the road to be buried in Haifa's cemetery.[ii] 

Then, according to Herman Hirsch:
all was confusion on the ship. It seems that there was no system prepared for the departure of the passengers. The Arabs swarmed on the ship to take the baggage. I was almost the last to leave the ship. A fleet of small boats rowed by Arabs received the passengers from the ship to deliver to the shore. The Arabs demanded one dollar from each passenger for this service. I paid the dollar, but others refused to do so for the reason that it was an outrage and the amount was exorbitant. The result was that the Arabs refused to propel the boat further. Seeing the difficulty a tug boat was dispatched from the shore and we were pulled in. The next difficulty was in getting our baggage. I appealed to an Arab policeman who had to almost fight to get my baggage. The baggage was then taken to the custom house for inspection. Arrangements had been made by me previously for passage on the special train to Jerusalem, but, while being detained in the Customs House, at which place I was unable to exchange my money, the train pulled out, leaving me, a stranger, in a strange city, surrounded by Arabs with whom I could not make myself understood. I at last succeeded in making myself understood that I wanted a Jewish hotel, and I was shown to the Hotel Tel Aviv.[iii] 

Hebrew University Founding, Mount Scopus
Both Ha’aretz and the Palestine Bulletin reported that “the Arab oarsmen in the port of Haifa have decided to boycott [the ship] as a protest against the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine.”[ix]

The cable the Times printed from the New York office of the American Palestine Line, however,  described the scene quite differently:
It seems as if all of Palestine crowded down to the waterfront at Haifa to witness the arrival of the first ship bearing the flag of Zion.

As far as the eye could see every available inch of space along the shore was thronged with eager humanity. Some had commandeered crafts . . . and so crowded was the harbor that the Arthur had difficulty in picking its way so as not to upset some of the smaller craft. . . .

So great was the crowd that swarmed to the vessel, all eager to get aboard to see the first ship to fly the Jewish flag, that the passengers had difficulty in alighting. . . .

It was noticed that among the crowds that came down . . . were a goodly number of Arabs, who, whatever their political ideas might be, seemed glad at this closer linking of their land with America and the closer commercial relations that will undoubtedly result.”[iv]

Once the ship had landed, good news continued to emanate from the offices of the American-Palestine Line. In its April 3, 1925, issue, the Chicago Sentinel, reported that
A special effort to enlist the interest of the future preachers and teachers of Israel will be made in connection with the Palestine Vacation Tour, which the American-Palestine line is projecting this summer. . . . delegations from the Hebrew Union College, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Yeshivah, Dropsie and other Jewish rabbinical and teacher institutions” would be encouraged to experience “the renaissance of Jewish life . . . and the chance of attending at least a few of the sessions of the Hebrew University.[x]

The next cable that Strahl shared with the Times recounted “messages of congratulation and good wishes” sent “by King George V of England, King Victor Emmanuel III, of Italy and Premier Mussolini.” The "special ten-day cruise of the Mediterranean" was an obvious bit of puffery, given that the ship already had been scheduled to pick up freight in those same ports between landing in Haifa and departing on April 17.[xii]

[i]  “Zion Liner Due at Haifa.”
[ii]  Hirsch, op.cit.
[iii]  Hirsch, op.cit.
[iv]  “Holy Land Greets New York Steamer,” New York Times, April 2, 1925, 8.
[v]  “American-Palestine Line,” Palestine Bulletin, March 12, 1925.
[vi]  “Quicker American mail to Palestine,” Palestine Bulletin, March 16, 1925, 3.
[vii]  “’President Arthur’ Delayed,” Palestine Bulletin, March 22, 1925, 3.
[viii]  “S.S. ‘President Arthur,’” Palestine Bulletin, March 29, 1925, 1.
[ix]  “’President Arthur’ and the Arabs,” Ha’aretz, March 31, 1925, 31; “Oarsmen Boycotting S.S. ‘President Arthur,’” Palestine Bulletin, March 31, 1925, 3.
[x]  “Plan Tour of Rabbinical Students to Palestine,” Sentinel, April 3, 1925, 4.
[xi]  “Kings Greet Zionist Ship,” New York Times, April 4, 1925, 7.
[xii]  “Zion Flag Aloft as 400 Sail to Promised Land.”