Aliyah Bet & Machal Virtual Museum

 

The 2018 Mickey Marcus Memorial at West Point

 

AMERICAN  VETERANS OF ISRAEL LEGACY CORPORATION

WEST POINT MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR AMERICAN HEROES

OF ISRAEL’S INDEPENDENCE WAR

 

APRIL 29, 2018 - The American Veterans of Israel Legacy Corporation, in association with the Consulate General of Israel in New York, held the 52nd Annual Mickey Marcus Memorial Service  at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The event memorialized Colonel David “Mickey” Marcus, among 41 U.S. and Canadian volunteers who gave their lives in Israel’s War of Independence (1947-1949). Colonel Marcus, a West Point graduate, was recruited as a military advisor to David Ben-Gurion and the underground Haganah defense forces. He fell on June 11, 1948, during the siege of Jerusalem.

The service at the USMA Jewish chapel commenced at 11:00 a.m. led by USMA and guest Chaplains; Jewish War Veterans-Rockland/Orange District presented the Colors. Captain David Ruderman, Garrison Jewish Chaplain at the U.S. Military Academy, and guest Chaplains Rabbi Doniel Kramer, Rabbi Sanford Dresin and Colonel Robert Marsi officiated. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a greeting for the event honoring the memory of Col. Marcus. The program celebrated the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. Among the speakers was Jeffrey Margolis, President of AVILC; Brigadier General Cindy Jebb, Dean of the USMA Academic Board; Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York and Major General Michael Edelstein, Israel’s Defense Attache to the U.S. Referring to Col. Marcus, Ambassador Dayan remarked “We are celebrating a person who changed the course of Jewish history. One of the most important possessions in my office is an Israeli flag which survived 9-11. It represents the connection between America and Israel including our shared values and the fight against terrorism. In a sense, Colonel Marcus is that flag.”  A musical interlude followed, presented by the SAR High School Choir, directed by Kenny Birnbaum.

Colonel Marcus was inducted, during the service, as a Distinguished Member of the Civil Affairs Regiment by the United States Army's John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center. Colonel David Mitchell, USA, ret. and Mr. Michael Charlebois presented the plaque and medallion that will be kept and displayed in the USMA Jewish Chapel. The ceremony resumed at Colonel Marcus’ burial site, whose gravestone reads “Colonel David Marcus - A Soldier for All Humanity”. The program concluded with the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish and a wreath-laying ceremony, followed by a Firing Salute and Taps rendered by the USMA Honor Guard.

Five surviving “Machal” veterans were present for the event surrounded by family and friends. They were determined to make a difference in their youth, seven decades ago. They are determined to do so now, if only by their silent, steadfast presence by which they honor their late comrades-in-arms. (1,250 North American men and women served in “Machal” as volunteers from abroad).

Netanyahu Mickey Marcus Greeting

Benjamin Netanyahu's Greeting and Recognition of Mickey Marcus (Click to Enlarge)

 

 

Tiffany Mitchell, Jeffrey A. Margolis, Theresa Forbes, Si Spiegelman, Donna Parker

 

Dani Dayann at Podium

Ambassador Dani Dayan and Rafi Marom 

 

Mickey Marcus 2018

Brigadier General Cindy Jebb, Captain David Ruderman, Colonel David Mitchell, USA, ret., Mr. Michael Charlebois

 

Mickey Marcus 2018

Brigadier General Cindy Jebb, Captain David Ruderman, Colonel David Mitchell, USA, ret., Mr. Michael Charlebois 

 

Mickey Marcus 2018 Vets and AVILC Members Outside Holding Banner

Paul Kaye, Jeffrey A. Margolis, Joshua Landes, Si Spiegelman, Marcie Wolman, Fred Rawicz

 

Photos courtesy Beth Guidry and Jeff Hoffman 

More Coverage of the Jerusalem Machal Memorial Dedication

Machal Fighters Get Memorial in Jerusalem, Seven Decades After Volunteering for Israel

BY TOM TUGEND | PUBLISHED DEC 13, 2017 | NATION/WORLD (JEWISH JOURNAL)

 

Nearly 70 years after volunteers from five continents left homes and jobs to fight for the newly proclaimed State of Israel, their deeds will be honored and memorialized on Dec. 17 at a historic site in Jerusalem.

The 4,922 volunteers from 59 countries were part of Machal — a Hebrew acronym for Overseas Volunteers — and 123 of them died in the line of duty. Less than a dozen elderly survivors are expected to attend the dedication of the massive memorial, located across the Ammunition Hill national memorial site.

The memorial is 10 feet long and 8 feet high, made of stone, concrete and steel, and inscribed in Hebrew with the words of Yitzhak Rabin. In a tribute to the volunteers, the late general and prime minister said, “You came to us when we needed you most, during those dark and uncertain days of our War of Independence.”

Dignitaries will include Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; national Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant; Jeffrey Margolis, president of American Veterans for Israel Legacy Corp.; and Harold (Smoky) Simon, the WorldMachal chairman. The afternoon events will include a torch relay from the city center to the dedication site, honor detachments and music from the armed forces, and a Hanukkah lighting ceremony.

Before and during the War of Independence, which began in 1948, the largest contingents of volunteers came from the United States, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada and France. Almost all — including 168 gentiles — had fought for their home countries in World War II and brought valuable experience and skills, particularly to the Israeli air force and navy, which had to be built from scratch.

Over the decades, the contributions of the volunteers to the outcome of the war either have been ignored in Israel and their home countries, or overblown, Hollywood-style.

A blunt and only slightly exaggerated description came from California novelist Harold Livingston, who flew for the Israel Air Transport Command and who described “Ben-Gurion’s Foreign Legion. They took anyone. Misfits from America, English communists, South African Zionists, Soviet army deserters, Polish noblemen, ne’er-do-well soldiers of fortune.

“If you want excitement and adventure, come on over. … If you want to write a book. If you’re running from the police. If you want to get away from your wife. If you want to prove that Jews can fight. If you want to build a new land.”

Perhaps Machal’s most important contribution was to lift the morale of Israelis, knowing that their Diaspora brethren were with them.

The motives always were mixed. My time as an American infantryman in France and Germany during World War II had left me restless, my early exposure to Zionism in a Jewish school and youth organization in Berlin during the mid-1930s had left an imprint, and since a new Jewish state arises only every 2,000 years or so, I figured I probably wouldn’t be around for the next time.

My past military experience qualified me to serve as squad leader in an “Anglo-Saxon” anti-tank unit, composed entirely of English-speaking volunteers, who spoke the mother tongue in a variety of often-incomprehensible accents. In this unit, the men from the highly organized and supportive Jewish communities of South Africa formed the most stable element; the Americans, Canadians and Brits were somewhere in the middle, while two teenage Australians arrived fairly late in the game after a slow ship ride from Down Under.

Machalniks served in all branches of the Israel Defense Forces — army, navy, air force, Palmach shock troops and medical corps — as well as Aliyah Bet, composed of men and women who ran the British blockade in 1946-47 to bring “illegal” Jewish immigrants to pre-state Palestine.

The single largest Machal contingent came from the United States. Its given numbers have varied acceding to time and source, some running as high as 1,400. In the most current compilation, Machal world chair Simon has downsized the figure to 805. Of these, 263 served in the air force, with many hailing from the Los Angeles area.

But given the size of the American Jewish community at the time, this number lags well behind the contribution of every other English-speaking country proportionally. For example, the South African contingent was almost as large as the American, with a Jewish population one-fiftieth that of the U.S.

Americans gave freely of their money, and a few lost their citizenships for illegally sending arms and planes to Israel.

But the disparity in the number of American volunteers reflected the differences in communal attitudes and civic courage. South African Jews — and Britain’s to a slightly lesser degree — set up their own selective service systems, complete with physical and psychological testing, and rallied fully behind their young men and women heading for the battlefield. By contrast, organized American Jewry, fearful of the dreaded accusation of double loyalty, generally averted its collective eyes and prayed silently that those crazy kids going over would not prove an embarrassment.

Whatever the Machal contributions, on the ground — where ultimately wars are still won — the Israelis did most of the job themselves and paid a high price. The War of Independence claimed the lives of some 6,200 Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Perhaps Machal’s most important contribution was to lift the morale of Israelis, knowing that their Diaspora brethren were with them.

One of the key initiators and backers of the Machal memorial has been Jerry Klinger, a son of Holocaust survivors, retired first vice president of Merrill Lynch and president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.

Klinger, who lives in Boynton Beach, Fla., has made it his mission to cut red tape and to fund and affix signposts and markers across the the world to draw attention to Jewish contributions and pioneering enterprises. He was instrumental in erecting a memorial in Haifa to the fabled refugee ship Exodus,  as well as 66 historical markers throughout the West and the United States.

To Klinger, looking back on all his historical markers, the one honoring the men and women of Machal may be the most important. “If we let them be forgotten,” he said, “we are denying their tomorrows and our yesterdays.”

 

DEDICATION OF A MACHAL MEMORIAL AT AMMUNITION HILL IN JERUSALEM

By Doreen Bliss

 

On Sunday 17th December 2017, a Machal Memorial was dedicated to the 4,800 volunteers who came from 59 countries to serve in Israel’s War of Independence, 1948-49.  These included the American and Canadian volunteers who served in Aliyah Bet manning the 10 ships which brought so-called “illegal immigrants” to Israel despite the British blockade.

 

The Memorial, which was sculpted by Sam Philipe (who also designed the Exodus Memorial at Haifa Port),  was a project initiated by Jerry Klinger of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation with the assistance of the American Veterans of Israel Legacy Corp, in collaboration with the Jerusalem City Council.

 

The events commenced with an opening ceremony at the Western Wall (Kotel) followed by a Torch Relay Race.  The dedication ceremony took place at Ammunition Hill and was attended by prominent participants including the Mayor of Jerusalem,  Nir Barkat, the IDF, Police Commanders, heads of Veteran organizations, and Smoky Simon, Chairman of World Machal. 

 

 

L‑R: Sim Manor (Mandelzweig), Reuven Narunsky, and Freda Gates,

Volunteers from South Africa in 1948

The Hannukah candle-lighting ceremony was followed by blessings, a program of music and singing, and then the highlight of the program, the unveiling of the MachalMemorial - an emotional moment for those Machalniks from 1948 who served in the War of Independence.

The Dedication of the Machal Memorial at Ammunition Hill

Jerusalem Machal Memorial Daytime

Thanking Those Who Volunteered

By Daniel Fliegler

 

1948….The situation in the new State of Israel was truly dire. Six Arab armies attacked the Jewish state with the sole purpose of annihilating it. They thought they could easily massacre its 600,000 Jewish inhabitants. What the Arabs and a great part of the world did not count on was the rallying to the Jewish State of 4800 volunteers from 59 countries, with 168 of them being non-Jews. Smoky Simon, the Chair of the World Machal organization, expressed at the dedication of the monument at Ammunition Hill honoring the Machal volunteers in Jerusalem: “We are very proud of them”. 

 

The volunteers or Machalniks in Hebrew were mostly veterans of the Second World War. Many witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust and were determined not to let it happen again. With their skills honed in fighting the Axis powers, they helped make the difference in Israel’s fight for survival. They manned the ships that brought Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to Israel in defiance of the British naval blockade. They clandestinely procured the planes and made up the nucleus of the fledgling Israeli air force. They flew the few fighter planes brought in and stopped the Egyptian army’s advance on Tel-Aviv. They ferried arms to Israel that were critically needed to push back the enemy and served in every branch of the fledgling IDF. Describing the miraculous victory, Simon quoted from David Ben-Gurion, “If you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not a realist”. Some of the volunteers performed important leadership roles in the new Israeli armed forces. Paul Schulman headed the navy; Al Schwimmer procured the planes and helped organize the air force; Mickey Marcus became the first general of the Israeli army in nearly two thousand years.

 

It was for these reasons that the event was organized by Jerry Klinger. In his remarks at the dedication, Klinger said that the two most important words that he knows are: “Thank you”. Klinger has been instrumental in expressing this sentiment through concrete actions. It was under his leadership that this summer a monument was dedicated in Haifa port for the famed Aliya Bet ship: “Exodus 1947”. Klinger has made it his mission to establish these “markers”, as he calls them, so that the past is not forgotten and those who volunteered are shown the appreciation that they deserve. It is fitting that this monument to the Machalniks is located at Ammunition Hill; the scene of a decisive battle as Israel liberated all of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.

 

The festivities were held during the Hanukah festival with a torch relay race by hundreds of IDF soldiers starting at the Western Wall and ending at Ammunition Hill. There it continued with heartfelt presentations, a mini-concert, fireworks and the lighting of the Menorah. Dignitaries included Mayor Barkat, Major General Numa, and Housing Minister Galant among others. Board of Directors members of the American Veterans of Israel Legacy were also present, including the President of the Board Jeffrey Margolis, Jerry Klinger, Donna Parker, and this author.   

Mickey Marcus Memorial Service at West Point - Sunday, April 29, 2018

AMERICAN VETERANS OF ISRAEL LEGACY CORPORATION In conjunction with the CONSULATE GENERAL OF ISRAEL IN NEW YORK

INVITES THE PUBLIC TO ATTEND THE 52ND ANNUAL MICKEY MARCUS MEMORIAL SERVICE  AT THE U. S. MILITARY ACADEMY - WEST POINT JEWISH CHAPEL- SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2018

PLEASE JOIN US IN MEMORIALIZING COL. DAVID ‘MICKEY’ MARCUS AMONG 41 U.S. AND CANADIAN VOLUNTEERS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN ISRAEL’S WAR OF INDEPENDENCE (1947-1949).

10:00-10:50 - Coffee hour in the Jewish Chapel Social Hall.

11:00-12:15 - Memorial Service in the USMA Jewish Chapel led by Chaplains and choir; Jewish War Veterans-Rockland/Orange District presenting the Colors. CH (CPT) David Ruderman (USMA) and guest rabbis officiating. 

    COMMEMORATION … We will be marking the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. We will honor all our fallen and recently departed. Among the prominent speakers will be Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York.   

    TRIBUTE…to Col. Marcus by the United States Army's John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center on his induction as a Distinguished Member of the Civil Affairs Regiment. The USMA Jewish Chapel has been designated as the place of honor where the plaque and medallion will be displayed.

12:45-1:15 - USMA Military Cemetery. Honoring Col. David ‘Mickey’ Marcus among the fallen volunteers in Israel’s War of Independence. Mourners Kaddish and wreath-laying ceremony at the Marcus gravesite. Firing Salute and Taps by the USMA Honor Guard.

                                

PLEASE BRING FAMILY AND FRIENDS

West Point Security requires a government-issued photo ID.

Event Contacts: donnakparker1@gmail.com, Rafi_marom@hotmail.com, or spiegelsi@aol.com

                   

Driving Directions

- From NY State Thruway, Take Harriman Exit 16 onto 6 East. Follow to the Bear Mountain Traffic Circle. Take 9W North to West Point exit.  

- From NYC, Take George Washington Bridge Upper Deck onto Palisades Pkwy North to the exit 18. Take 9W North  to West Point/Highland Falls exit.

Getting to the Jewish Chapel:  Past the gate, turn left onto Mills Rd. At the fork bear right onto Stony Lonesome Rd; then turn left onto Merritt Rd to the Jewish chapel.                                                                                                                                                       

Machal Monument in Jerusalem Dedicated

Fireworks in front of Machal Monument

On December 17th, 2017, the Machal Monument was unveiled and dedicated. The following is the day in pictures. Please donate online to keep the memory of the Foreign Volunteers of Israel's War of Independence alive.

The IDF had a Torch relay race.

 

Troops at Machal Monument

 

The monument was veiled by an Israeli flag before it was officially dedicated.

 

Machal Monument Covered

 

Jerry Klinger, Jewish American Society of Historical Preservation, the key philanthropist of the project, and Smoky Simon, World Machal, made remarks.

 

Jerry Klinger Speaking at Machal Monument Dedication

Smoky Simon Speaking at Machal Monument Dedication in Jerusalem

 

Jeffrey Margolis, American Veterans of Israel Legacy Corp, with Klinger in front of the Memorial

 

Jerry Jeff

 

Mini Monuments for Deputy Mayor Yael Antebi and Klinger, presented by Sculptor Sam Philipe 

 

 

Mini Monuments for Deputy Mayor Yael Antebi and Jerry Klinger, presented by Sculptor Sam Philipe

The program for the Dedication of the Mahal Memorial in Jerusalem

 

Machal Monument in Jerusalem Dedication Invitation

 

 

Machal Monument Rising

machal-memorial-rising

The Machal Monument was installed on Thursday, December 14th (26 Kislev)!

Please donate on the Machal Memorial page and ensure that the Machal story is told for generations

Machal Overseas Volunteers Memorial to be Dedicated in Jerusalem 12/17/17

The Jerusalem City Council set Sunday, December 17, 2017 as the dedication date for the Machal Memorial now under construction adjacent to the Historic Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site. The striking sculpture (photo below) will honor the legacy of 4,800 Machal overseas volunteers who served in Israel’s War of Independence (1947-1949). The American Veterans of Israel Legacy Corp and the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation are collaborating with the Jerusalem City Council in the execution of this project. 

The day’s events will begin at 3:00 pm with an opening ceremony at the Western Wall (Kotel) followed by a Torch Relay Race commencing at 3:20 pm. Hundreds of officers and soldiers from various IDF units will participate. The route through Jerusalem will encompass many of the city’s renowned landmarks, winding up at the Machal Memorial on Machal Street.

The dedication program will start at 4:00 pm in the Ammunition Hill auditorium.  Prominent participants will include Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, Yoav Galant, Minister of Housing and Construction, IDF and police commanders and heads of veterans organizations among others.  The Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony will take place at 4:30 pm with the traditional blessings, entertainment program and the unveiling of the Machal Memorial monument.  

The dedication program ends at 5:15 pm

To donate and be a part of the memorial, please go to Jewcer.

 

U.S. Contacts

Jerry Klinger - jashp1@msn.com

Donna Parker - donnakparker1@gmail.com

Si Spiegelman – spiegelsi@aol.com

 

Program Information (Israel)

Benny Katz, Director, IDF Relations/Liaison Department

Shirley - 0526994990

Moran - 0535222127

Jerusalem Machal Monument Planned

The planned Jerusalem Machal Memorial honors the legacy of the 4800 Machal volunteers from 59 countries (1100 from the United Sates and Canada who served in the creation and defense of the State of Israel during its War of Independence (1948-1949). It carries a powerful message furthering Jewish unity for all generations, present and future.

Adjacent to the Ammunition Hill Memorial Site, work has started on the project. The striking monument and narrative markers are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perpetuate the legacy of Machal and Aliyah Bet. It will be an enduring Machal footprint in the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

AVILC is implementing the Jerusalem Machal Memorial project in collaboration with The Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation (JASHP). The Jerusalem City Council has unanimously approved the project. The expected dedication date has been set by the Council for December 17, 2017.

In July 2017, JASHP unveiled a monument to the 1947 Exodus ship, part of the Aliyah Bet operation bringing holocaust survivors to Israel. Located in the Haifa Port, it was the first monument to the Exodus in Israel.

Please donate at our Jewcer fundraising page.

Machal Memorial Description

Honoring The Ship That Launched A Nation

2017 Dedication of Exodus Monument

By Daniel Fliegler

The elderly man recounted how as a child on board the Exodus 1947 he could see the port of Haifa and the Carmel mountains in the distance. Being so close to Israel he was filled with joy, but the men next to him started to cry. He asked them why were they crying. The reply was that they would be forced to go to Cyprus. Yet the knowledge was there that they would return. No one on that ship knew the future events that would lead to their return and how their determination to return would set into motion the final steps for the United Nations recognition of the Jewish state. 

This was elaborated in Haifa port on July 18, 2017, seventy years to the day that the British brought the Exodus 1947 to this port after capturing her. Now on this fateful day a fitting memorial was dedicated to this event with an appropriate ceremony.

After the Second World War, the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust wanted to leave Europe and come home to Israel which was then called Palestine. The British controlled the area through its League of Nations Mandate. It was the British intention to keep control of Palestine as a necessary step for the preservation of their empire. Thinking it more expedient to appease the Arabs, the British through its 1939 White Paper forbade the immigration of Jews into Palestine except for a monthly quarter of 1500. The Jews of Palestine through the Jewish Agency and the underground armies of the Hagana, Irgun, and Lehi brought in Jewish refugees none the less as part of a movement called Aliyah Bet. Since 1946, surplus war ships were brought cheaply in the United States and Canada. They were manned by crews consisting mostly of Jewish volunteers. The ships would sail from the US pick up hundreds and thousands of refugees waiting in Europe and continue onward to Palestine. The British navy succeeded in capturing most of the ships. British policy was to intern the refugees in camps in Cyprus. The Exodus 1947 was to be different. Formally called the President Warfield, it was originally  a pleasure boat transporting passengers and freight between Norfolk and Baltimore. It saw action in WWII with first the British and then the US navy being stationed off Normady, France. It returned to the US and was sold to a dummy company of the Hagana for scrap. The ship was taller than the average British warship making it harder to be boarded and seized by British Royal Marines. The plan was to openly land the refugees in Palestine in defiance of the British navy. With a stroke of genius Moshe Sneh head of immigration in the Jewish Agency came up with the name Exodus 1947 So the ship picked up 4515 refugees in Marseilles and headed to Palestine with the British shadowing it. Two British destroyers rammed the Exodus and the marines managed to board the ship. On the ship, the marines were met with stiff resistance by the refugees who threw everything including potatoes at them. Three people were killed as a result of the assault. One of them was Bill Bernstein an officer on the Exodus who tried to prevent the marines from capturing the wheelhouse which controlled the ship. Instead of being interned in Cyprus the refugees were imprisoned like animals and sent to France. The refugees refused to disembark in France and the French authorities refused to force them. The British decided to send the refugees to Germany and force them to disembark there. Expecting negative publicity, the British were totally unprepared for the firestorm of condemnations that followed. Reports by journalist Ruth Gruber and eyewitness accounts by the Reverend John Grauel who sailed on the Exodus as an official observer convinced the United Nations that this state of affairs could not continue. On November 29 of that same year the United Nations voted in favor for the establishment of the Jewish state. The Exodus 1947 truly earned its nickname as ‘the ship that launched a nation.

Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, learned that there were monuments for the Exodus 1947 in Italy, Germany, France, and the US but none in Israel where the main historical events occurred. It is entirely due to Klinger’s efforts that a monument now stands in the port of Haifa where the ship was taken to by the British. The monument, sculpted by Sam Philipe consists of an anchor behind or ‘launching’ a three dimensional map of Israel. A fitting monument for ‘The ship that launched a nation’.  The ceremony was most fitting going on for hours. Speaker after speaker spoke of their connection to Exodus, while on a screen behind the podium were video clips of the ship and the land of Israel. One of the most moving connections of the Exodus came from Natan Sharansky, former refusenik and now chairman of the Jewish Agency. When he was a refusenik in the former USSR, Sharansky would ask visitors to bring with them copies of the novel Exodus. Although the novel gave the story of a different Aliyah Bet ship it still had an impact on the refuseniks in their struggle to maintain their Jewish identity. In an irony of history, most of the American volunteers for the Aliyah Bet crews kept their involvement a secret for fear of criminal prosecution by the US government. At the ceremony, was Michael Snowden representing US Ambassador Friedman proudly recounting that most of the Exodus crew were American.

Singing icons Noy Sassover and Shuli Natan sung song after song with Natan including her famous renditions of Jerusalem of Gold and Captain My Captain. 

Representing American Veterans of Israel Legacy Corp were, Donna Parker, Jerry Klinger, and this writer.

 

Also See

Baltimore Jewish Times Article

Jerusalem Post Article

Video of July 18th Dedication Ceremony

Augustine L. (Duke) Labaczewski

Duke Labaczewski

Augustine L. (Duke) Labaczewski, 89, the cook aboard the American Aliyah Bet ship Tradewinds (later named “Hatikvah” – Hope), died in Williamstown, New Jersey, on June 29, 2017.   His daughter, Mrs. Theresa Forbes, said the cause of death was lung cancer, contracted during his 40-year career as a cook, able-bodied seaman and boatswain aboard American commercial ships. He was buried on July 5 in Manahath Cemetery, Glassboro, NJ, next to his wife, Myra. He is survived by his daughter, his son William Labaczewski, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Duke was born April 21, 1928 in Camden, NJ.  He was Roman Catholic, yet fluent in Yiddish,  learned from Jewish neighbors. At 19 he was one of the youngest Jews or non-Jews to participate in Israel’s War of Independence.   The Tradewinds, a former U.S. Revenue cutter, was refitted on the Miami River in 1946 and 1947.  It departed Miami in 1947, sailed to Baltimore and crossed the Atlantic taking aboard 1,414 Jewish refugees in La Spezia, Italy.   It was intercepted and rammed by a Royal Navy Destroyer on May 17, 1947.   The crew, including Duke, and the refugees fought the British boarding party, but were overwhelmed.  They were transferred to a British Prison ship and interned in Cyprus.  Duke was later freed and returned to the U.S. in December, 1947.

When asked what impelled him to join the Israeli cause, Duke said, he had returned from sea [in 1947] and his friend Mike Perlstein said, “Duke, we need sailors to help bring my people to Israel.”  “I was always for a Jewish state,” Duke recalled, and responded to Mike, “I’m your man.” He joined Mike as a crew member on the “Hatikvah” and on many occasions later stated that it had been “the right thing to do”.

Duke participated in almost every reunion of Aliyah Bet and Machal.   He was once asked what benefit he derived personally from his experience with Aliyah Bet.  He responded, “I believe we brought over the people needed to fight for a free state and freedom from all the persecutions around the world.  It makes me feel very proud that I had a part in it, no matter how small.”

We will miss our friend and comrade-in-arms, Duke.

Zichrono Livracha (May his memory be for a blessing)

Duke Labaczewski
Duke Labaczewski
Duke Labaczewski and Marcel Berkowitz at the 2016 Mickey Marcus Memorial
Duke Labaczewski and Paul Kaye
2016 Mickey Marcus Memorial Group Photo

American Veterans of Israel Legacy Corp

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