Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Haven: Book Review

By Ruth Gruber

This is a wonderful part of American history I was not aware of. I don't think many Americans are aware of it either. It was actually kept secret.

This is  a true account from Ruth Gruber perspective.  Ruth Gruber was a very well known writer that told stories, from the Artic, Russia, and other places. FDR wanted to bring 1000 people over from Italy to the United States.  Ruth Gruber was asked to accompany them over, and literarily hold their hand accompany them over on the ship. They were to go to a old military base, close to Canada called Ortwego, New York.

This is a wonderful account of her experience, personally and professionally.  There were many obstacles these people had to face coming over.  They had signed a paper stating they must return to their original country of origin, once the war was over.  Without thinking, they just wanted to get out of Europe, out of the clutches of Hitler's hands.  I would do the same thing, I would be desperate too.

Because when enter the United States you were not classified as a immigrant. You were a guest of Pres. FDR. This meant you did not have any rights.

During the time they were on the ship, there were all kinds of people. There were the holocaust survivors, and soldiers, and the wounded. Then you had different class of people, different countries, as Jews, they are then divided from Sephardic, to Askanazi's, then educated, and non educated. 

The Jews wanted to be divided up even further when they were to get to the camps. But, that did not materialize.  When they got to the camp, first was the bob wire, can you imagine you were already in the camps, in Europe and then coming to another place with bob wire, you would not be too happy either. You were divided up into families, and there were major adjustments that everyone in the camp had to make.  From being a European to adjusting to American life.

The refugees tried to adjust to the best they could.  They developed a school for the children. Eventually it was agreed they needed to attend a American School. They were given clothes by the different organizations.  They had a wedding, and children being born.

After the war was over, that is when the story became news.  Ruth Gruber fought for these people. Some of them did want to return to Europe, Realize that the people that were on the ship were not only Jews, but Christians, Romanian, Gypsies, any one that needed a safe haven to the United States.
Many of them were allowed to stay in this country as long as they had someone that was responsible for them.  They were eventually allowed to stay in this country, and they became successful, and productive citizens.

But, that is not all that goes with the story. Haven is actually the turning point of Ruth Gruber's life. She became a successful foreign correspondent, when it came to foreign stories, everyone wanted Ruth.  She then went on to help with the committee to establish the state of Palestine. What should happen to the DP in Cypress, and the other camps. The Ship Exodus, is a powerful story of more people trying to come to Haifa. Then the people of Ethiopia which ended in the plight of African Jews trying to come to Israel.  This story goes on, and on. Ruth did not sit back, and just take pictures. She was a advocate for these people in pictures and listening to their stories.

This a wonderful read. If you were looking for the life of Ruth Gruber then this is the book you should pick up. The book was made into a movie, called by the same name.   There are pictures in the book that document the people's plight. Ruth has won many awards, and has been involves with fund raising many Jewish organizations. She has published many books. She won a Jewish Book Award for Raquela, a story of a Jewish pioneer nurse that worked in Palestine before and after Palestine's independence. 

You can read my other posts below about her life and other books.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Witness by Ruth Gruber

By Ruth Gruber

Witness, is a conglomeration of Ruth Gruber's travels from 1940's-1985.  She was the first person to earn her PH.D in one year. She then became a writer on her travels to the Artic, and the Gulag. She then traveled to Alaska, where she took beautiful pictures of Eskimo's that lived there.

She was selected by Ickes, to accompany 1000 holocaust survivors from Italy to Ortega, N. Y.  Which is on the border of the United States and Canada. These refugees were only to be guests to President Roosevelt until the war was over. Ruth, helped the refugees to become American Citizens.

 She took pictures of the holocaust survivors that were in the DP Camps, and showed the crowded, poor sanitary conditions, ragged clothes, and what conditions they were living in.  She took these pictures with such emotion and care. You could tell she care about the people she took pictures of.

Ruth is known for the pictures she took on the Exodus. The pictures were on the front page of many newspapers. Exodus was made into a movie with Paul Newman.  Just as a side note she has written many books, I plan to read a few more.  I hope to convince my book club to maybe read the book Haven.  Ruth Gruber is a incredible woman, and she is over 100 years old.

Ruth Gruber witnessed history in the making, she didn't just take pictures. She saw history, and witnessed it.  This was the time that most people knew about what was happening in the world. They were proud to be American citizens.

I have written a couple posts about her below. I hope you will check it out.

Book Review: Raquela by Ruth Gruber

By Ruth Gruber

I have been wanting to read Raquela ever since I joined Hadassah, a few years ago.  I don't remember how I found the book, but I knew I wanted to read about the pioneer nursing in Palestine. There is not much work written, and when I found it I was excited to read it.  But, I waited it out, hoping to have make a program with this.  Unfortunately, that did not pan out.

The opportunity happened when I picked the book for our book club. Then I also found a few months ago on Showtime, the documentary of Ruth Gruber. If I connect both the book, and the documentary here is our book club topic.

I picked Raquela, in honor of Jewish Women History Month, and because this is Hadassah's anniversary, and because it is close to Purim. Which we honor, Queen Esther, which her name in hebrew is Hadassah, ironic wouldn't you say?

The book, Raquela  was written in the late 70's. I felt after reading it, it was timeless. It still matters now, more than ever in Israel. The pre- and post Palestine immigrants, the culture, the Arab-Jewish relations, the British and Imperialism, etc.   I am not going into the politics, only about the history of the pre-and post Palestine.  Since I am a history buff, I loved the book by Ruth Gruber. Which I found interesting.

Ruth Gruber wrote this, trying to find a exampleary nurse, that represented Palestine. I think she did in Raquela Prywes. Raquela, was born a ninth generation Jerusalemite. Which makes this story much, more interesting. She did not come from a Orthodox family, but a traditional Jewish family like most that live in Palestine in 1940's, before the war.

There were revolts against the Jews and Arabs, and lots of fighting, and killing amongst the Jews.  Britain was limiting the amount of immigrants(holocaust survivors)from Europe after WW2, this was called the White Papers.  There were plenty of battles against Britain, but also with the Arabs.
There is plenty of historical background I am not going to get into.

There is a romance involved, her boyfriend goes off to war.  She graduated Hadassah's Nursing School. Before she graduates she meets Henrietta Szold, and she is mesmorized by her. We learn about the formation of Hadassah Hospital and the organization that Henrietta Szold forms in New York, and why, it was important to her.

Raquela, became a nurse, but her family especially her mother was not happy with her being in the thick of things.  She went to nursing school on Mt. Scopus before the battle of the Arab- Jewish conflict. We learn about the fate of the Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus, and the many doctors, and nurses that were killed.

Raquela, after she graduates she works in the field with the many military hospitals. With poor medical conditions, crowded conditions,  and not enough medical supplies, and poor sanitary conditions.  She then is recommended for a few posts for the DP Camps, of Cypress, and Athlit. Through Raquela's we learn about the culture, and what it was like to live in Palestine back in the 40's. Where Palestine was still a poor country, and a waste land and how it became a fertile country it is today.

She marries her first husband where we get a glimpse of the culture and conditions of the DP Camps, and her husbands travels. They closely worked together in research in Obstetrics, and Gynecology.  We also get a glimpse eye view from the people that were in Cypress, to Batsheva, and the Negev where she delivered babies to the Bedouin. The husbands did not want to take the wives to have their babies in the hospitals. They did not trust the medical care, but with a bit of coaxing their minds were changed.

One of my favorite parts, as a young girl growing up, and going to Sunday School I can remember the famous heroes, in Israel. Hearing the names of Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, etc.  I loved reading about them.  There is also a part where Raquela saves, and doesn't realize at first who it is, Golda Meir's daughter is about to give birth, but she has toxemia.  She saves her life.

She eventually has two children. Living in Palestine, with her children is not easy in the 60's. Through the 1967 war, all the children went to war, and you had to fight. I can remember the discussions we, as children had about that in Hebrew School. All men and women had to go into the military. That, of course is different than it is in the United States.  The book spans from the time Raquela is a little girl in 1911- 1985.

Her first husband passes away, and she marries a doctor. They work side by side for research for medical care in Israel. They come to the United States where they closely work with one of the university to learn about the medical care to bring back medical systems to Israel.

There are daily occurrences of fighting and skirmishes with Arab and Jew, and with the many countries in the middle east, for example Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, etc. 

I can remember the Zionist feeling, and now all those feeling are stirring up again. I can remember the discussions from the parents of the Hebrew and Sunday School children when I was growing up. Why would you want to do Aliya, if your child is going to enlist in military no matter if she is female or male.  Why would you go to a desolate country, where they don't have the same things we have in the U. S.

I can still remember a conversation a couple of years ago. With Mira, the Rabbi's wife. They are both Israelis. I can recall her telling me, a funny story when she was in nursing school.
 You had to pay a lot of money to ship things in special. While she was going to nursing school, I believe it was Hadassah Hospital. Her room mate received a package from home in the United States.  She was waiting for over a month to receive it, it was "Peanut Butter". Can you believe a staple that is easily bought in a store here, had to be shipped to Israel.

While her room mate was out, Mira could not contain herself and broke into the peanut butter. When her room mate came back, there was nothing left.  In some ways that is hilarious, but some ways sad.  How other countries could not get the same things that we easily could buy in a store.  Luckily, I hear that has changed because there are factories in Israel, but when it was first established there were not things that were easily accessibly, that includes wine too.

I recommend Raquela highly, and you may want to read other works by Ruth Gruber.
 My book club enjoyed reading Raquela, and told me they would recommend it to anyone that would listen.  We also watched the documentary about Ruth Gruber. I would highly recommend as well.

You may want to read my post where I honor this fabulous lady.  She was one of the few foreign correspondents in the world. She rescued 1000 holocaust survivors, from Italy to the United States, and she also took pictures of the more than 4500 holocaust survivors on the Exodus.  You can read my post on my other blog, at Bagels, Books, and Schmooze below this post.  Enjoy!!

              Happy Passover Everyone, and Next Year in Jerusalem!!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ruth Gruber: In Honor of Jewish Women History Month

The post is written in honor of  Purim,( a bit late), and Jewish Women History Month, which also includes the founding of Hadassah over 100 years ago. 

Here are a few links you may be interested to finding out more info about this awesome lady. Here
Jewish Women Archive
Have you heard of Ruth Gruber?? if not, you should read this post. This is one awesome lady!!
She has written several books about her life history in pictures, and these different places, and cultures she has been. 

In honor of Jewish Women History Month, this post is written for one special lady, Ruth Gruber.
 She is one awesome lady. She has seen history in the making, witnessed it and photographed history, from the Artic, Russia, to Palestine, where ever oppressed and unfair treatment took her.

Ruth Gruber is now, 100+ years old.  She was born in 1911 in Brooklyn, NY. She went to college and graduated, and fell in love with everything German. She won a scholarship in Cologne, Germany. She earned her PH.D. on her thesis of Virginia Woolf. She was the youngest person to receive the degree.

She knew she wanted to become a writer, what kind of writer she did not know.  She toured on to the Gulags, in Russia, the Artic, and visited Alaska to see how the Eskimos lived, and learned about their culture.

During the war, 1944. President Roosevelt allowed 1000 holocaust survivors to come to the United States from Italy. The only stipulation, they had to return to their country of origin, after the war was over. They were guests in this country.  Ruth Gruber accompanied the refugees and stayed with them. After the war, she helped them to stay and become American citizens. Some of them become important American citizens.

After the war, she worked with a committee to help the Holocaust survivors enter Palestine.  The British were only allowing a limited amount of Jews in Palestine, before and after Israel became a state. Many Jews were dying in Europe, and Britain was stopping Jews from coming in to their "Homeland". She photographed pictures from the displaced persons camp in Cyprus, Athlit.  Pictures were seen all over the world, she is most known for her pictures of the Exodus, and inCyprus.

                 Ruth Gruber did not only see history, she was history in the making!

In 1948, the ship Exodus, was taking holocaust survivors to Palestine. During the time they were in international waters, the British started firing at these inoccent Jews. They were not welcome anywhere in Europe. They went back to their homes, either shot at, killed, or threatened. They had no where to go where they were welcome. The only place left was Palestine.  Everyone had a home, but the Jews.

So a private Jewish Agency bought a ship to transport the Jews to Palestine. But, the ship was intercepted.
When they got to Haifa, they were not allowed to get off the ship unless they were sick or wounded.  Instead the British ships transported them back to Europe, in France, and then to Germany.

She photographed with emotion when she took the pictures. She did not hold back. She had guts.  She was the only few foreign correspondents to be allowed in to the DP camps. These people trusted her, and told them her stories. Which are documented in her books.  You can get her book, Witness which has 190 pictures of her travels up to 1985.

Our book club read her book, Raquela, the story of Raquela Prywes. She was a nurse before and after Palestine's independence. If you have never read the book and interested in the history before and after, Israel's Independence, and curious to learn about the history of Hadassah and Hadassah Hospital, The medical conditions, for the doctors and nurses in the middle east, then you may want to pick up this book. Even though the book was written it the 70's the book still is a good book to read if you are interested in the life and history of Palestine in the 1940's.

There are several books that Ruth Gruber has written. Several Jewish websites, and there is a documentary called, Ahead of Time about her life. You can find her books listed on wikpedia.

 Our book club saw the movie and highly recommend it.  This was a good book club meeting, everyone enjoyed the film and the book.