By Mike Smith
Israel just celebrated another birthday. The nation is now 71 years old, and it is a vibrant, democratic, economically powerful, high-tech society that just announced its population has exceeded 9 million people. There has been tremendous progress over the past seven decades in Israel, all the more so since it began its nationhood with around 600,000 citizens and a fight to survive.
The United Nations passed a resolution in November 1947 that partitioned the territory known as Palestine, a British mandate area since World War I, between Arabs and Jews. Then, on May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared that the State of Israel was now a reality. And, all during this period, those 600,000 Israelis fought a bitter war against ten-fold their number, who were attacking from within Palestine and from surrounding Arab nations. It was a simple matter of survival. Lose what became known as the 1948 War, and Israel would cease to exist.
It is also good to know that Jewish Detroiters did their part to support Israel in its time of need. In this respect, I found a great in-depth story in the May 4, 1973, issue of the JN on the 25th anniversary of the founding of Israel: “Detroiters Recall Role in Birth of Nation.” Written by long-time writer and editor at the JN Charlotte Dubin, it is a history of two Detroiters who provided crucial support to Israel during the 1948 War, one a Gentile and one a Jew.
Charles Crudgington, a Gentile, had served during World War II in the Canadian Royal Air Force, England’s Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army’s Air Corps. Following the war, in his father’s footsteps, Crudgington studied law. Upon reading about Israel’s plight, after having fought the Nazis, he felt great empathy for the fledgling nation and decided to act. Crudgington was one of a small group of flyers that spirited planes to Israel.
Harry Winesaft was an Austrian Jew, born in Vienna, who escaped Europe before WWII, due to the kindness of a Jewish family in Kansas City. He then returned as an American soldier fighting the Nazis.
After the war, Winesaft worked in the camps for displaced persons as a member of the Jewish Distribution Committee and was heavily engaged in efforts to get Jewish refugees to Palestine despite the British limits. This included his personal journey on the voyage of the Exodus.
During the 1948 War, Winesaft worked to supply the Israelis with desperately needed war material. He stated that he received help from Detroiters such as Lou Berry, Arnold and Norman Michlin and, in particular, Sally Fields.
This column is only a brief synopsis of Dubin’s article, which I highly recommend. It is a really good read and one that will make you proud of the efforts of Detroiters to sustain Israel during its darkest hour. The full article can be found in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History at DJNFoundation.org.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.