web analytics
October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



An American-Jewish Hero In Israel: Murray Greenfield

Murray Greenfield

Murray Greenfield

I sit here savoring a treasure. It is a book about Jewish-American and Jewish-Palestinian heroism in the 1940s – a little known story and one I nearly didn’t read.

The title is The Jews’ Secret Fleet: The Untold Story of North American Volunteers who Smashed the British Blockade of Palestine. The author, Murray S. Greenfield, is the founder of Israel’s Gefen Publishing House and of much else. Joseph M. Hochstein wrote it with him.

Here’s how the book came into my possession. Someone named Murray kept calling me. He said he wanted “I should interview him,” like I’d interviewed fellow pre-state activist David Gutmann, a”h, in these pages (“Israel’s Rebirth ‘A Boring Story to U.S. Jews,” April 2, 2010).

He called at a particularly hard time and I could not meet with him – but then he sent a messenger bearing this book. It was then that I realized this was a living hero of the Jewish people who wanted to meet me. Duty called. We met the very next day.

Murray was wearing a cap and a jacket-sweater that I recognized as belonging to another time, perhaps the 1930s or 1940s. He spoke in English and Yiddish. He was charming, witty, energetic, and a living repository of vital historical information.

When this 87 year-old Jewish-American grandfather was young, he was an “illegal” volunteer sailor, part of a group (1946-1948) that brought European Holocaust survivors to Palestine by sea. The boats and ships were barely seaworthy.

Few of the volunteers were experienced sailors, (Greenfield had been in the Merchant Marine). Few were Zionists. Some were not Jewish. Nevertheless, for idealistic reasons, they faced death-dealing storms, dispiriting seasickness, failed engines, failed water tanks, little food, poor sanitation, and a hostile British blockade.

Jewish-American businessmen bought these “rust buckets” under fake company names, had them refitted, flew Honduran or Panamanian flags, left New York, Baltimore, and Miami and sailed for European ports in Italy, Yugoslavia, Sweden, France, and Bulgaria. Then, after many bribes and last-minute disasters, and often under cover of darkness, they made for Haifa or Tel Aviv.

British planes and war ships and troops stalked them, fired on them, rammed them, gassed them, and boarded them. After hand-to-hand combat with the superior British forces, nine boats were captured in striking distance of Palestine. The Brits sent all on board to prison camps in Cyprus or to jail in Atlit. Savagely, vindictively, the British returned one boat, the famed Exodus, to Hamburg, Germany.

The ingenuity, boldness, idealism, and bravery of these “illegal” volunteer sailors and their Palestinian officers in HaMossad L’Aliyah Bet was beyond belief. It was a real David and Goliath story because they took on the cruel and mighty British fleet—and, despite losses, hardship, and unimaginable danger, they won, as the illegal boats and ships brought so many of the European Jews who survived the Holocaust into Palestine –well, mainly into British prison camps in Cyprus, but close enough.

And they drew world attention and, ultimately, sympathy by publicizing British heartlessness, the tragic plight of the post-concentration camp refugees, and the extraordinary derring-do of the volunteer sailors.

Murray inscribed his book to me:

Shalom Phyllis

We sailed for freedom.

Now, we settle for greater freedom.

  The Jewish Press: How did this all come about?

Greenfield: It was very secretive. Only few of us were Zionists but everyone wanted to do the right thing. A guy, he didn’t tell you his name, talked to you, very shh-shh and said: “We are getting the Jews out of Europe. You might get arrested or killed.” I asked: “What’s the pay?” There was no pay. They wanted people they could trust, who were doing this for the right reasons. I had to go.

About the Author: Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a professor emerita of psychology, a Middle East Forum fellow, and the author of fifteen books including “Women and Madness” (1972), “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003), and her latest, “An American Bride in Kabul” (2013). Her articles are archived at www.phyllis-chesler.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “An American-Jewish Hero In Israel: Murray Greenfield”

  1. The face of a hero

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack Obama at the White House, Oct. 1, 2014.
Netanyahu, Obama Focus on Different Priorities in White House Talk
Latest Indepth Stories

There is not even a hint of recognition that Hamas deliberately fires rockets at civilian targets in Israel while storing arms and rocket launchers among its own civilians in Gaza.

No one with any sanity would dream of rationalizing or justifying the depredations perpetrated on the Arab world by ISIS.

With $2 billion on hand the Islamic State is an extremely well-funded terrorist group that may pose a major international crisis for the U.S. and the world. Learn about their rise to power and the toll they’ve taken thus far.

In the recent Gaza war and its aftermath, we saw a totally illogical reaction from the world.

A., a teacher: “I do not know a single Gazan who is pro-Hamas at the moment, except for those on its payroll.”

Is the global community clear in its response to these extremist groups?

Like our fabled character, Don Quixote, President Obama has constantly spawned his own reality.

Boroujerdi was informed that “the pressures and tortures will increase until he has been destroyed.”

Fatah: Hamas stole relief aid for Gaza and distributed it amongst its followers in mosques.

Can teenagers seriously be expected to behave properly when they are surrounded by so much suggestive material? Is it fair to expose them (and ourselves) to so much temptation and then tell them, “Just say no”?

Washington remains ignorant of the need to dismantle alliances with various Muslim countries.

Defeating IS requires bombing its strongholds and recognizing the violent nature of Islam.

Abbas again used the UN to attack Israel, distort history, and undermine prospects for peace.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority cannot even agree to move their clocks back on the same day.

More Articles from Dr. Phyllis Chesler
Murray Greenfield

Few of the volunteers were experienced sailors, (Greenfield had been in the Merchant Marine). Few were Zionists.

Dr. David Gutmann

Hundreds of boats tried to run the British blockade on the dangerous, open seas.

My good colleague Kay is wrong about the early demise of conspiracy theories and blood libels against the Jews.

“I am surprised those Zionists are not outside protesting,” says one woman.

“Miral” is a film that has garnered an inordinate amount of media attention. In interviews, the director, Julian Schnabel, defends his right to tell the Palestinian “narrative” for what he claims is the first time. He seems not to know that many others before him have specialized in this particular line of work.

Our beloved, miraculous Jewish state is under siege.

It was assumed that the ceaseless persecution of the Jews in exile would cease once we again had our own sovereign homeland, our own army, navy, and air force.

In 1947-1948 I lived in Boro Park where, against parental and rabbinic advice, I joined a Zionist group. By 1950 I was packing machine-gun parts for Israel in a home not far from the Young Israel. But what I did as a child does not compare to what my friend and colleague David Gutmann did for love of Zion at that very time on the dangerous open seas.

Reality has become somewhat Scandinavian. It grows dark early and it is bitterly cold here in New York City and over a good portion of our fair land. Our Prince of Peace (The Norwegian Nobel, not the noble variety) is not yet asking whether “to be or not to be.” Perhaps he is not entirely convinced that “that is the question.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/an-american-jewish-hero-in-israel-an-interview-with-activist-and-entrepreneur-murray-greenfield/2014/07/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: