web analytics
March 29, 2015 / 9 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


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.

Current Top Story
18,000 Iranian Centrifuges
Netanyahu Warns Iran-Yemen-Nuclear Deal Axis ‘Dangerous to Humanity’ [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
Father Gabriel Naddaf with soldiers

My beliefs & actions have led to numerous death threats against me; my excommunication by my church

Islamic Relief Worldwide Logo

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

The Waqf kept control of the Temple Mount due to Dayan’s “magnanimity in victory” after 6 Day war

The event promotes “1 state” solution (end of Israel as a Jewish State), BDS, lawfare against Israel

I rescued you?! You’re doing me a favor letting me help you!

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: