International Holocaust Remembrance Day brings to mind David Gottlieb’s experience on the SS Josiah Wedgwood running the 1949 Israel blockade to statehood
Almost a Mensch Part 2: The Pathway to Menschhood
On July 6, 1946 the SS Josiah Wedgwood was thirty miles from the Port of Haifa. I was an eighteen-year-old crewman on that vessel, which was carrying 1,257 Holocaust survivors from camps in Italy to Palestine. Passengers and crew alike were on high alert, watching for two things: British vessels and Haifa. The British had set up a blockade of Haifa and ships caught running it were forced to return their Holocaust survivors to the same countries that had refused them entry.
Our Haifa gambit ended happily. We made it into port and our ecstatic passengers disembarked to singing and cheers of Eretz! Israel!
How I came to be caught up in one of the great events of the twentieth century is an improbable tale. I was not an experienced sailor, had no technical qualifications, and a lackluster past. Most of the blockade runners were Jewish veterans of World War II.
Life has a way of sending me down roads I never dreamed of taking, some the last ones I would have chosen. I’ll mention a couple.
After Haifa I worked my way back to the States on a ship bound for Beaumont, Texas. In the era of segregation Blacks were unacceptable and Jews were unwelcome. I was broke but desperate to get out of Texas. Forever. So later where should I settle? You guessed it, Houston.
I was a high school dropout. So who could imagine that I would end up with a doctorate in sociology and serve as Deputy Director of the Job Corps in the Kennedy administration? Or become Dean of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Houston? Or hold several other high level positions in the arts, research, and banking?
Maybe Bashert explains it. It means destiny or what must be. Maybe it helped that I was open to life, for life has been open to me. It has sent me mostly the good, sometimes the bad, and occasionally the ugly.
In November 2008, the Israel Ministry of Defense awarded David the Israel Warriors Decoration for being a crew member on the Josiah Wedgwood.
Author Name : David Gottlieb
Author Bio : David Gottlieb is a PhD graduate of the University of Chicago where he majored in both the Sociology of Education and Adolescent Behavior. He has published numerous academic texts and research articles in juried discipline journals, as well as a memoir, Almost a Mensch and the book, Staying in the Game. He served as a member of President Kennedy’s Committee on Science and Technology and as a Deputy Director of The Job Corps in The Office of Economic Opportunity, Director of Research for several White House Conferences on Children and Youth. He was Dean of The College of Social Sciences, University of Houston; Founding Director of The Houston Area Research Center, President and CEO of the Woodlands Center for the Performing Arts (DBA) The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Vice President of the Woodlands Development Company, and is currently serving as VP for Strategic Planning for The Woodforest National Bank and Board Member of The Woodforest Charitable Foundation. In November 2008, the Israel Ministry of Defense awarded David the Israel Warriors Decoration for being a crew member on the Josiah Wedgwood, a ship that transported more than one thousand Holocaust survivors from Europe to Palestine. This award is their highest recognition given to a non-Israeli citizen.
Pub Date: Nov 04, 2014