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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

From the small world department: The Bostonian who played a prominent role in establishing the State of Israel

An article in the Boston Globe about a local man who played a major role in the establishment of the State of Israel caught my eye.

It caught my eye because I grew up in Boston (both my parents were born and died in the Boston area), and because the last name of the subject of the article - Dewey Stone - is the same as that of a man who was one of my dad's close friends, and I am still in contact with that man's son. As it turns out, Dewey Stone was the uncle of Dad's friend. Dewey's two great nephews with whom I grew up both live in Israel today. I've even published a few pieces from one of them on this blog.

Dewey Stone's role in putting together the Exodus (pictured above) and finding weapons for the nascent state is now the subject of a new documentary film.
The film is the result of a five-year effort headed up by Walter M. Newman, who grew up a few blocks from Stone’s house.
Newman – a retired official with the Environmental Protection Agency who helped supervise the Boston Harbor cleanup – was researching the founding of Israel and noticed that Stone’s name “kept popping up,” he said recently. “I decided to investigate what the heck Dewey had been doing.”
Newman scoured the records at the American Jewish Historical Society office in Boston, where Stone’s papers are archived. “There were so many things, so many wonderful things,” he said. “It was an eye-opening experience.”
The Stone that Newman recalled from his youth was a charismatic leader in the Jewish community, hardly the kind of person one would expect to be part of what amounted to a smuggling ring. “There were whispers around Brockton that he was somehow involved with the state of Israel, but nobody knew exactly what he was involved in,” said Newman, 76, who now lives in Sharon and Florida.
Stone became captivated by Palestine after hearing a speech in Boston in 1940 by Chaim Weizmann, the head of the World Zionist Organization and later the first president of Israel. A renowned chemist, Weizmann was drumming up support for a research university in a future Jewish state.
After his talk, Weizmann invited Stone and a few others back to his hotel room, where they chatted until the wee hours of the morning. The next day, Stone drove Weizmann to Harvard, where he was giving another speech. On the way, they stopped in front of MIT – the very model of the university Weizmann sought to build.
“It was at that moment that the seed of hope that this dream might really be achieved was planted within me – sitting in a stationary car with a silent visionary,” Stone wrote, as quoted in the documentary.
After the war, as the full extent of the Holocaust became apparent, Stone worked behind the scenes on both military and diplomatic efforts to forge a Jewish state. He teamed up with a fellow Massachusetts businessman, Harry Levine  of Leominster.
Suspecting that the FBI was tapping his phone, Stone made calls from his sister’s house to procure ships and surplus US weapons. In the documentary, nephew Ted Teplow, of Cambridge, recalls being up in his bedroom doing homework and overhearing his uncle on the phone. “We were all told not to talk about it,” Teplow, now 84, said in an interview with the Globe. [One of Ted Teplow's sons is a prominent revenant today. CiJ]


But just a few months before Israel was to declare independence, the State Department had persuaded President Harry S Truman to reject recognition. Truman went so far as to shut the White House doors to Zionists.
Weizmann, who was waiting anxiously in New York, expressed his frustration to Stone in a meeting on March 12, 1948. That night a visibly shaken Stone returned to Boston, where he was honored at a B’nai B’rith dinner along with Frank Goldman, the national head of the organization.
Goldman asked Stone what was the matter. Hearing about Weizmann’s predicament, Goldman said he might have a solution. He had just attended a Kansas City B’nai B’rith event recognizing Eddie Jacobson, who had been Truman’s partner in a clothing store business. Why not see if Jacobson would intervene with his old pal, Goldman suggested.
After collecting coins for a pay phone from fellow dinner guests, Goldman and Stone hustled into the lobby to call Jacobson. Stone arranged to meet Jacobson in New York and introduce him to Weizmann. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Jacobson hopped on a train to Washington to meet with Truman. The president agreed to see Weizmann, provided he came in the side door.
After hearing out the Zionist leader, Truman did an about-face and recognized Israel.
Read the whole thing

Of course, the Jacobson incident is famous, but I had no idea of Stone's role in it.

If the video comes out in an embeddable form, I will embed it.

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