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ADL asks Chilean leadership to condemn recent string of anti-Semitic acts

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release) –The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday expressed deep concern about recent anti-Semitic incidents in Chile targeting Jewish community leaders and institutions, and called on the country’s officials to publicly condemn such acts.

In recent weeks, vandals have desecrated cemeteries and spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti on synagogues and Jewish schools in three cities, including the capital, Santiago. In some instances, the graffiti included swastikas and the words “Juden Raus” (Jews Out). The President of Chile’s Jewish Community and his son have also received death threats.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
 
“We are deeply concerned about the recent string of anti-Semitic incidents against Jews and Jewish institutions in Chile. The death threats against the President of the Chilean Jewish Community and his 9 year-old son are an especially chilling development. These incidents have led Jews in Chile to feel intimidated and vulnerable, and create an atmosphere contrary to the country’s democratic ideals.
 
“While we are gratified that local law enforcement has treated these incidents seriously, we urge high level officials to clearly and publicly demonstrate that Chile takes seriously its responsibility to maintain its democratic and inclusive society, and that it is no place for anti-Semitism, racism or any form of bigotry.
 
“We express our solidarity with the Chilean Jewish community in the face of this new threat.”
 
ADL has written to Chilean President Sebastian Piñera Echenique requesting that he condemn the anti-Semitic threats and acts against the Jewish community.

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Preceding provided by Anti-Defamation League

Justice sought for victims of AMIA bombing

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment

BUENOS AIRES (WJC)–several hundred people have commemorated the 16th anniversary of the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center, in which 85 people died and hundreds were injured. Speakers at the ceremony, which was organized by the group ‘Memoria Activa’ and attended by former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner, called for justice and highlighted the fact that nobody has yet been brought to trial over the worst terrorist attack in the history of South America.

Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón laid a wreath in honor of the victims and addressed the gathering outside the reconstructed AMIA building, which on 18 July 1994 was hit by a massive blast from a car bomb. According to the prosecutor in the case, Alberto Nisman, the attack was masterminded by senior figures in the Iranian regime and carried out by Hezbollah operatives. Garzón criticized the slowness of the Argentine justice system and said: “Belated justice is no justice”. He added: “When will we finally understand that the fight against impunity is the responsibility of all of us?” Garzón, who as a Spanish judge investigated former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, called on the United States to provide “real support” so Iranian officials accused of involvement in the AMIA bombing stand trial.

On the occasion of the anniversary of the attack, the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, in a statement urged the international community to do more to bring about justice for the victims. Lauder said it was “blatantly obvious” that Iranian and Hezbollah officials had masterminded the bombing. He said: “On this sad anniversary, we express our solidarity with the survivors, the families of the victims, and with the Argentine people. We applaud the remarkable efforts undertaken by the Argentine authorities and Prosecutor Alberto Nisman in recent years, to determine who committed this atrocity. However, yet another year has passed, and justice still hasn’t been done. This is because the regime in Iran – a sponsor of terrorism world-wide – is refusing to cooperate. No wonder: one of the main suspects, wanted by Interpol, is none other than Ahmadinejad’s current defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi…!”

The WJC president urged the United Nations and other international bodies to do more against state-sponsored terrorism. “It is not just Jewish communities world-wide that are affected by terrorism, but Jews are often the first to suffer attacks. Governments that aid, finance or protect terrorists must be named and shamed,” Lauder declared.

Meanwhile, the Latin American Jewish Congress, the regional branch of the WJC, held a conference on fighting terrorism which was attended by parliamentarians, officials and Jewish leaders from across Latin America.

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Preceding provided by the World Jewish Congress

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, May 28, 1954, Part 4

June 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by San Diego Jewish World staff
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 28, 1954, page 6

Tifereth Israel Sisterhood installation ceremonies and brunch will take place June 1 at 12:00 noon in the Tifereth Israel Center.  A wonderful program, “Color Through the Years,” has been planned, with Mrs. Victor Weiss in charge. Ann Schloss is circle captain.

The following officers and board members have been elected for next year: Pres., Mrs. Harry Wax; Ways and Means Vice-Pres., Mrs. Louis Feller;  Cultural Vice-Pres., Mrs. Arthur Gardner; Membership Vice-Pres, Mrs. Ben Gordon; Program Vice Pres., Mrs. Daniel Orlansky; Rec. Sec., Mrs. Paul Belkin; Corr. Sec., Ross Ann Feldstein; Fin. Sec., Mrs. Sam Lennett; Treas., Mrs. Edward Baranov; and auditor, Mrs. Sarah Bystrom.  New Board members are: Mrs. Lewis Solomon, Marie Richards, Molly Prager, Mrs. Frank Pomeranz, Mrs. Joseph Kader, Lillian Berwin, Mrs. Joe Spatz, and Mrs. G. Winicki.

Rabbi Monroe Levens will be installing officer.  Please make your  reservations early so that we may plan accordingly.  Call Jean Schreibman, Atwater 4-3351; Sarah Krasnow, Juniper 2-2583, or Rosalie Sonnabaum, Atwater 2-0173.

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Council Women Hold Installation June 2
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 28, 1954, page 7

The National Council of Jewish Women, San Diego Section, will hold its annual installation luncheon on Wednesday, June 2, 12:00 noon at Town and Country off Mission Valley Freeway.

The theme “Council Cinemascope” will depict the organization’s accomplishments during the past year.  The room will be decorated as a motion picture theatre with screen, lights and cameras.  The program will be highlighted by the appearance of Loretta Jewell, popular actress and San Diego personality.  She will give intimate glimpses of Hollywood and stories of the stars.

Installations will be conducted by Dr. William J. Rust, President of California Western University.  Guests of honor include Mr. Edgar Brown of the Community Welfare Council; Mr. Al Hutler, United Jewish Fund.  Members of the press will also attend. Chairman of this affair is Mrs. Irving Alexander assisted by Mrs. Milton Effron, Mrs. Morris Sims, Mrs. Marvin Jacobs, Mrs. Joseph Kwint, Mrs. David Jaffe, Mrs. Milton Fredman, Mrs. Robert Speigel, Mrs. Robert Drexler and Mrs. Morton Kantor.

All persons desiring transportation contact phone chairman: AT 4-1609; AGT 1-0120, JU 2-4933.

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Personals

Southwestern Jewish Press, May 28, 1954, page 7

Welcome Home – Rose and Lee Greenbaum changed their South American cruise plans in mid-ocean and sailed only as far as Buenos Aires.  Having had enough of the open sea by that time, they changed transportation methods and flew the rest of their holiday time visiting Santiago, Chile, Lima, Peru; Panama and Florida.

After their return to San Diego, Rose and Leo had as their houseguests last week, Ida and Dan Polesky, former San Diegans, now of Los Angeles.

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Returns Home – After a wonderful month long visit with her family in Denver, Mrs. Sam Tepper has returned home.

Bride Honored – Mrs. Ben Halpern and Mrs. Paul Vereshagin were hostesses at a bridal shower honoring Esther Weitzman on May 8th at the Beth Jacob Center.  Forty guests attended.  Miss Weitzman will wed Andrew Segal on July 11.

Student Awards—Daniel Schaffer, son of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Schaffer, has received a four-year scholarship to Harvard University.  Daniel will be graduated from Kearny High School next month and upon completing his 4-year course at Harvard expects to study law. 

A scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley was awarded to Judy Yukon, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Yukon.  Judy is a member of Ecivres, the honor organization at Hoover High School and will graduate this June.

Visitors—Mr. and Mrs. Harry Kaplan of Norfolk, Va., have been visiting children, Dr. and MRs. Robert Kaplan (Joan Steinman) of Los Angeles. Chances are that the main attraction for them is grandson, Matthew. The Kaplans, en masse, visited in San Diego with the Louis Steinmans for a week prior to the Steinman’s departure for a month long trip.  Julia and Lou will see relatives in Tucson and St. Louis and will attend the graduation of their niece from Stephens College… (rest of article torn in archive copy}

Mrs. David Levy an her brothers, Judge Jacob Weinberger and Maurice Weinberger, are leaving Saturday to viit their sisters and brothers in Denver for a few weeks.

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Anniversaries Noted – Among the many “happy marrieds” celebrating the occasion in various ways this week are the George Matins, the Bob Gordons and the Carl Esenoffs.

We’re glad to note that Mrs. Ida Lipinsky is back home again after her sudden illness and hospitalization in Los Angeles.

Mrs. Esther Solov and daughter wish to thank their many friends for their kindnesses during their recent bereavement.

Birthday Party – Frank Berman was toasted at a birthday party in his honor given by Mrs. Berman on his 69th birthday on Sunday, May 16.  Guests were children, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Berman, MR. and Mrs. Sidney Berman, and grandchildren, Elaine, Sandy and Jeff.  Out-of-town guests were Mrs. Krupp and Mary and Jack Rose of Los Angeles.

Honored – Dr. Benjamin B. Faguet, well known psychiatrist, will represent the American Psychiatric Association at the International Conference of Psychotherapy in Zurich, Switzerland this summer.  He has accepted the appointment of Professor of Medical Psychology at the new University of San Diego.

Visitors Daughters—Mrs. Anna Peckarsky left this week for her annual summer sojourn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.   {Rest of article missing in archive copy.}

Z.B.T. Mothers Club – The Mother’s Club of Zeta Beta Tau, Jewish National Fraternity at State College is having its Second Annual Card Party on Saturday, June 12th at 8 p.m. in the Beth Israel Temple Center. Donation $1.00.  An additional attraction will be entertainment by members of the fraternity. Refreshments will be served.

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Pi Alpha Lambda At State College
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 28, 1954, page 7

The Mother’s Club of Pi Alpha Lambda Sorority will hold a luncheon and card party Thursday, June 3, at noon at the home of Mrs. Fred Leeds, 4273 Ridgeway Drive. The proceeds will go toward the obtaining of a sorority house near San Diego State College.

Classified
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 28, 1954, page 7

Woman will share modern cozy apartment with working woman. Everything is furnished.  Near bus lines 1 and 2.  AT-1-2102, AT-1-7869.

Driving to N.Y. about June 20.  New. Chev. Will take 1 or 2 riders to share driving and exp.  JU-2-6429 after 5:30 p.m.

Room for Rent.  Nice home, ½ block to El Cajon and 50th bus. Call before noon or after 6:00 p.m. after June 1l1, AT-4-6586.

Sholom Mausoleum Dedicated Sunday
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 28, 1954, page 8

On May 30, the entire community is cordially invited by Tifereth Israel Synagogue and Greenwood Memorial Park to be present at the official dedication of the Sholom Mausoleum.

Rabbi Monroe Levens and Cantor Joseph Cysner will officiate at the Service, which will include a memorial for our departed ones lying at rest in Sholom; as well as a dedication of a memorial plaque, in memory of the six million Jews who lost their lives during the Second World War.

Outstanding features of Sholom are its Jewish motifs and designs incorporating rich symbolism in an atmosphere of beauty and dignity.

Sholom Mausoleum is not merely a corridor in a general mausoleum open to the general public. It is a completely separate building erected exclusively for Jewish use.

The ready acceptance of Sholom Mausoleum by the Jewish community is evidenced by the fact that it will soon be completely reserved, and plans for another addition, doubling its present capacity, are under way.

Tifereth Israel Synagogue has been designated by Greenwood Memorial Park to be in full charge of the operation, planning, design and all matters pertaining to Sholom Mausoleum.

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Beth Jacob News
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 28, 1954, page 8

Temple Beth Israel will usher in the Shavuoth Holidays with Consecration Services Friday evening, June 4, at 8:00 p[.m.  Members of the Confirmation Class will participate in the Sabbath Services. Alan Friedman and Sandra Byrock will do the Kiddush. A class barbecue lunch will be held at the home of Alan Friedman on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and a class party including dinner, dancing and swimming will take place at the home of Preston Martin, Saturday afternoon and evening.

Confirmation Services will take place on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. for the 11 members in the Confirmation class.  Rabbi Morton J. Cohn will be honored at the Friday evening services for his 20 years of service to the rabbinate. Hosts and hostesses for the Oneg Shabbat will be board members and their wives.

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Beth Jacob Set for ‘Golden Nugget’ Nite
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 28, 1954, page 8

Plans are nearing completion for the Beth Jacob Men’s Club “Golden Nugget” Nite, Sunday, June 13, at 6 p.m. in the Center, according to Dave Schissel and Julius Penn, co-chairmen.

Never before has so much been offered at an event never to be forgotten. Besides the drawing for the 5-day Las Vegas all expense vacation for two, including free air transportation, there will be a bond as a door prize.  Winner of the trip need not be present and tickets for it are available from any club member.

The finest honest-to-goodness Jewish meal, with all the dishes your mother used to make, will be available for only $1.50 per person, including all you can eat. 

There will also be other prizes including electrical appliances, home furnishings, etc., plus all kinds of games and diversions, bingo, and many other attractions to help spend an enjoyable profitable evening.  As a special feature, for all who are present, there will be lucky draws every 30 minutes.

There will be plenty to eat, plenty to drink , and plenty to do. Get up a party for this tremendous affair, the proceeds of which will go towards reducing the building loan.  Mark the date, June 13, and keep it open for the best time of your life!

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Beth Jacob News
Southwestern Jewish Press, May 28, 1954, page 8

Shavuoth services of Beth Jacob Congregation this year will be as follows:

Sunday, June 6 – 7:00 p.m.; Monday, June 7—9:00 a.m.; Tuesay, June 8—9:00 a.m.  Yizkor will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 8.

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The Beth Jacob Religious School will hold its closing exercises on Sun., June 6 at 10:30 a.m. at the center. Classes will participate in appropriate prayers and a short program.

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“Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our indexed “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.

 
 

 

Roll call on Gaza flotilla portrays the values of international community

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Israel was victimized twice this week, first by terrorists hiding yet again among the civilian population (one Turkish-sponsored jihadi boat traveling with five more-or-less civilian boats) and second by a world all too ready to blame Israel for the violence engendered by those who sought a bloody death for themselves and any Jews they could take along. By the end of the week, things began to look more normal-those who are already against remained against; those who try to split the difference split it (consider the “abstain” list below); and a few stood honorably above the rest.   

1) Italy, Netherlands and the United States voted against resolution A/HRC/14/L.1, “Grave Attacks by Israeli Forces against the Humanitarian Boat Convoy” in the UN “Human Rights” Council. It is of note that the major Italian newspapers supported Israel editorially as well. In the United States, public opinion ran strongly in Israel’s favor, as usual. 
 
After a nasty and public denunciation of Israel by President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner, France abstained, probably reminded that in 1985 French commandos sunk a Greenpeace ship in what was called Opération Satanique. (You know what a threat those satanic environmentalists pose to Paris.) France was joined by Belgium, Burkina Faso, Hungary, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Ukraine and UK.
 
Voting in favor of the commission whose conclusion is in its title were Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, and Uruguay. 
 
Surprised?
 
2) President Obama: He almost got it right in a TV interview, but missed the essential point. “You’ve got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they’ve got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel-Gaza border. I’ve been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people’s bedrooms. Israel has a legitimate concern there.  On the other hand, you’ve got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future.”
 
The President doesn’t know, or didn’t say, that Hamas is responsible both for the attacks on Israel and for the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza. Instead, he wanted to “work with all parties concerned-the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians and others-and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we’ve worked through this tragedy. And bring everybody together…”
 
Aside from the fact that Turkey is fully complicit in the incident and thus should forfeit any seat at any future table, the Palestinian Authority has not represented Gaza Palestinians since Hamas evicted it in a bloody putsch in 2007. Instead of hoping to “bring everybody together…” the President should be working to evict Hamas from Gaza, for the sake of the Palestinians as much as anyone else.
 
3) The Czech Republic: Small countries that know what it means to disappear when others find them inconvenient stick together and we are grateful that they do. The President of the Czech Senate, Dr. Přemysl Sobotka, told Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, “As a doctor, I certainly regret any loss of life, but there is no doubt that this was a planned provocation designed to drag Israel into a trap… Many in the European community feel as I do, but they are afraid to speak out publicly… I support the position that views Hamas as a terrorist organization… It is too bad that European countries present an unbalanced position on this matter. Unfortunately, the positions of the international community are not always to my taste, particularly in Europe.”
 
We are reminded that 18 months ago, the Czech foreign minister issued this statement: “I consider it unacceptable that villages in which civilians live have been shelled. Therefore, Israel has an inalienable right to defend itself against such attacks. The shelling from the Hamas side makes it impossible to consider this organization as a partner for negotiations and to lead any political dialogue with it.”
 
And finally…
 
4) Mesheberach: During the Jewish Sabbath service, there is a prayer is for those who are ill or injured.   The “Mesheberach” includes the name of the person for whom the prayer is offered and, in an unusual practice, the name of the person’s mother rather than his or her father. Whether in the synagogue or not, we hope readers will remember the six soldiers injured while protecting the people of Israel:

Dean Ben (son of) Svetlana
Roee Ben (son of) Shulamit
Daniel Lazar Ben (son of) Tina Leah
Yotam Ben (son of) Dorit
Ido Ben (son of) Ilana
Boris Ben (son of) Eelaina

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

San Diego’s Historic Places: Presidio Gateway

April 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Commemorative Palms

 

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – A small collection of plaques and monuments occupy the “Gateway to Presidio Park” near the corner of Taylor Street and Presidio Drive. As cars hurtle from the Interstate 8 Freeway to Old Town San Diego, or back, this gateway is an easy place to miss, but it must have been otherwise in San Diego’s first 100 years of European settlement.

This little patch of land at the foot of Presidio Hill is said to have seen the Franciscans, who founded California’s mission chain, plant landmark palm trees in 1769. The fur trapper and adventurer, Jedediah Smith, arrived here from the northeast in 1826, the harbinger of increasing American pressure on what was then a Mexican outpost. And, in 1853, U.S. Army Lieutenant George Horatio Derby came here to build a dike to force the San Diego River to empty into what then was known as False Bay, but which is called Mission Bay today. Derby’s Dike was a failure, but Derby as the humorist bearing the pseudonyms “Phoenix” and “John Squibob” was a big hit.

One of the plaques here commemorates a tree that no longer is standing. It had to be sawed down in 1957 after it was all but murdered by gunslingers. Tree surgeons noted that the “Serra Palm” was ailing, and investigation soon revealed the reason why. It had six .44 caliber lead bullets in its trunk, possibly fired into it by someone who used it for some ill-conceived target practice.

The tree was reputed to have been planted by Father Serra and colleagues not long after San Diego’s founding on Presidio Hill on July 16, 1769, but this claim was disputed by the historian Herbert Howe Bancroft , who contended no trees were planted in San Diego at least until the beginning of the 19th century.

Planted by Serra or not, the tall palm tree and a companion behind a little white picket fence were emblematic of San Diego’s Spanish colonial period, and were the subject of popular picture post cards from the city’s early 20th century. After the sad day of June 6, 1957, when the Serra (Date) Palm was cut down, the spot where it stood remained vacant until July 16, 1995 when California People for Trees planted two new date palms in commemoration.

The palms marked a “beginning” and an “end,” according to the plaques one can find along Taylor Street. They marked the beginning of the so-called El Camino Real (The Royal Road), which connected the network of Presidios, Pueblos and 21 Missions that dotted the landscape of California over a length of more than 600 miles. At the same time, the palms marked the “end” of the journey for some of the soldiers with Serra’s expedition who had been buried in the cemetery over which they had towered.

The cemetery had received burials from 1769 almost to 1848 when California became an American territory in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. Sometime afterwards the cemetery was destroyed, when the hill behind the palm trees was cut away. It was not until 1968 that remains of the cemetery were discovered by archaeologists.

Among the bodies found buried there was that of Henry Fitch, the Yankee sea captain whose romance with the young beauty Josefa Carrillo caused a scandal when they eloped in 1829 to Valparaiso, Chile, following Governor Jose Maria Echeandia’s refusal of permission for them to marry.

The tall, skeletal Governor Echeandia has been cast as the villain not only in the Fitch-Carrillo romance, but also in the saga of the fur-trapper and explorer Jedediah Strong Smith, whose arrival in San Diego in 1826 is marked by another plaque along Taylor Street.

First the Spanish, and later the Mexicans, dealt with Americans arriving in San Diego by ship, looking to trade their cargoes for cow hides (known as ‘California dollars’) or to surreptitiously hunt the whale that migrated along the California coast.

However, Smith did something no American had done before – he came to California by an overland route from the east, following the Colorado River to the Mojave Desert, then finding his way to the Cajon Pass, and eventually reaching Mission at San Gabriel.

Aware that he was then in Mexican jurisdiction, Smith wrote to Governor Echeandia for permission to explore the California coastline north—a request that Echeandia considered tantamount to an application from the American to spy on his territory.

Echeandia summoned Smith from San Gabriel to San Diego on a trip that, according to the plaque, completed the first known overland journey of a traveler from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific coast. The California governor sent a soldier either to escort Smith or to guard him, depending on point of view. Upon his arrival at the Presidio, where Echeandia’s quarters commanded a view of San Diego Bay, Smith tried to explain that his arrival in California was something of an accident. Hunting for beaver, he had run out of supplies and thought he could save himself and his party by obtaining provisions from the Mexican settlements.

Echeandia was suspicious of Smith’s story, figuring the purpose of the young American’s mission was actually military. He debated whether to send Smith on a long trip to Mexico City, where higher authorities could deal with him, but ultimately agreed to let Smith return to American territory after a visiting American ship captain –William H. Cunningham—signed a document stating that Smith’s intentions were honorable. The governor attached one condition to his approval—Smith had to give up the hoped-for trip north and return the way he had come.

Smith returned to San Gabriel, retraced his steps eastward, but then veered off to the north to explore inland California. While some may accuse him of having lied to Echeandia, Smith’s self-defense was that he considered California to be a narrow strip along the coast, and thought that he had passed out of Mexican territory.

As Echeandia had feared, Smith’s arrival meant that California’s eastern mountains and deserts no longer could keep California invulnerable from penetration by the far more densely populated United States of America.

The Mexican and American war that ultimately proved such suspicions ended in 1846, the United States took formal possession of California with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, and California, thanks to the Gold Rush, gathered sufficient population to be admitted as the 31st state of the United States in 1850.

A problem that neither the Spanish nor the Mexicans as rulers of San Diego could solve soon baffled the Americans as well. What could be done about the San Diego River’s tendency to change its course, flowing some years into San Diego Bay and some years into False Bay? The river’s fluctuations occasionally wiped out homes and farms along its banks. Deciding something had to be done, the United States Army dispatched Lt. George Horatio Derby of the U.S. Topographical Engineers in 1853 to build a dike.

Derby hired sixty Kumeyaay laborers to help permanently divert the water to the shallow False Bay, and to thereby prevent the silting up of San Diego Bay. The problem was that the dike that they built could not hold back the river after the first good rain.

Finding humor even in his own failure, Derby, writing as Phoenix, said he had been sent to ‘dam’ the river and had done just that – several times. Damn, dam, damn.

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I s there a historic place in San Diego you’d like to read about?  Please contact Don Harrison at sdhertiage@cox.net with your suggestion.

‘Man Overboard!’– Drama aboard MS Rotterdam not to be forgotten

March 10, 2010 2 comments

Lifeboat maneuvers to floating object in Pacific during
recovery operation.  Photos: Donald H. Harrison

___________________________________________________
By Donald H.  Harrison

-Second in a series–

ABOARD MS ROTTERDAM –Recovering the body of a man who threw himself overboard and avoiding a possible tsunami in the wake of a large Chilean earthquake were unscheduled and unforgettable events during a recent cruise aboard the Holland America cruise ship Rotterdam.

Passenger Walter A____  apparently climbed to a railing near the fantail on the Lower Promenade Deck of the Rotterdam and, according to a witness, cast himself into the sea off the coast of Colombia close to noontime  Friday, Feb. 26,  as other passengers, including his wife Judy, were having their lunch. 

The witness was another passenger who came horrified upon the suicide as it was occurring. She   immediately reported the event to a deck officer, who in turn relayed the information to the bridge crew, and they in turn notified the master of the vessel, Captain Rik Krombeen.  Within six minutes of the occurrence, Kronbeen ordered the ship to turn around and to begin a search for the victim, he later told this reporter.  My wife Nancy and I were also among the 1,330 passengers aboard the 780 foot- long, 59,885-gross ton ship.

So that passengers would not become alarmed by the ship’s sudden change in direction on its sea day crossing the Equator between its ports of call at Manta, Ecuador, and Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, the captain (shown at left)  announced that a man was believed to have gone overboard.  He asked the passengers to watch the waters for any sign of him.  At various times as the ship ran a search pattern, he also asked for complete silence on deck in the event that the victim was yelling for help.

The wife, thinking her 72-year-old husband was trying to nap, brought lunch down to their first-deck cabin, but found that  he was not there.  She called the Front Office and informed the personnel there that her husband was unexpectedly missing.  Cruise Director Joseph Pokorski made two announcements on the public address system asking Mr. A ____ to please call the Front Office.   When Mr. A___  did not respond, it became understood throughout the ship that he was the man in question. Captain Korbeen and Holland America authorities asked that the man’s surname be withheld in this report.

After backtracking to the approximate location where Mr. A___ had gone into the water, the ship’s crew began dropping small buoys in order to determine which way the currents would take them and how quickly.  Meanwhile, a search and rescue airplane, which Captain Korbeen said had been dispatched from Colombia at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard, flew over the area.  

Given that the Pacific Ocean waters were calm and warm, it was estimated that a victim desiring to stay alive could do so for up to 36 hours in those seas.  However, if as suspected, Mr. A___ had the intention of taking his life, the Coast Guard might choose to end the search far earlier.  Whereas a victim who wants to stay alive will wave his arms and yell for help, an intended suicide typically will do nothing to assist his potential rescuers.  Wearing gray and white clothes on an overcast day, Mr. A___ could not be seen from a distance greater than 70 yards away.

Guided by the mathematics of time and currents, the cruise ship and rescue plane (shown at right) proceeded in ever narrowing circles.  Approximately four hours after the incident occurred the airplane messaged that it needed to return to land to refuel.  Accordingly, it had but one pass left, and Captain Kornbeen requested that it fly along a line paralleling the ship’s calculations of the man’s drift. 

The airplane spotted something in the water and reported the Global Positioning System location to the ship.  Captain Korbeen announced to the passengers that he would be going quite quickly to that position and might need to make a sudden turn.  He urged passengers to be prepared to balance themselves.

A lifeboat had been lowered to the Lower Promenade Deck to permit crewmembers easy access when it was time to retrieve the body.  As the crew members clambered into the life boat, security officers directed passengers to move several cabin widths away.  Once in the ocean, the lifeboat maneuvered in such a way as to screen from the passengers a view of Mr. A___’s body being lifted into the lifeboat.   Passengers then were asked “out of respect” to clear the deck so that Mr. A___’s body could be brought aboard and moved to the small morgue aboard the Rotterdam.  Five hours had elapsed since the original incident.While all this was occurring, on-board care teams stayed with Mrs. A____ and with the woman who had witnessed the suicide, offering both women comfort and counseling.  Meanwhile, Holland America’s office in Seattle, Washington, got in touch with Jason, the son of Mr. and Mrs. A____, recounted to him what happened, and arranged for him and his wife to fly to Costa Rica to meet his mother and to help with the formalities for claiming and transporting Mr. A___’s remains back to the United States. 

Mr. and Mrs. A____ had been active cruisers who had liked to post critics’ comments about various experiences at sea on line.  A group of these cruisers were aboard the vessel, and a memorial  service the following morning for Mr. A___ led by an onboard minister was arranged. 

Holland America’s main office gave permission to Captain Korbeen to try to make up as much time as possible en route to Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, meaning that instead of proceeding at 19 knots in the evening and overnight, the ship at times reached nearly 25 knots—burning fuel at the rate of more than $70 a minute.  Originally scheduled to come in at 8 a.m., this procedure would have brought Rotterdam to its Costa Rican port at 9 a.m.   However, news came of the great 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Concepcion, Chile, presenting Captain Korbeen with two new challenges – one nautical and one intensely personal. 

There was a possibility that the Chilean earthquake would generate dangerous tides in the bay of Puerto  Caldera, Costa Rica.  The water might come into the bay and then just as quickly go out, leaving a ship entering the bay without sufficient water to proceed or pushing it in the wrong direction. In consultation with local authorities, Kornbeen decided to wait in ocean waters outside the port until it could be determined what the tidal effects were.  As it turned out, the tidal effect was insignificant, and Rotterdam reached its berth at 9:32 a.m.

More pressing was a problem on board the ship.  A young woman who worked in the gift shops was from Concepcion, Chile, and she was unable to reach anyone by telephone.  For three days, she frantically tried to telephone home, but was unsuccessful.  She later learned that her own apartment had been destroyed, and so had that of her brother.  Luckily, her brother was staying with their parents during the earthquake—and the home of their parents had survived the earthquake.  Although both the employee and the brother had lost their homes, the important matter was that all her family members were safe.  

The young woman debated whether she should try to fly home immediately, but her family urged her to remain on board.  Concepcion was in chaos, and there was little she could do at home.  On the other hand, the money she was earning aboard Rotterdam would be of benefit to the family.   When fellow crewmembers learned of what had befallen their shipmate, they took up a collection to help the family.

Sometime after Mr. A___’s body was taken off the ship, his son Jason posted a note on the Intenet site of the cruise critics expressing his gratitude and that of his family to Holland America for its compassion during a most difficult time. “My dad, Walter was the individual that went overboard on the 26th off the Rotterdam,” he wrote.  “Dad was a very strong individual that lived life to its fullest.  He had become progressively more ill and knew that there was little he could do to change it.”  Of his mother, Judy, he wrote that the ships personnel “became her guardian angels. She would like to personally thank each and every crew member that assisted her in her time of need.  Holland America went above and beyond the call of duty in taking care of both her and my wife and I.”

Jason said after flying to Costa Rica, he met with his mother and  Care Team members who were “invaluable guides for us in Costa Rica as we underwent the long, arduous process of working our way through the government bureaucracy that stood between us and getting dad home. It took us five days and they were our ever present friends and guides. They were our moral and physical support. They helped us figure out how to get dad from the mortuary to the funeral home, how to get his body cremated, how to prepare the required embassy paperwork, arranged transportation, meals and lodging for the entire ordeal.  They cried with us and laughed with us.  They are our heroes.”

It was not only the family that was grateful to the cruise line.  At a “Life at Sea” presentation in which passengers had the opportunity to question the captain, cruise director, hotel manager and chief engineer on a wide range of subjects including precautions against gastro-intestinal infections, elevators that weren’t working, on-board movie selection, and even the status of the karaoke machine, one man rose to say, “during the tragic event we had, I must compliment you captain and your crew the way you picked up that body.”

There was spontaneous sustained applause from the audience that filled the main floor and balcony of the show room.
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Next in the series: Warding off the GIS virus

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Earthquake in Chile destroys synagogue

March 4, 2010 Leave a comment

PRESS RELEASE(WJC)–A synagogue in the Chilean city of Concepción was destroyed in the earthquake that rocked the region last weekend, the head of the international Masorti movement, Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, said in a statement. According to him, the walls of the  shul were cracked and the roof caved in as a result of the massive earthquake.

“’In Concepción, close to the epicenter of the earthquake, Rabbi Angel Kreiman told us that he went to the synagogue, and ‘it was like the ‘hurban habayit’ [destruction of the Temple], the walls were all cracked and the roof had fallen down. I couldn’t stay there, so I got the sifrei Torah and left,’” Graetz wrote in an email.

Initial reports from Jewish organizations including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and World ORT indicated that apart from this synagogue, little damage was done to the Jewish infrastructure in Chile, and no members of the Jewish community were reportedly harmed. Chabad Lubavitch, which runs a center in Santiago, saw some structural damage to its building, but the organization wrote on its website that the Jewish communities bordering the Pacific Ocean emerged largely unscathed.

The quake killed at least 800 people, according to official reports.

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The preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.