Israeli flag (illustration)
Israeli flag (illustration)iStock

Coinciding with May’s observances of Jewish American Heritage Month and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), the Ruderman Family Foundation will make available to the public never-before-seen archival footage that shares the stories of the American Jews who helped established and strengthen the nascent State of Israel.

“Eyewitness 1948: The American Contribution” — a film series produced in partnership with Toldot Yisrael — focuses on the efforts of Americans in the period leading up to the modern State of Israel’s establishment. The films tell the stories of World War II veterans who fought in Israel’s 1948-49 War of Independence; volunteers who smuggled weapons, machine parts, and uniforms overseas; businessmen who raised funds to help bring Holocaust refugees to British Palestine; and doctors, nurses, journalists, students, and others who were eyewitnesses to Israel’s founding.

The Ruderman Family Foundation — which works to educate Israelis about the American Jewish community and its relationship with Israel — is releasing these films during the annual Jewish American Heritage Month in order to showcase a unique and little-known aspect of 20th century Jewish history that underscores the Jewish community’s role as an indispensable bridge between the U.S. and is greatest ally, Israel.

“The individual stories of these American Jews combine to make an unparalleled collective impact,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “The Eyewitness 1948 films bring to life inspirational stories of solidarity, peoplehood, and shared destiny that deserve a broad audience in the American Jewish, Israeli, and other communities.”

“We want to convey the message that the State of Israel is a collective enterprise of Jews around the world,” said Eric Halivni, Director of Toldot Yisrael. “These short films will help educate Israelis about the unique contribution that American Jews made to Israel's founding and give American Jews a sense of pride that this is their story, too.”

The Ruderman Family Foundation partnered with Toldot Yisrael to make these impressive and enlightening archival materials publicly accessible and user-friendly for the first time.

The films tell, among others, the stories of:

  • · Julius Stulman, owner of the Lumber Exchange Terminal along New York City’s East River, who helped ship arms to Israel for the War of Independence.
  • · Zipporah Porath, who enlisted in the Haganah and served as a medic in the siege of Jerusalem, helping set up infirmary services for the fledgling Israeli Air Force.
  • · Herb Stern, who used his access as a World War II veteran to buy up surplus army ammunition, repackage it, and get it ready for shipment to Israel in 1948.
  • · Rabbi Joshua Stampfer, who grew up in the U.S. and was studying at Hebrew University of Jerusalem when he was recruited to the Haganah.
  • · Ralph Goldman, longtime Executive Vice President of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), who discusses how everyday American Jews fundraised for pre-state Aliyah (immigration to Israel) efforts and then for the War of Independence.
  • · Shoshana Levy, who while working for the Library of Congress helped copy Pentagon maps for the Haganah paramilitary group as a way to aid preparations for the U.N. Partition Plan vote.
  • · Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, former President of Yeshiva University, who as a chemistry student in 1948 worked to design bullets for Israel in a clandestine laboratory in upstate New York.
  • · Sol (Shalom) Baskin, a decorated World War II veteran who served as a company commander during the War of Independence’s battle in Kes Fallujah, and later designed a steel monument in memory of the 89 soldiers his company lost in that battle.
  • · Harold Katz, who dropped out of Harvard Law School to volunteer on an illegal immigration ship and describes the dramatic choices he made in the course of that experience.