Yom Shabbat, 8 Nisan 5778






“My House Shall be Called a House of Prayer For All Peoples”


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Essay Contest

EssayContest Apr2017

Click here for the Entry Form.



2017 Mollie & George Radin Archives Trust-Sponsored Religious School Essay Contest

We are All Patriots, and We are All Refugees


Seventy-seven years ago, a Portuguese steamship carrying Jewish refugees from World War II Nazi Europe anchored in Norfolk, VA’s harbor to refuel with coal for the journey back to Europe.

Passengers had been refused permission to disembark at their original destination of Mexico and they feared a return trip to Europe would mean their death.  But unlike the sad fate of the S.S. St. Louis, which had been turned away a year earlier, refugees on the S.S. Quanza were able to start a new life in America, thanks to the risks and efforts of a young Hampton Roads attorney and his wife, and Eleanor Roosevelt, America’s first lady to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


On September 11, 1940, the day the S.S. Quanza arrived in Norfolk, Newport News attorney and University of Richmond Law School graduate Jacob L. Morewitz and his wife Sallie Rome Morewitz filed a $100,000 maritime lawsuit with the US District Court in Norfolk to save the passengers.   Morewitz claimed breach of contract on behalf of ship’s passengers.  The legal proceedings intentionally delayed the Quanza’s departure from Norfolk, and saved the lives of over 80 Belgian Jewish refugees.

The Virginia Historical Society summarizes these events in S.S. Quanza:  Journey of Refugees from Lisbon to Norfolk.”  http://www.vahistorical.org/read-watch-listen/video-and-audio/ss-quanza-journey-refugees-lisbon-norfolk

Morewitz’ grandson, Stephen Morewitz co-produced a documentary film on this story, “Nobody Wants Us,” which includes testimony from some of the ship’s passengers.  https://vimeo.com/90691222

The Chicago Dramatists Workshop produced a play based on the same story, “Steamship Quanza,” co-written by Stephen Morewitz and Susan Lieberman.  http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/steamship-quanza/Content?oid=877827

“We are all patriots, and we are all refugees,” says Eleanor Roosevelt in the play.  “My family came here a very long time ago, but they were refugees too.  It’s only a difference of time between me and the people on that ship.  Eventually they too will be ‘patriots’—terrified that a stranger will slip in through the door and take their country away from them.”

Question #1

History repeats itself.  Compare and contrast an international refugee issue in recent years with the 1940 story of the S.S. Quanza.   What were the arguments for letting the refugees into the country?  What were the arguments for sending the refugees back to their country of origin?   What is your opinion about how the Quanza issue and the contemporary refugee issue should be resolved?

Question #2

Story is history.  Who were the individuals and organizations involved in determining the outcome of history in the 1940 S.S. Quanza story?   What made these individuals patriotic?  How does the story of your family’s arrival in the United States compare to the story of those involved with the S.S. Quanza in Norfolk harbor, 1940?


  • 5th through 12th graders from Ohef Sholom Temple are eligible.
  • You must have at least 6 citations to primary or secondary historical sources for your arguments.   OST Archives on this topic will be available on Sundays and by request.  OST Volunteer Librarian David Titus will also be available on Sunday mornings to assist with citations.
  • Staple your essay to a completed and signed entry form.  Additional copies of the form can be found at the Ohef Sholom Temple web site, www.ohefsholom.org  Quick Links
  • DO NOT place your name on your essay, but do put the question number you choose on the ENTRY FORM AND ALL ESSAY PAGES.
  • All essays must be double-spaced, 12-point font, and limited to THREE pages.
  • The essay must be the writer’s original effort, created for this competition.  No plagiarism.
  • Submit your entry form and essay in hard copy to the Ohef Sholom Temple Office, attn.: Archives Essay Contest, by April 23, 2017.

PRIZES will be awarded on the Final Day of Sunday Learning
1st place - $100 VISA gift card
2nd place - $75 VISA gift card
3rd place - $50 VISA gift card