Nobody Wants Us: SS Quanza film screening

September 2, 2019

What’s Happening

Sunday, October 6, Ohef Sholom Temple, 10:30 am

An Ohef Sholom Temple Men’s Club Carpool Cafe will be the occasion for a showing of an important and fascinating documentary film that recounts the story of more than 80 Jewish refugees who were detained in Norfolk during the Holocaust. Several Ohef Sholom congregants played a role in helping the refugees, and one of them, Elise Margolius, is featured in the film. It’s a compelling story and a relevant one at a time in America’s history in which the nation is again divided over immigration policy.

It was September 11, 1940, when the Portuguese ship SS Quanza entered Norfolk harbor, carrying more than 80 Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Refused entry to Mexico, their original intended port, the passengers feared they would suffer the same fate as that of the Jewish refugees on the SS St. Louis, who had been refused sanctuary in the U.S. the previous year.

Their one remaining hope was that something could be done while the ship was docked in Norfolk for refueling. A delaying action in the form of a lawsuit filed by two Jewish maritime attorneys from Newport News provided the time for Jewish organizations, politicians, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to convince immigration authorities to reverse their earlier stance and allow the passengers to be granted political refugee status. Congregants from several local Jewish families, including, but not limited to the Margolius family, as well as the Gerst, Kaufman, Nusbaum, and Rosenberg families had been providing food and comfort for the passengers, and now, they and other Jewish families in the area opened their homes as temporary shelter for them.

The documentary was produced and directed by Washington, D.C., filmmaker Laura Seltzer-Duny.

The OST Archives provided some of the source material for the making of the film and is sponsoring the program. Men’s Club is providing the food. There is no charge for the event, but donations are welcome, with proceeds to go towards the film company’s efforts to create educational materials to accompany the film and make it more accessible to schools around the country. RSVP to reservations@ohefsholom.org to ensure ample seating (and food). A question and answer period will follow the screening. For more information, call 757-625-4295.

Alice Titus

Letter to the Editor