75th Anniversary Year of Ill-Fated SS St. Louis Voyage to be Commemorated with West Coast Premiere

Posted on January 17, 2014

Los Angeles Jewish Home residents to star in play assuming roles of historical figures as they debate forces that influenced President Franklin D Roosevelt’s policies

RESEDA – Marking the 75th anniversary year of the ill-fated SS St. Louis voyage, and the annual U.N. International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home will perform “The Trial of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” a play that debates the controversial policies of FDR’s administration relating to the plight of Jewish refugees.

The SS St. Louis was a German ocean liner that set sail from Hamburg, Germany in 1939 destined for Cuba to find safe haven for 937 Jewish refugees.  The ship was denied entry to Cuba, as well as the United States and Canada.  It was forced to return to Europe where 254 passengers perished in the Holocaust with the remainder finding their way to England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Coordinated by the St. Louis Legacy Foundation, the performance is underwritten by Jewish Home supporter Betsey Roberts whose parents, John and Ruth (age 15 and 13 respectively), were passengers on the SS St. Louis.  Interestingly, they didn’t meet on the ship, but at the Childrens’ Homes in France where they were sent upon their return to Europe.

Eventually both left Europe through Casablanca. John’s family settled in Champaign, IL where they had relatives and Ruth’s family settled in New York City.  John served in the US Army and kept in touch with Ruth.  They began dating on weekends while John was stationed at Fort Dix, NJ.  Then in 1947, upon completion of John’s graduate studies at Cornell University, they were married and moved to Ithaca, NY.

Never before performed on the West Coast, “The Trial of Franklin D. Roosevelt” was written by playwright and documentarian Robert Krakow.  The tragic historical event was the basis of the book and movie “Voyage of the Damned.”

The Jewish Home serves 4,300 seniors annually.  Approximately 60 residents are Holocaust survivors.  After the performance there will be a panel discussion with Ruth Kalish, associate director of the St. Louis Legacy Foundation.  The panel will discuss the moral, ethical and political issues raised in the play.

Founded in 1912, the non-profit Los Angeles Jewish Home is among the largest providers of senior healthcare services in Los Angeles.  Each year, more than 4,300 seniors benefit from the Home’s community-based and in-residence programs.  Community-based programs include the Brandman Centers for Senior Care (BCSC), a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), Jewish Home Care Services, Skirball Hospice, Jewish Home Center for Palliative Medicine, the Ida Kayne Transitional Care Unit, the Auerbach Geriatric Psychiatry Unit and community clinics.   Two village campuses in Reseda serve seniors with independent living accommodations, residential care, skilled nursing care, short-term rehabilitative care, and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care.  The Home recently announced plans to build the Gonda Healthy Aging Westside Campus in Playa Vista, CA.  Further information regarding the Jewish Home can be found online at www.lajh.org or by calling (818) 757-4407.

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