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Brush with History

How an Alaskan sailor contributed to Jewish statehood

Rebecca Sheir
July 16, 2007

Jack Johnson was not looking to make history when he signed on as second mate with the ship Exodus back in 1947. Raised in Kodiak, Alaska, in a family of mariners, “Captain Jack” was simply looking for his next job. As it turned out, he found himself center stage when the ship, carrying more than 4,500 war refugees bound for Palestine, was attacked by the British navy. The Exodus made it to port at Haifa on July 18, but the refugees were denied entry and forced to return to detention camps in Europe. Their plight, widely publicized, ultimately helped shift world opinion in favor of the creation of a Jewish state. On the sixtieth anniversary of the ship’s fateful journey, Rebecca Sheir brings us Captain Jack’s story.

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