UNITED STATES—“They have this drink rice milk with cinnamon. It’s out of this world.”

Sam would break in with a comment about life on the isthmus out of the blue. It kept things light, otherwise it would have been unbearably heavy…It’s a funny thing about banana sales, historically Germany topped the list of banana consuming nations. Sam was silent, reserved.

“It is an itch that their leaders cannot avoid scratching: the itch of anti-Semitism. I have faith that the Jewish people will have a place of their own, and I will live to see that day. As much power has come to me by hard thinking as hard drinking. I make mistakes. We always seek to avoid hate and destruction, but these twins will always be with us. They are tests of ourselves. Adversity is the kisses of God.” Chaim said, “You should be a poet, Mr. Delaney.”

“I should be a pauper, Professor. In fact, I am.”

Sam always referred to Chaim Weisshaus as professor, out of deference to his achievements in organic chemistry.

“I never miss an opportunity of seeing you, Sam.”

“We’re between Charybdis and Scylla now,” he said with a gleam in his eye.

With his connections in the Dominican Republic, that is on the West Side of the same Island, Sam convinced Rafael Trujillo (one of the monster dictators) to accept 500 refugees from Europe. They were a shell-shocked boatload, brought over on ships of the White Fleet. They were harried and many had a blank stare, that in in the humid breezes of the tropics, caressed by the saltair, the gaze recovered its acuity, set off now, by a deep sadness.

“The British are barbarous,” Chaim said. Sam chipped in:

“Scum of the Earth, as they flaunt their enlightened colony. I tried to do something better, and I still would have done it different.”

Sosúa on the northern coast has a Jewish museum. You can tell because of all the kvetching on the reviews, “Small and not well maintained. You might have to knock loudly on the door to wake up a surly man.” The fact remains: the Dominican Republic was the only place to accept the Jewish people fleeing what had not yet come to be known as the Holocaust. The earliest use of the word Holocaust as a massacre was in the Oxford English dictionary in 1833 when a journalist wrote describing the wars that King Luis the VII “once made a holocaust of 1300 persons who sought refuge in a church” when the town of Vitry-le-François was burned by Louis’ troops in 1142.

John Milton used the word to describe the immolation of the Phoenix in Samson Agonistes. The term got flipped from a sacred context of burnt offering to God—making it singularly inappropriate.

Most of the emigrés left and those few dozen that remained and held on to their land did well. One of the original settlers from Vienna, owns a whole block of the lucrative downtown area where hotels and restaurants were built on his original 80 acres.
Bless the people of the Dominican Republic, and May I assert the ways of eternal providence and justify the ways of God to man.

Though Zionism mattered for Sam Delaney, it wasn’t a central concern. This changed suddenly in third year of the World War with the death of Sam Jr., which left him adrift, grieving and in need of a cause. In the years leading up to the war, Sam got all the relatives he could out of Romania.

He got them out of Bessarabia with passage to New Orleans. Then there was the story of Sam’s great Aunt, he said, get out of there and she didn’t want to go, she wouldn’t budge, snug as a bug in a putrid rug. It was home, you know. It was just a suggestion, but Sam’s suggestions were more like prophecies.

In July of 1940 the Soviet military occupied Bessarabia. A month later, on August 2, 1940, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was established on the annexed territory. There was the death of everything and everyone in the old country and it would ever after tug on Sam, where they took her, what she was feeling, and teared up easy over it. Self-made American men who had invariably felt safe in their country: America was their country.

“Sam you were an American before you ever arrived on these shores,” said the uncle whose life he’d saved.

It was a shock and undermining of the ground one walks on to be reminded in the middle of life, of the true conditional nature of their condition, even as a self-made American man who had invariably felt safe in their country: America was his country. The death of everyone and everything shook him.

“No matter your wealth and power,” Sam told himself, during unconfessed sleepless nights: “You the Hebrew will always be a stranger in a strange land, vulnerable to the slightest shift of public mood. If it could happen in the land of Beethoven and Goethe, it could happen anywhere.”

To be continued…

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)