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Wild about Harry!: 65 years after Israel’s birth, Jews celebrate the role Truman played

The Jewish community and Israel supporters here in Kansas City are wild about Harry, President Harry S. Truman that is.

“Without President Harry S. Truman, without his determination always to do the right thing even when often it wasn’t politically expedient, it’s difficult to imagine what the course of world history might have been,” said Truman admirer Loeb Granoff.

One of the things Granoff is referring to is Truman’s role in the establishment of the Jewish state. But that’s not the only reason Kansas Citians are wild about Harry. Karen Pack, who along with her husband Steven is chairing the 14th annual Wild About Harry! event, which benefits The Harry S. Truman Library Institute located right here in Independence, Mo., explains why they admire Truman.

“At the end of 1944, Steve’s father, Louis Pack, was a Naval officer serving in the Pacific. At the same time, my parents (Maria and Fred Devinki) were hiding in a bunker under a barn in Poland. Thanks to President Truman’s heroic leadership, World War II ended soon after that — sparing our parents’ lives, along with the lives of countless others,” she said.

And of course, there is his recognition of Israel.

“In 1948, President Truman’s senior advisers strongly encouraged the president not to support the U.N. resolution to recognize a small state in the Middle East. Amidst tremendous negative pressure, on May 14, 1948, President Truman released a statement recognizing the State of Israel — forever changing the lives of the Jewish people.

“These two decisions impacted our families in ways beyond measure,” Pack said.

Two community leaders and philanthropists, brothers Morton Sosland and Neil Sosland, are the honorary chairs of Wild About Harry!, which takes place on Thursday, April 11, at the Muehlebach Tower-Kansas City Marriott Downtown. While Truman’s presidential library is one of 13 official presidential libraries across the country that receives federal funds, those funds don’t cover the library’s educational programs.

“Each year, proceeds from the Wild About Harry! dinner make it possible for the Truman Library Institute to educate thousands of students and teachers from our area and beyond. And thanks to scholarship funding from ‘The Bus Stops Here’ Field Trip Grant Program, local elementary, middle and high school classes can access the institute’s unique educational programs and resources free of charge,” Pack said.

Truman supported the creation of a Jewish state beginning in 1947, when he instructed the State Department to support the United Nations plan to end British rule and create a Jewish state, an Arab state and an international zone around Jerusalem. His support continued into the next year. According to the library, “At midnight on May 14, 1948, the Provisional Government of Israel proclaimed the new State of Israel. On that same date the United States, in the person of President Truman, recognized the provisional Jewish government as de facto authority of the new Jewish state (de jure recognition was extended on January 31). The U.S. delegates to the U.N. and top ranking State Department officials were angered that Truman released his recognition statement to the press without notifying them first.”

The Jewish connection

Truman’s support of Israel can be attributed, at least in part, to lobbying efforts made by two Kansas Citians — Eddie Jacobson and A.J. Granoff (Loeb Granoff’s father). The senior Granoff was close friends with Jacobson, a modest haberdasher who was Truman’s former business partner and World War I buddy. Both Jacobson and A.J. Granoff, “played a pivotal role in making the miracle of Israel’s rebirth happen,” Loeb Granoff explained.

“It should give us a feeling of humility and pride that two Kansas Citians,” had such an impact, he added.

Loeb Granoff was in college at the University of Missouri-Columbia when the Jewish state was born. Through letters and conversations with his father, he had the unusual opportunity of learning about Truman’s support for the Jewish state firsthand.

“It became Eddie and Dad’s mission and passion to convince President Truman of the justice of a Jewish homeland at that moment, following the Holocaust, of our people’s greatest and most desperate need,” he said.

Loeb Granoff often shares with people who want to know about Truman a handwritten letter sent by his father to him a few days after the passage of the U.N. Partition Resolution of Nov. 29, 1947. Granoff said his father and Jacobson had gone to Washington simply to thank the president for his support of the resolution.

“A number of interesting subjects were discussed,” the father wrote his son.

“When the truth is finally told, I may say here about Harry Truman’s contribution toward a Jewish state, his name above all others in the Christian world, will by the Jewish people everywhere be blessed in their temples and synagogues. About this I’m as sure as anyone could possibly be. What’s more, his contribution was the vital factor which swung the U.N. General Assembly toward the 33 to 13 vote on November 29th — and in the face of heart breaking complications and problems.”

The letter from the father to his son continues to explain that Truman decided to support the establishment of Israel, because it’s in the best interests of the United States to do so.

“ ‘There was not the slightest semblance toward currying the favor of Jews or anybody else. It was best for the United States’ — and he lets it go at that — while others are claiming the credit,” A.J. Granoff wrote.

Granoff hopes members of the American Jewish community don’t forget how important Truman’s role was in the establishment of the Jewish state, and hopes educators remember to teach it. Karen Pack agrees.

“President Truman wasn’t a media seeker, he wasn’t a showman and he didn’t have a scandal. He was just a good man who wanted to do what was best for our country,” Pack said.

“Even though many often don’t realize it, he really did change the course of history and this country,” she continued.

Chairing this fundraising event as an adult has reminded Pack of things she experienced as a child.

“I have relatives that moved to Israel after the Holocaust,” Karen said. “I remember when they would come and visit, we always took them to the Truman Library because Truman was so important to the establishment of the State of Israel.”

She hopes she can share the knowledge she has gained with others.

“The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum is an extraordinary gift to our community. It gives us direct access to an individual and a moment in history that changed countless lives,” she said.

“This is something very valuable right under our noses that we shouldn’t take for granted,” she continued. “With everyone’s help and support, we will be able to learn from and enjoy the library for generations to come.”

The Truman Library, Pack noted, is something the previous generation took great pride in and hopes that with everyone’s help, it will be there to educate ours and future generations to come.

Wild About Harry! details

The Harry S. Truman Library Institute will host its annual fundraising dinner, Wild About Harry! on Thursday, April 11, at the Muehlebach Tower-Kansas City Marriott Downtown.
TIME Magazine editors Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, co-authors of The New York Times best-seller, “The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity,” will offer their perspective on our nation’s most powerful citizens: ex-presidents.
Following the dinner program, the evening will conclude when President Truman’s grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, presents the fourth annual Harry S. Truman Legacy of Leadership Award to General Richard B. Myers.
Proceeds provide vital funding for the nationally acclaimed educational programs, world-class museum exhibitions, internationally renowned research programs and stimulating forums at the Truman Library.
This year’s event is made possible, in part, by generous underwriting support from Inergy/Marny and John Sherman. Additional support is provided by James B. Nutter & Company, Karen and Steven Pack, J.B. Reynolds Foundation and The Sosland Foundation.
To learn more about sponsorship opportunities and benefits, or to inquire about individual tickets, visit TrumanLibrary.org or contact Kim Rausch at 816-268-8237.