Remembering Haiti and Honoring Two Haitian-American Women

March 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

Bill - Port-au-Prince, 1939

Dear Friends,

In 1939, an unimaginable and difficult time for Bill’s family, Haiti opened its doors to fleeing Jewish refugees which was a primary reason we decided, in March 2010, to give back via the blog. We are very aware that without the safe haven Haiti provided, the affidavit the family had, which would allow them to enter the U.S. at some future time, would not have protected them from capture in Europe and incarceration in a concentration camp. Interestingly, recently we had a request for information about the immigration quota for the U.S. during this critical period and received the following details from now-“retired” staff historian Dr. Severin Hochberg of the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

“United States immigration policy was governed by the 1924 Johnson Reed Act, which sharply reduced immigration, followed by the 1930 Hoover LPC executive order (likely to become a public charge which further reduced immigration to those who could afford it) and after 1933, further reduced by administrative action on the part of the State Department. Thus, while theoretically 26,000 people could have been admitted each year, only 10% of that number reached the United States between 1933-1937 and this of course impacted on Jewish immigrants from Germany.

During the crisis years 1938-1941, FDR pressure on the State Department resulted in increased immigration (during 1939 the full quota was admitted). This was followed by a sharp reduction in 1941. Thereafter, from 1941-1945, very few Jewish immigrants came to the United States.”

With this back story about the Mohr-Haiti connection, it is very easy to understand why knowing Lyssa Fils-Aime’ Hargrove and having her as a member of our team, was especially gratifying. To learn more about this truly remarkable woman CLICK HERE for her Tikkun Olam Award (#26) and a current biographical sketch and HERE and HERE for pertinent previous blog posts.

Another very special Haitian-American woman, Rodneyse Bichotte, came to our attention in the early days of the project and we were delighted she became our first T.O. Award winner with Boris Noble. CLICK HERE for an update which includes Rodneyse’s trip to Israel with UJA, her nomination by Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke to be an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention and last but certainly not least, her candidacy for the New York State Assembly. CLICK HERE to see her T.O. award and HERE to read a previous post about her.

Knowing these extraordinary women, through our project, has been a continuous source of inspiration and we are proud to bring light to their stories, as a way of showing our deep appreciation and admiration.

All the best,

Harriet and Bill

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