Debra Steinbuch — How You Help
In Newly Found Letter, Son Asks Parents to Give at Start of WWII
13-year-old writes to help fleeing Jews reach Palestine
Pam always knew her father, Bob Barnett, loved Israel and was committed to the Cincinnati Jewish community. But she had no idea how far back that commitment went, until recently, when she found a letter he had written when he was thirteen years and two days old, November 5, 1939. World War II had begun two months earlier.
“We found the letter in a box my father’s parents had kept until they passed. They hung onto it, even though they lived in a small apartment in Roselawn,” Pam said.
“Dear Mother and Dad,” it begins, “Today we face a situation of grave importance. Jews are being persecuted all over the world.” Written in 1939 at Sunday school at Wise Temple, Pam said that it sounds just like him. “They are fleeing from the totalitarian nations. Where can they? How will they get there? Where can they get money for settling in their home? These questions arrive in every kind Jew’s mind.” (Read the full letter.)
As Bob well knows, these questions still ring for our community today, and especially this year. And at this time of year, we ask where we want our donations to go. Bob’s answer was the “Jewish Welfare Fund,” the Federation’s precursor. “Some goes to education and still further money goes to settling Palistine [original spelling]” he writes. “If you contribute your money for the Jewish Welfare Fund drive you will be helping to rid of tyrants in Europe.”
I know Bob because he has been involved in Federation in different capacities ever since his 1967 trip to Israel to visit his wife’s family. He has been a Federation donor for over fifty consecutive years.
Pam said that finding the letter was “pretty neat,” because it showed her what she already knew. “He passed on to us his love for Israel and the Jewish people, and we have passed that on to our children. I look at my two little grandchildren and hope to pass it on to them.”
“These questions arrive in every kind Jew’s mind.” —Bobby Barnett
Bob concludes, “I hope this letter will influence you to make an even larger sum to give than you had planned. [signed] Your loving son Bobby.”
Bob says it better than I can, so I will thank you for all you have done, and repeat his words: please give before year end, even more than you had planned.