In response to its July 28 cover story “The Ship that Launched a Nation,” about Jewish refugee ship Exodus 1947, the JT received emails from the family of Donald Molofsky, a Baltimorean who became a crew member when the ship was docked in Fells Point for refitting.
Peter Engel, 67, of Pikesville wrote about his father-in-law. Engel’s wife, Bonnie, is Molofsky’s eldest daughter. Peter Engel’s son, Don, 38, was named after his grandfather. He sent this narrative based on family stories:
“Donald Molofsky was the second-youngest crew member on the Exodus and I believe he was the only crew member from Baltimore. He dropped out of the University of Maryland, College Park to serve on the Exodus. He left on the Exodus when he was 18 and then also served on the Pan York (Kibbutz Galuyot), one of the pair of ships which were the last (and largest) ships that were part of Aliyah Bet. He returned to Baltimore when he was 20, met my grandmother in the local library very soon thereafter, joined the family business and died when he was 32 from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My mother, his oldest child, was 9 when he passed away.
“I’ve been told that when my grandfather was little, he was a regular passenger on the Exodus when it was called the President Warfield, doing its original duty of ferrying passengers between Baltimore and Norfolk. My grandfather would go with his parents and sister to Norfolk regularly because his father founded and ran a clothing manufacturing company (Stetson-Dee) in Baltimore. When they would go on these trips on the President Warfield between Baltimore and Norfolk, my grandfather would spend time in the engine room with the engineers, because he was curious about all things technical.
When he heard about the Aliyah Bet and wanted to join, he was a freshman in college and needed his parents’ approval. They refused, and he went on a hunger strike until an older cousin of his, who was a physician, came to see how he was doing and told his parents that they’d better let him go.”
Letters between Donald Molofsky and his parents while he was on Aliyah Bet missions are with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.