Weizmann, who was waiting anxiously in New York, expressed his frustration to Stone in a meeting on March 12, 1948. That night a visibly shaken Stone returned to Boston, where he was honored at a B’nai B’rith dinner along with Frank Goldman, the national head of the organization.
Goldman asked Stone what was the matter. Hearing about Weizmann’s predicament, Goldman said he might have a solution. He had just attended a Kansas City B’nai B’rith event recognizing Eddie Jacobson, who had been Truman’s partner in a clothing store business. Why not see if Jacobson would intervene with his old pal, Goldman suggested.
After collecting coins for a pay phone from fellow dinner guests, Goldman and Stone hustled into the lobby to call Jacobson. Stone arranged to meet Jacobson in New York and introduce him to Weizmann. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Jacobson hopped on a train to Washington to meet with Truman. The president agreed to see Weizmann, provided he came in the side door.
After hearing out the Zionist leader, Truman did an about-face and recognized Israel.
Weizmann “was a wonderful man; he was a leader, one of a kind you read about but seldom see,” Truman says in a remarkably candid interview he gave after leaving office and which is included in the documentary.
Newman found the footage through the Harry S Truman Library and Museum. “To have the president of the United States tell the story firsthand – that was magnificent,” Newman said.
After the war, Stone continued to support Israel through numerous national leadership posts in the Jewish community. Perhaps dearest to him was the Chaim Weizmann Institute of Science, serving as the founding chairman of its board of governors from 1949 through 1970.
Coincidentally, the director of the documentary, Michael Traub, grew up on the Weizmann campus, the son of a professor. Traub, 47, recalled that as a child he walked past the Stone Administration Building every day, without knowing anything about its namesake.
Building on Newman’s work, Traub plowed deeper into Stone’s story. For the film he interviewed Stone’s large extended family and local Jewish leaders. Traub, who now lives in Jamaica Plain, traveled back to Israel as part of his research. He interviewed Suzy Eban, widow of Abba Eban. The famed Israeli diplomat had often stayed at Stone’s house, Traub said.
The filmmaker said that as a student in Israel he was taught little about the role of American Jews in helping to found the Jewish state. He said they had to remain in the shadows for fear of running afoul of US laws against supplying foreign belligerents and of fanning anti-Semitism. The ship Exodus, for example, was purchased by a front organization, the Weston Trading Company, of which Stone was the sole stockholder.
Stone died in 1977 at age 77. He and his wife, Anne, had no children, but their 17 nieces and nephews considered the couple their second parents.
“He was very charming,” Teplow said in an interview. “Very short, about 5-foot-3, but very handsome.” Stone knew how to work a crowd, his nephew added. “There would be 50 people at an affair, and in the course of an evening he would be eyeball-to-eyeball with everybody . . . and in those few minutes you were the most important person in the world.”
The documentary, which was financed in part by the Stone family foundation, was edited to under 45 minutes, short enough to be shown during a class period. Newman and Traub would like to screen it at Jewish day schools and film festivals, as well as possibly on a Jewish television network.
Steve Maas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.