Tuesday, March 11, 2014

April 21, 1939: Helen-Mary Forbush at Oberlin College

Letter from Helen-Mary Forbush of Oberlin College to Charlotte Salmon of AFSC


Dear Charlotte Salmon:

In regard to the Oberlin refugee students the records and recommendations of Sabine Heller came to us through the National Council of  Jewish Women. They seem to be excellent and we will consider her for the scholarship we hope to save for a woman. We do not have, however, the qualifications, transcripts, records, autobiography, etc. for Thomas Doppner whom you suggested in your letter on April 4. Could you let me know his present address or addresses of friends or relatives from whom we might get the necessary transcripts and recommendations?

Apart from the students, I have another refugee situation I would like you to consider. Mrs. Carroll K. Shaw, wife of the Oberlin Alumni Association Secretary, has asked me of the possibilities of getting a refugee housewife. She has been asked to teach Modern Dancing at the College, but will be unable to do so if she cannot find someone capable of taking care of her house and two children. She would prefer a middle-aged woman who can speak English fairly well. I hope you will write her if you have any suggestions. Her address is: Mrs. Carroll K. Shaw 221 Forest St. Oberlin, Ohio.

Sincerely yours,
Helen-Mary Forbush
Chairman of Refugee Committee
This letter from Helen-Mary Forbush shows the earnestness that some folks showed in trying to help as many people as possible. It sounds like Oberlin has two spots open for scholarships: one each for a male and female. They also seem to be open to and specifically invested in helping a Jewish refugee. They received a recommendation from the National Council of Jewish Women for the female slot. Now they look to the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for more information on my Opa- they need his transcripts, recommendations, etc. If I remember correctly, the mail in and out of Germany was a little slow at this time and quick communication was difficult.

In the meantime, someone is asking if they could help by providing a housekeeping job to a refugee woman. Of course I immediately thought “Ella!”- although I don’t know if they would have considered her middle-aged.

The feeling I get from a lot of these letters to the AFSC is that there are a substantial amount of people who want to help. There are people who are willing to put together committees, raise funds, and do the work it takes to help a refugee. The sad part of it all is that even with that- the American immigration policy is so restrictive that even obvious refugee cases are being turned away.

It seems appropriate that Oberlin College is one of the schools that took interest in the refugee situation in Europe. I googled Oberlin to find out where it was (sorry guys, I didn’t know!) and found this short statement as the leading description for the school on Wikipedia:

Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, noteworthy for having been the first American institution of higher learning to regularly admit female and black students in addition to white males.

Being one of the first to correct a mistake is a brave and honorable thing to do. Thank you Oberlin, for your interest in my Opa, and for trying to help. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more about Oberlin here on this blog!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I would love to hear feedback! Share your thoughts and your stories.