Meet Your Great-Grandmother, Josh Mandel

Honor Her Memory by Welcoming Today’s Refugees

Megan Smolenyak
3 min readSep 5, 2021


Map of the life and death of Giuseppina Jachia (Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names of Yad Vashem displayed via Google Maps)

Many are aware of the hateful rhetoric spouted by Ohio candidate, Josh Mandel, about Afghan refugees now coming to America. “These planes are now being emptied into Cleveland, Toledo and other places in the heart of America,” he said. “To protect our kids, our communities and our Judeo-Christian way of life, we must FIGHT this with all our might.”

Anyone familiar with #ResistanceGenealogy founder and warrior, Jennifer Mendelsohn, won’t be surprised that she swiftly clapped back reminding him (with receipts, of course) that, “Your grandparents literally arrived as “displaced persons” on a ship full of refugees in 1949.”

Africa, Asia and Europe, Passenger Lists of Displaced Persons, 1946–1971 (Ancestry)

That he would be so callous to the plight of those arriving today when the Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland had assisted his grandparents who found themselves in similar circumstances 72 years ago (yesterday in historical terms) is reprehensible. How can he not extend the same kindness that was given to his own family?

True, his grandmother died in 1984 when Josh was only six, but his grandfather lived until 2001. Could he really be this clueless about his recent family history? No, he couldn’t.

His grandmother, as it happens, was a twin, and her sister, Marietta, also arrived in America as a refugee with her husband and son (the latter two of whom were recorded as stateless).¹ In their case, they were assisted by HIAS, the well known organization that has been helping and protecting refugees since 1881. Not surprisingly, their home page is presently focused on the Afghan refugee crisis and how we can all help.

His great-aunt Marietta passed only away two years ago. Her obituary in the Cleveland Jewish News (which mentions Josh’s mother, so there’s no apparent estrangement) is a mini-history lesson for anyone who wasn’t paying attention. It explains that she survived the Holocaust thanks to “her landlord, a Righteous Gentile, hiding her at his home in the mountains of Italy,” and goes on to speak of her husband, a fellow survivor who “worked at six…



Megan Smolenyak

Genealogical adventurer & storyteller who loves solving mysteries! You may not know me, but chances are you’ve seen my work. (