A Hug From Afar

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by University of Washington Prof. Devin Naar

A Sephardic Jewish Family's immigration story of determination and perserverance against the backdrop of World War II.


“Yours is indeed a unique contribution:  not only because you deal with the too-often overlooked Sephardic victims of the Shoah, but also because you help readers to understand the emotions of the era: the sense  onthe part  of those abroad that their American relatives were not doing enough, the conviction of those American relatives that they were doing all that they could  andthe slow  realization that it was the State Department that lay behind so many of the heart-wrenching delays that Jewishimmigrantsexperienced.".


 -Prof. Jonathan Sarna,

chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, chair  ofthe Hornstein  Program for Jewish Professional Leadership at Brandeis University, and former president of the Association forJewishStudiesr



Claire Barkey Flash was born on the Island of Rhodes in 1921, the first of six children. From age 9 she started writing letters to her relatives in Seattle, Wash., with hopes of coming to the United States. Due to her determination and perseverance, Claire over the next 16 years, she was able to orchestrate her family's escape from Rhodes during World War II and eventual immigration to the United States.


Cynthia Flash Hemphill is a journalist and publicist. She owns Flash Media Services, a media relations firm based in Bellevue, Wash. During her long media career, Flash worked for United Press International, The Scottsdale Progress, Hayward Daily Review, and Tacoma News Tribune. Her articles have appeared in People Magazine, The Seattle Times, the Puget Sound Business Journal, and dozens of other magazines, newspapers and online media sources. As a first-generation American, she became interested in this important immigration story after being surrounded by the Sephardic Jewish culture of her mother's large family. She is proud to be able to preserve and pass on this story for others to enjoy.







• June 6, 2019, 7 p.m. Book reading at Newcastle Library.

• May 1, 2019, 8:30 p.m. Private Yom Hashoah event.

April 7, 2019, 10 a.m. Sephardic Meet-Up 2019 - SF Bay Area.

• July 11, 2017, 7:30 p.m. Discussion at Somerset II Book Club.

• May 17, 2017, Discussion at Creekside, Woodinville.

• May 1, 2017, Discussion at Somerset Book Club.

• February 8, 2017, Talk and book signing, City of Hope event, Seattle.

• November 20, 2016, Talk and book signing, Temple Beth Am, 2632 NE 80th St, Seattle.

• November 10, 2016, Talk and book signing, Third Place Books, Seward Park, Seattle.

• November 2, 2016, Discussion with Temple De Hirsch Sinai book group, Bellevue Temple Library.

• October 25, 2016, Book talk, Redmond Senior Center, Redmond, WA.

• October 9, 2016, Book signing at the Local Author Festival at Island Books, Mercer Island, WA.

• September 11, 2016, Book signing at Sephardic Bikur Holim Grand Bazaar, Seattle.

• September 10, 2016, Talk and book signing, Barnes & Noble, Bellevue, Wash.

• August 16, 2016, Talk and book signing, Endless Opportunities, Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Seattle.

• August 7-12, 2016:  Book signing, 36th Annual IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy

• July 21, 2016: Lost Voices: Greek Jews and the Holocaust, Congregation Ezra Bessaroth.

• July 5, 2016: The Summit at First Hill, Seattle.

• June 6, 2016: Third Place Books, Ravenna, Seattle.

• May 25, 2016: Temple B'Nai Torah, Bellevue.

• May 17, 2016: Washington State Jewish Historical Society History Happy Hour, Seattle.

• April 16, 2016: Page 2 Books, Burien, WA

• March 20, 2016: Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, Seattle.

• March 8, 2016: Cultural Conversations, city of Bellevue.



from speaking events



"This book shows how the Holocaust impacted a vibrant Jewish community on a distant Aegean island, wiping out this community near the end of World War II. Letters isolate and share personal stories without looking through the lens of time. To see the impact of the Holocaust as it affected a community and one family's tale of perseverance, escape and triumph, read this book."


- DeeSimonl
Baral  Family Executive Director, Holocaust Center for Humanity




"TheSephardic Jewish story is rich with history and culture. This book illustrates in great detail what it was like to be a Sephardic Jew on the Island of Rhodes before the Nazi occupation and the tragic ramifications felt by the community afterward. Fortunately for all of us, this is a story of triumph demonstrated by extreme determination on the part of the letter writer, Claire Barkey Flash.”


- Stuart Eskenazi, award winning journalist and curatorr



"A Hug from Afar reads like a suspense novel–only it’s a true story, and it feels as though it’s your family caught up in a tale of hope and fear, frustration and happiness, family ties that reach across continents and over decades, and an American immigration bureaucracy working to make family reunification as difficult aspossible.ᅠ  Cynthia Flash Hemphill has done a wonderful job of compiling family letters and official documents to make the story of her immigrant family come alive, not only for those whose families share similar histories, but also for everyone else wanting to understand from the inside a suspenseful immigrant story full of resourceful characters, and a happy ending in the U.S."


 – Paul Burstein

Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Political Science, and Stroum Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies, University of Washington




Cynthia Flash Hemphill

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