New York (Mar. 20)
Regarding the plan for the settlement of Jews on the land in Russia, James N. Rosenberg, Vice President of the Joint Distribution Committee, issued the further statement:
“In giving my recent statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency it was my intention to put this project before the Jewish people, so that the question might be discussed from every angle, and I am glad to note that a good deal of comment has developed, even if some of it is adverse. Nothing clears the air like open discussion.
“At this juncture I wish to take up the statement of some anonymous agriculturist from Russia, who is quoted by the correspondent of the ‘Jewish Morning Journal’ in its issue of February 29; this agriculturist, who is opposed to the plan, made a number of statements of fact that deserve attention: First, he says that ‘Dr. Rosen is an American Jew…’ Dr. Rosen is an American citizen who was born in Russia, spent a great part of his life up to his maturity in Russia, devoting himself largely to the study of Russian agricultural problems, being always in close touch with Russia. It was under his single-handed direction that the important J.D.C. agricultural reconstruction work was done in Russia, a work which will constitute a splendid page in the history of Jewish international social service. This work, notwithstanding its comparatively short duration and the limited means available, introduced methods and obtained results which will leave a permanent mark in the constructive development not only of the Jewish farmers in Russia, but of Russian agriculture as a whole and will be gratefully remembered by the Jewish as well as by the non-Jewish population.
“Second, ‘For the privilege of buying a small piece of waste land we are paying the Crimean people, the Tartars…’ says the agriculturist. Nonsense. This is no question of a small piece of waste land nor of buying it. It is a question of large tracts where thousands of Jewish farms could be established. The purchase of land was neither contemplated nor is it possible according to the laws of Russia. The government offers the land free of charge to settlers who will make the land productive; the Russian Government will give preference and assistance to such groups as will carry out the settlement and development in an organized way and can show that they are financially in a position to go ahead with their plans.
“But I do not want merely to make a controversial statement and will, therefore, dwell no further on the ‘agriculturist’s’ remarks. But I have this to say: a great activity is going on to raise money for Palestine. It deserves support, no doubt, but Dr. Weizmann will himself say frankly that if he had all the money in the world at his command he would not undertake a colonization program for Palestine for more, let us say, than 20 or 30 thousand Jews a year at the outside for the next three years. Meantime, what is to be done with the hundreds of thousands of Jews in Ukraine and White Russia whose economic life has been completely disrupted? The J.C.A. and J.D.C. Foundation just being completed will take measurable care of the reconstruction work in Poland and other sections of Central Europe.
Work goes on for Palestine…; but now that the funds of the J.D.C. have been exhausted, the Jews of Russia stand abandoned, unless they receive aid from some new source.
“We are not interested in territorial problems or political questions; hundreds of thousands of Jews in Russia are today in a transition period-from their former occupations, for the most part unproductive, which have little or no basis in the Russia of today, to a future which seems to hold out no promise, unless they are assisted in an organized way go get into productive occupations, of which agriculture appears to be the most promising just now in Russia.
“Within the last two weeks we have received cables from Dr. Rosen assuring us of the entire feasibility of Jewish colonization in Russia and not only that, but he has cabled that if the Jews of America will aid financially, he is ready to devote the next two years of his life to this work. The greatest work that has been done by any Jew in reconstruction activities has been done by Dr. Joseph A. Rosen. I measure my words. Anyone who will read the recent report of the J.D.C. will be convinced of their correctness. The agreement which he negotiated a year and half ago with the Russian Government shows what we can expect to receive in the way of co-operation.
“I am not urging that money be furnished immediately or that a drive should be decided upon at once. I wish only to emphasize that to my mind this is as great a moment as history has ever offered to Jewry. If we let this great moment pass by, we may never again have such an opportunity for service. Such a moment is a challenge. Are we ready to meet it, at least to the extend of having a prompt investigation at first hand in Russia?”