Dr. Stephen S. Wise Protests Against Defense Test Day in Letter to Major General Bullard

Dr. Stephen S. Wise was asked by Major General R.L. Bullard of the U.S.A. to urge the Rabbis of the Synagogues of New York to hold in their temples, on September 12th, patriotic services in sympathy with the purpose of the proposed Defense Test Day. In his letter, Major General Bullard stated that Cardinal Hayes and Bishop Manning of New York have consented to do so.

Refusing to issue this call, Dr. Stephen S. Wise, addressed a lengthy letter to Major General Bullard, in which he declares his opposition to the holding of the Defense Test Day.

“I regret, dear General Bullard,” said Dr. Wise, “that I cannot accede to your suggestion. Apart from the strictly congregational polity of the synagogue, which denies to any rabbi the prerogative of command or even of request to fellow-rabbis and sister-congregations to his own, I find myself under the necessity of registering my protest as an American against the program and purposes of Defense Test Day. As an American and a religionist. I can and will have no part in Defense Test Day, the institution of which I hold to be a moral catastrophe to the entire world as well as to our country. To marshall our strength in the way that is proposed on and for September 12th, in the sight of a shattered and unrepaired world is tyrannously to vaunt the strength of a giant.

“There need be no argument against Mobilization Day, which the War Department, yielding to unwithstandable, nation-wide pressure, deemed it expedient to cancel or in

some degree to qualify. For Mobilization Day is a recrudescence of what from the American point of view is an alien and abhorrent institution. Mobilization Day is, or would be, a revival of some of the worst and most tragic phases of that old-world militarist regime, for which I pray there may never really be place or even tolerance in our land. I am prepared to assume, however, that nothing more nor worse than a Defense Test Day is planned for September 12. Far from giving my personal approval or sanction there to. I object to it in itself, and, again, because of the implications to which it is bound to give rise at home and abroad. In itself it is bad, because it casts doubt on and would test the patriotism of our citizenship, which, it is not too much to say, was thoroughly and satisfactorly tested in the years 1917 and 1918.

“But there is something graver. Mobilization or Defense Test Day is bound to lead the mind of the nation to the fields of war rather than to move it to consider the ways which lead to peace. Whether or not we have willed and deserved it, we have a most eminent rather than merely conspicuous place in the sight of the nations. September 12 appears to me, as to many of my honored comrades in Christian pulpits, to be a most lamentable gesture, tokening to the world that, despite half hearted governmental adherence to some agencies of peace, if duly limited and maimed, America thinks the thoughts of war rather than peace. I believe that is not true or will cease to be true only if September 12 and similar devices make it so.”

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