In August 1923, a committee of the Executive of the Federation of Ukrainian Jews in America was invited to confer with a committee of Jewish philanthropic organizations with the object of devising ways and means for the assistance of Ukrainian Jewish refugees, who were stranded in Roumanian and Poland, Nine thousand of them who were stranded in Roumania and Poland, Nine thousand of them who were in Roumania were ordered by the Government to leave the country by the first of October, 1923.
The executive officers of the Ukrainian Federation sent the writer to Canada to investigate the possibilities for the immigration of refugees to that country. I met Rabbi Brickner in Toronto, on September 3rd, 1923, and told him the object of my mission. He doubted the ability of anyone to induce the Canadian Government to utilize its discretionary powers in favor of admitting Jewish refugees. He suggested, however, that the only man to be approached on the subject would be Hon. S. W. Jacobs, the Jewish Member of the Canadian Parliament. He also advised me to take the matter up with Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Freiman of Ottawa, the most prominent Jews of Canada, who are always ready to help any good Jewish cause.
I proceeded to Ottawa immediately, laid the matter before Mr. and Mrs. Freiman, who promised all possible assistance and also referred me to Hon. S. W. Jacobs. When I told my story to Mr. Jacobs, I found him to be very optimistic. He told me that the Ica of Paris had requested him to secure the admission of 1,000 immigrants and that 74 were already on their way. He hoped to be able to get permission for 5,000 more immigrants to settle in Canada and was glad that Jewish organizations of the United States were willing to assist. He did not tell me of his connections with the Ica of Canada, nor did he suggest that that organization would be interested.
Three weeks after my visit to Canada Mr. Belkin, the Secretary of the Canadian Ica, informed me that Mr. Jacobs, in cooperation with the officers of the Ica of Canada, acting under instructions from the Ica of Paris, entered into an agreement with the Government, permitting five thousand Ukrainian Jewish refugees to enter Canada. Mr. Belkin took pains to inform me that my visit had absolutely nothing to do with the matter, that Mr. Jacobs was an honorary officer of the Canadian Ica and dealt with the Government as such. He told me that if our Organization is interested in this matter, it would have to get in touch with the head office of the Ica in Paris, which was managing this immigration project. For additional information he referred me to Mr. Lyon Cohen, President of the Ica of Canada, who was to visit New York a week after our conversation.
I met Mr. Cohen in New York and he confirmed the statements of Mr. Belkin. He said that the matter would be entirely taken care of by the Ica and suggested that they would come to us when they were short of funds, but he made me feel that it was a remote possibility.
I notified the President of the Ukrainian Federation and the philanthropic organizations that the Ica had taken this matter out of our hands completely. We all agreed that there was no reason to begrudge them the “mitzvah” nor the “koved” attached to performing the good service. I wrote to Rabbi Brickner reporting what had occurred and he too agreed that the Montreal people were fully entitled to the honor.
Personally, I had my misgivings. However, the matter was settled and there was nothing more to be done about it for the time being.
Last winter a committe came to New York to ask American Jewry to finance the immigration of the refugees. At the joint meeting of the American Jewish Congress, the Canadian Committee and the representatives of the Ukrainian Federation and other philanthropic institutions, the Ica representatives of Canada made much of the visit of the representative of the Ukrainian Federation to Canada. This time we were held chiefly responsible for the agreement with the Canadian Government and were asked to furnish the funds necessary to carry the work to its conclusion.
The sum asked was altogether beyond the ability of the American Organizations to furnish at short notice. The Ukranian Federation particularly was not in a position to contribute its share, because, being an after-war relief organization it was in the process of liquidation and incapable of raising large sums. However, as the Canadian committee says, American Jewry did contribute $37,000, and nothing was heard of the Canadian Refugees affair until the Canadian Government publicly announced that its agreement with the Ica was cancelled and referred those interested to the Ica for the reasons that lead to the breach of this agreement.
Now, I do not want to pose as the defender of American Jewry, and I am certainly the last one to absolve institutions that were in a position to help and did not do so, but it must be said, that the original sin against the Jewish refugee immigrants was committed by those who were eager to monopolize this work for the Ica in order to give that Organization additional prestige. If it were not for our over-anxious Montreal friends, American Jewry would not have shirked its duty to the refugees, the Levine affair would not have occurred and thousands of refugees would have been saved from the disaster of finding the doors of Canada shut against them.
Rabbi Morris H. Youngerman, of Charlestion, W. Va., died after a short illness. He was 25 years old, and had been in charge of the congregation for about a year, succeeding Rabbi Israel Bettan.