Bucharest (Dec. 8)
Prince Antoine Bibesco is a very charming and popular young man. He is widely known and liked in English and American Society. In England he is the son-in-law of the famous Liberal ex-Premier, Mr. Asquith, the husband of Mr. Asquith’s very witty and accomplished authoress daughter. In America he is the wide-awake, anxious-to-please Roumanian Minister at Washington, a pleasant-mannered, clever young diplomat with democratic ideas and the ability to make himself at home and loved in all circles.
But here in Roumania Prince Bibesco is a symbol. The Roumanian newspapers have all of them got in stock a good cut of his portrait, and the first thing we know as soon as an anti-Semitic disturbance has taken place anywhere in Roumania, every newspaper in the country is carrying Prince Bibesco’s portrait on the front page, with a report at its side telling us that Prince Bibesco has been at a meeting of Roumanian Jews in America and has assured them that everything will be all right, that the Government is taking steps or is going to take steps to put a stop to the anti-Semitic agitation.
As soon as we hear that there has been trouble anywhere in Roumania in which Jews are involved, we rush off to get a look at the paper, and sure enough, Prince Bibesco’s portrait is there, smiling as usual, with the customary reassuring message at the side. One day we read that Prince Bibesco has attended a service at the Roumanian Synagogue in Chicago or Washington or New York, and has delivered a sermon there, another day he has attended the wedding of the daughter of a prominent Jewish resident somewhere in Philadelphia, etc, and always and everywhere he has been pitching the same yarn about the good times coming in Roumania, and always the yarn seems to have gone down great. Things have come to such a pass that if ever a Roumanian Jew picks up a newspaper nowadays and sees Prince Bibesco’s portrait about, he begins to scratch his head and wonder how he has happened to miss the report of an anti-Semitic disturbance somewhere. That portrait helps us to keep count.
But there are times when we ask ourselves what may possibly be a very rude question. Why is it, after Prince Bibesco has been going about for so many years assuring the Jews of America that the Roumanian Government is going to put down the anti-Semitic agitation in Roumania with a strong hand, that it is still necessary for him to go about assuring us that the Roumanian Government is going to put down the anti-Semitic agitation in Roumania with a strong hand? It is getting to be a bit of a comedy this portrait of Prince Bibesco’s.
The Jews who came from Roumania who are now citizens of the United States must be able to recall what conditions in Roumania are like. It was not for nothing that they fled from Roumania. The fear of the pogrom, the whip which drove them from their Fatherland cannot have been eradicated from their minds so quickly. They have not forgotten the great wave of emigration which swept over fifty thousand Jews away to America, eager to get out of the country in which they were born, rushing to escape from the anti-Semitic brutes who were making their lives in theire native country a hell. The Roumanian Jews in America have not forgotten.
We are not questioning Prince Bibesco’s sincerity. We have no doubt at all that he would wish the position of the Jews in Roumania to be like that of the Jews in England and America, where he is himself so much at home. But his soft words will not improve matters for the Jews of Roumania. They may make them worse, for if he lulls the Jews of America into a belief that everyting is for the best in the best of possible Roumanias, and that the Jews are safe in the hands of a paternal Government whose only interest is to punish those who do them harm, the Jews of America will fold their arms and they will not do what they would otherwise do to come to the aid of the Jews of Roumania and to use the influence which they possess on our behalf. Prince Bibesco, as Roumanian Minister to the U. S. does not visit the American Jews in their synagogues and at their wedding feasts and at their meetings because they are an insignificant body whose opinions are of no account. He is at so much pains to set them at ease only because they are an important body, because they are able to do things and because he is anxious to retain their goodwill. Their intervention, therefore, if they are convinced that the situation in Roumania is not as rose-colored as Prince Bibesco pictures it, will be of great value to us and may succeed in improving our conditions. If Prince Bibesco, the Roumanian Minister to America, and the Roumanian Government are so anxious to retain the good opinion and the goodwill of the Roumanian Jews in America that good opinion and goodwill must be of value to them and they will make efforts to make conditions better for the Jews of Roumania, if it becomes clear that the only way of retaining that good opinion and goodwill is to do things and not only to talk.