Dr. Stephen S. Wise, Rabbi of the Free Synagogue and National Chairman of the United Palestine Appeal, which seeks this year $5,000,000 for the reconstruction work in Palestine, will not resign from the Chairmanship of the Appeal, despite the protests of a number of orthodox rabbis, who have charged him with heresy and misguidance.
This decision, by a vote of 71 against 1, was taken by the Executive Committee of the Zionist Organization of America, which met in session yesterday at the Hotel Pennsylvania, New York City.
The decision not to accept Dr. Wise’s resignation was facilitated by a dramatic statement which was termed to be a confession of faith, delivered by Dr. Wise at the Executive Committee of the United Palestine Appeal.
DR. WISE’S CONFESSION OF FAITH STARTLES EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
“I stand for the oneness of God and for the oneness of the Jewish people. I could not and did not depart from the traditional attitude of the Synagogue towards the doctrines of other faiths,” Dr. Wise declared amid enthusiastic applause of the assembly.
The Committee which consists of 125 members in all parts of the country had a full attendance. Many Zionist leaders from all districts were present, including a number of Jews prominent in Jewish communal activities throughout the country, when Louis Lipsky, Chairman of the Zionist Organization of America, summarized the situation which has developed in the American Jewish community, due to the metropolitan press reports of the sermon delivered by Dr. Wise on December 20th, at the Free Synagogue on the subject “A Jewish View of Jesus.”
The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of America and Canada and the Mizrachi, the orthodox Zionist faction, took exception to some of the statements attributed to Dr. Wise.
In declaring him to be a heretic and beguiler, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis demanded that he resign from the Chairmanship of the United Palestine Appeal.
It was for the first time in the Zionist movement of America that its Executive Committee had to deal with a purely religious problem, a problem around which the interest of both Jews and non-Jews centered throughout the centuries.
MR. BUBLICK ALONE FOR WISE’S RESIGNATION
Mr. Lipsky, in presenting the resolution to the Administrative Committee of the Zionist Organization, made clear that the Zionist movement has always “refrained from intervening in religious or theological discussions” and expressing disagreement with the view of Dr. Wise’s critics and satisfaction that the recent statements of Dr. Wise, in which the opinions attributed to him were denied, the resolution urged the Executive Committee of the United Palestine Appeal not to accept the resignation of Dr. Wise as Chairman.
An unparalleled discussion developed, following the introduction by Rabbi Nachman Ebin of a resolution to the effect that a committee be appointed to endeavor to bring about a reconciliation between the orthodox rabbis and Dr. Wise. This resolution was adopted.
Of all the speakers who participated in the discussion, Mr. Gedaliah Bublick, editor of the orthodox “Jewish Daily News,” single-handedly fought for his view that the resignation of Dr. Wise must be accepted if a split in the American Jewish community, along the fundamental principle of Jewish life, is to be avoided.
Mr, Bublick quoted the utterances of Achad Ha’Am, a well known Jewish thinker and writer, now a resident of Palestine, who, when a similar controversy arose in Palestine several years ago, sharply took the view that neutrality or compromise toward the founder of Christianity on the part of members of the Jewish community is not consistent with Judaism.
“Jewish history has been made and is continuing on the basis of the denial of the Divinity of Jesus of Nazareth,” Mr. Bublick cited Achad Ha’Am.
Following addresses delivered by Hon. Elihu Stone, Gedaliah Bublick, Dr. A. Coralnik, Dr. Melamed, Mr. Zeldin, Mrs. Richard Gottheil, Mr. Bernard Shelvin, Dr. Masliansky, Leo Wolfson, Rabbi Nachman Ebin, Rabbi I.H. Levinthal, etc., the resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority. An ovation was tendered to Dr. Wise.
PRO-WISE STATEMENTS POUR IN ON EVE OF MEETING
Members of the Executive of the Zionist Organization of America and the United Palestine Funds Appeal which met yesterday at the Hotel Pennsylvania, who for one reason or another could not attend personally, wired and wrote to the Zionist headquarters to the effect that they cast their vote for rejecting the resignation of Dr. Wise.
An interesting opinion with regard to the attitude of Dr. Wise to the founder of Christianity and to its reaction among Christians and Jews was expressed by Prof. William L. Sanders of the Union Theological Seminary of New York City, in a letter which he addressed to Dr. Wise. The leader of the Union Theological Seminary expresses the hope that “no Christian body will make capital out of this controversy” and that surely every rightminded person, both Jew and Christian, will not doubt for a moment Dr. Wise’s loyalty to Judaism.
Professor Sanders’ message read: “The attacks made upon you on the ground of your being too liberal seem to me unwarranted, and I regret that you have had to face them.
“Many of us Christians have rejoiced in your friendly attitude not because we thought that you were coming round to our point of view but because the spirit of your life seemed to be the guide of a new day of mutual respect and understanding. I should regret exceedingly any attempt on the part of any Christian body to make ‘capital’ out of this controversy.
“Surely right-minded persons, both Jews and Christians, will not doubt for a moment your loyalty to Judaism. Those who for the moment have misunderstood your utterances will, I trust, soon discover their errors and make amends.”
Among the numerous letters and telegrams which have been received at the Zionist headquarters and by Dr. Wise during the last 24 hours, were a telegram from the Hon. Carl Sherman, former Attorney General of New York, who is now in Florida; from Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner, of the Euclid Avenue Temple, Cleveland, O.; Mr. Max Levy, prominent attorney of New York City; Mr. Samuel J. Rosensohn, attorney, of New York City, and Mr. Nathan D. Shapiro, attorney, of Brooklyn.
Mr. Carl Sherman wires: “As leader Jewish thought in America, your personality vital to success of United Palestine Appeal. Your obligation superior to misconception of your attitude. Thinking American Jewry does not question your loyalty to Israel earnestly urgent withdrawal resignation which will be renewed evidence your large character.”
Rabbi Brickner’s letter reads: “I am indeed very sorry that you saw fit to offer your resignation as Chairman of the United Palestine Campaign, because of the protest resolution of the Orthodox Rabonim, and I am hoping sincerely that the Executive Committee of the Zionist Organization will decline to accept your resignation, and instead tender you a unanimous vote of confidence.”
The following letter was received by Dr. Wise from Mr. Max Levy: “I want you to know that I, as chairman of the Staten Island Zionists and of the Keren Hayesod and also as a strict observant orthodox Jew, am fully in sympathy with your present embarrassment caused by the very unjust action on the part of the Agudath Horabonim.
“I have voted at a meeting of the chairmen of the Zionist Districts of New York City to have your chairmanship retained, and it would be a great calamity if you found yourself unable to continue as chairman of the United Palestine Appeal.”
Mr. Samuel J. Rosensohn’s letter reads as follows: “I hope you will withdraw your resignation as chairman of the United Palestine Appeal. The question involved is of the greatest importance to the future of Palestine as well as of Jews in this country, and must be definitely settled–and settled right.
“The Palestine which we Zionists have dreamed of is one whose very foundation is that freedom of mind and conscience which is the cornerstone of all liberty and of a free Palestine. To yield to the arrogance which ever accompanies bigotry and ignorance will destroy everything which we hold dear and which makes Palestine the land of our dreams.
“Narrow-mindedness must be destroyed whether it takes the form of legislation prohibiting the teaching of evolution, as in Tennessee, or an ex parte fiat of a group of rabbis who object to the facts of history, simply because they regard those facts as contrary to their individual beliefs. Unless that is done, Palestine will be destroyed and we will alienate the affections of those who would build a Palestine freed from bigotry and ignorance.
“Those of us who permit this to be done must answer for the destruction of one of the greatest ideals of modern times.”
The New England members of the National Executive Committee of the Zionist Organization of America represented by Hon. Elihu D. Stone, president of the New England Zionist Region, and Mr. Benjamin Rabalsky, had been instructed by their committee to vote against the acceptance of Dr. Wise’s resignation, according to a message received at the Zionist headquarters.
Morris Rothenberg, chairman of the Administrative Committee of the Keren Hayesod in America stated:
“I disagree with the views expressed in the sermon attributed to Dr. Wise. The glorification of either the person or teachings of one in whose name our people were subjected to and have suffered centuries of martyrdom, is most offensive to Jewish feeling, and has a most harmful and misleading effect.
“Dr. Wise has denied making the statements which are regarded as the most objectionable part of his reported sermon; I believe it to have been unfortunately worded so as to be open to misconstruction.
“But knowing Dr. Wise as we do, it is unthinkable to believe that he had any intention of doing any hurt to the Jewish religion. Dr. Wise has given evidence through many years of service to the Jewish people of his entire devotion to every cause that serves the welfare of our race. He is an ardent Zionist. He has stood in the forefront of the battle against anti-Semitism, against Jewish disabilities in foreign lands, against restriction of immigration in our own country. He has rendered inestimable service in the work of Jewish education, of fund raising for innumerable Jewish institutions and for the alleviation of our suffering brethren abroad. There is hardly a worthy Jewish cause to which he has not given support. He has done much by his great gifts to interpret Jewish ideals to the non-Jew.
“Is it right that we should inflict a punishment upon him which would give him incalculable grief and seriously injure his usefulness to Palestine and to other worthy Jewish causes? I am certain that such a course would be unjust and in the end hurtful to the Jewish name.
“The jurisprudence of our own country and of other lands requires that before conviction may be had on a charge of wrongdoing, intent to do the wrong must be shown. Intent is an essential element of guilt, for often wrongful acts are innocently committed. Surely it cannot in truth be said that Dr. Wise intended to do any hurt to the people for whom he has shown love and unswerving loyalty during his entire life.
“Having witnessed the disapproval with which the utterances attributed to him were received, and the construction which was placed upon them, I am sure that Dr. Wise will in the future wish to avoid a subject which is exceedingly distasteful to his fellow Jews and the discussion of which may be harmful.
“I shall therefore vote NOT to accept his resignation.”