Louis Lipsky, in Behalf of Zionist Organization, Replies to Joint Distribution Committee
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Louis Lipsky, in Behalf of Zionist Organization, Replies to Joint Distribution Committee

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A statement containing counter charges against the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee was issued yesterday by Mr. Louis Lipsky, president of the Zionist Organization of America, in reply to the statement of the Executive Committee of the Joint Distribution Committee. The statement of the Executive Committee of the Joint Distribution Committee charged Zionists with sabotaging the United Jewish Campaign for the Relief of Eastern European Jewry.

“It is impossible to reply to the amazing uncalled-for attack upon Zionists issued by the Joint Distribution Committee without first calling attention to its provocative tone (which belies its peace declarations), to the utter absence of facts upon which it based its sensational conclusions and to the many misstatements it contains,” declares the statement issued by the Zionist Organization.

“Does the Joint Distribution Committee really expect the Jews of America to take seriously the charge that the American Zionists are not only indifferent to the distress of Jews in Europe, but are actually engaged in sabotaging the work of others in the field of relief? To substantiate such a reckless accusation more than mere assertion is needed, more than a press statement that is not signed by any one member of the Joint Distribution Committee and which has all the earmarks of a fatuous publicity emanation.”


Taking up the charges made by the Joint Distribution Committee, the statement says with reference to alleged interference by Zionists in relief campaigns that, “as in previous years the Zionists have labored for the cause of relief with exemplary devotion and self-sacrifice.” It points out that Benjamin Winter, Chairman of the United Palestine Appeal in New York, contributed $50,000 to the United Palestine Appeal and an equal amount to the United Jewish Campaign, while Felix M. Warburg, Chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee, and Louis Marshall, Chairman of the American Jewish Relief Committee, did not contribute to the United Palestine Appeal.

The statement in full declares:

“It is impossible to reply to the amazing, uncalled-for attack upon Zionists issued by the Joint Distribution Committee without first calling attention to its provocative tone (which belies its peace declarations), to the utter absence of facts upon which it bases its sensational conclusions, and to the many misstatements it contains.

“First: There is no truth in the assertion that the Zionists interfered with the relief campaign. As in previous years, the Zionists have labored for the cause of relief with exemplary devotion and self-sacrifice. One instance may be given which is characteristic of the situation throughout the country. Mr. Benjamin Winter, Chairman of the Greater New York campaign for the United Palestine Appeal. gave $50,000 to Palestine, and also an equal amount to the United Jewish Campaign. The Chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee and the Chairman of the American Jewish Relief Committee, who last year contributed to the Palestine Foundation Fund (Keren Hayesod), this year failed to contribute any amount to the United Palestine Appeal. The list of contributors to the United Jewish Campaign in Greater New York discloses the names of hundreds of outstanding Zionists. The list of contributors to the United Palestine Appeal in Greater New York, however, reveals the fact that the non-Zionists followed the example set by their leaders, and did not, except in rare instances, contribute to the Palestine fund. If there has been any discrimination, it is shown not in the attitude of Zionists toward the relief fund, but in the attitude of non-Zionists toward the Palestine fund.


“Second: The Joint Distribution Committee makes the ridiculous charge that the Zionist Organization did not come to the support of Palestine during the period of war, but that all the help given was provided by the Joint Distribution Committee. The fact is that the Zionists, first through the Provisional Zionist Committee. of which Mr. Justice Brandeis was chairman, and then through the Zionist Organization of America provided the means to maintain Jewish institutions in Palestine, saved the colonists from ruin, maintained the Hadassah Medical Organization, gave a free American service for the remittance of financial help to individuals both in Palestine and Europe, sent the ship Vulcan loaded with provisions to Palestine, and, in fact, was the mainstay of Palestinian Jewish life from 1914 to the present day.

“Form August 1914 to June 1926, a total of $20,728,000 was collected which was derived in the following manner: From the time of the inception of the Provisional Zionist Committee in August 1914, up to June, 1918, there was sent to Palestine for various purposes $2,850,000. From June, 1918 up to December 31, 1922, an additional $4,380,000 plus $750,000 was collected and remitted to Palestine by the Jewish National Fund, a total of $5,130,000. From January 1, 1922, when the Keren Hayesod (Palestine Foundation Fund) was established, up to the present time, $11,548,000. During the period of December, 1922 to October 1, 1925, when the United Palestine Appeal was formed, the Jewish National Fund as well as the Hadassah remitted $200,000 annually each to Palestine, making a total of $1,200,000. This represents a grand total of $20,728,000.

“And it must be borne in mind that the $60,000,000 raised by the Joint Distribution Committee from the beginning of the war to its liquidation, was raised with the active cooperation of the Zionists throughout the country, and that the funds raised by the Zionists were, until within the past few years, raised exclusively by the Zionists without any appreciable help from the non-Zionists.


“Third: After the Joint Distribution Committee had discouraged the suggestion of joint action on a national scale, the United Palestine Appeal issued instructions to its committees throughout the country urging separate campaigns. In every instance in which joint campaigns were subsequently decided upon, the pressure came from the local committees, in most instances, as a result of suggestions emanating from the local leaders of the relief campaign. The charge of our having foisted ourselves as parasites upon the relief funds, through joint campaigns, could equally be made against the United Jewish Campaign and would be equally as malicious and untrue. It displays a strange ignorance of local conditions to make this statement, for in a number of important instances, as notably in the state of California, the pressure for a joint campaign came with the greatest force from leading relief workers who at the same time were equally interested in the success of the Palestine Appeal and who felt that unless a joint campaign was conducted the relief campaign as well as the Palestine Appeal would suffer.

“Does the Joint Distribution Committee really expect the Jews of America to take seriously the charge that the American Zionists are not only indifferent to the distress of Jews in Europe, but are actually engaged in sabotaging the work of others in the field of relief? To substantiate such a reckless accusation more than mere assertion is needed, more than a press statement that is not signed by any one member of the Joint Distribution Committee, and which has all the earmarks of a fatuous publicity emanation.

“The Zionists of America need no defense. Their record of service speaks for itself. In every community they are known to be devoted to all Jewish interests. And they carry the added burden of responsibility for the upbuilding of the Jewish National Home.


“If a serious body, fair in its dealings, wanted to comment upon the attitude adopted by Zionists toward the Russian colonization project in order to criticize it, it would give, first, a correct interpretation of the Zionist position and then present reasons for being against it. If honorable opponents, basing conclusions upon resolutions and addresses reported to have been delivered at the recent Zionist Convention, wanted to be fair to the readers of their statement and to avoid calumny, they would at least give the text of the resolution adopted, or quote at least a part of the address which they make the subject of their criticism.

“No address was delivered at the Zionist Convention condemning, directly or indirectly, the Joint Distribution Committee for “daring to further agricultural relief measures for the Jews of Russia.” No resolution was adopted condemning the effort to settie Jews on land in Russia. There was a protest adopted against the propaganda and idealogy that had developed during the past year in connection with the Russian colonization project. It was said that this propaganda was a menace to Zionism. It was stated that anti-Zionists all over the world were rallying around Russian colonization in order to attack Zionist aims; that they were organizing a press in America and in Europe to undermine the position of the Zionist Organization, using the Russian colonization project as the fulcrum for such a concerted attack.


“Into every newspaper office a stream of inspired propaganda flows from the officers of the Russian Jewish Bolshevist Section, which controls all Jewish interests under the Soviet Government. The Jewish Section is composed of partisans, one of whose obsessions is hatred of Zionism and persecution of Hebrew, of the Jewish religion. American correspondents in Europe are being influenced by these anti-Jewish forces.

“This was made strikingly clear by such a distinglished neutral observer as Walter Duranty, New York “Times” correspondent in Moscow, who in a special dispatch dated October 12, 1925, said: “Any system of Jewish land colonization in Russia will be approved by the Soviet Government if for no other reason that that it tends to counteract Zionist colonization in Palestine. The Soviet Government regards the Palestine scheme as a cunning move by England to gain the sympathy of Jews throughout the world and at the same time to establish a firm grip on an area whose strategic and political importance to Britain is of inestimable value in the Near East.’

“It is not charged that the Joint Distribution Committee is knowingly a party to this propaganda; but that it is being used for this end is evident from the way its own propaganda is being conducted.

“It was against this anti-Zionist propaganda arising out of the Russian colonization project, without reference to the Joint Distribution Committee or to agricultural settlements in Russia, that the Zionist Convention protested.

“There is no foundation in fact in the charge that the present American Zionist administration is responsible for the apparent breach in American Jewry. It is drawing a red herring across the trail to say this.


“The Zionists of America are in full accord with the policies of the present Zionist administration, which was reelected at Buffalo by a unanimous vote. The leaders of the Joint Distribution Committee know that the present Zionist administration, directing American Zionist affairs during the past five years, is responsible for the policy of extending the Jewish Agency, in which non-Zionists are to enter upon a basis of equality with the Zionist Organization, the American contingent to receive 40 per cent of all the non-Zionist seats. The leaders of the Joint Distribution Committee know that although large numbers of Zionists were opposed to the extension of the Jewish Agency, it was the influence of the present American Zionist Administration, whom the Joint Distribution Committee in its statement describes as Zionist politicians, which brought about the adoption of the Jewish Agency plan. They know, too, that we were responsible for the removal of the Russian colonization project from the agenda at the Zionist Congress, held last year at Vienna, for had it been discussed it would have been condemned by an overwhelming majority.


“The commitment of the Joint Distribution Committee to the Crimean project, as it was then called, never had the approval of any organized body in America, for no organized body, or group of Jews, was ever consulted in advance of action. It was a decision taken without reference to the public. A dozen men, engaged in liquidating the affairs of the Joint Distribution Committee, held a meeting, heard one-sided evidence, and committed American Israel to this disturbing project. For months the discussion raged. It was subjected to adverse criticism not only from Zionists on its merits, but for a variety of reasons from Jews of all shades of opinion. Never in the history of American Jewry was a proposal coming from such influential quarters greeted with such a volume of dissent. When the Philadelphia Conference was opened in September, 1925, it was already clear that an issue as to the character of relief had been injected into American Jewish life, which divided us into two camps. The delegates at Philadelphia were faced, however, by an accomplished fact. A large commitment had been made. The publicity favorable to the project had gone forth in large volumes. There was no desire to embarrass the leaders of the Joint Distribution Committee. They had publicly pledged themselves to a relief action in which Crimean colonization was to play an almost exclusive part.

“The men present at Philadelphia who are brazenly described as “so-called Zionists” were personally convinced that the Crimean project was a mistake. But being loyal Zionists, they supported the policy of the Zionist Executive and of the American Zionist administration, and devoted themselves to bringing about peace through compromise. They did so in the face of the fact that the overwhelming majority at Philadelphia was unequivocally opposed to the Crimean project. Dr. Stephen S. Wise, whose great service to both Palestine and general Jewish relief in the past needs no praise here, took the lead in making peace, supported by Joseph Barondess; by Jacob Fishman, managing editor of the “Jewish Morning Journal”; by Maurice Samuel, the well-known essayist and lecturer; by Dr. S. Bernstein, the well-known Hebraist. Their aim was to maintain the priority of Palestine, to reduce the Crimean project to reasonable proportions, and to place the emphasis squarely upon general Jewish relief, thus establishing peace.


“No good is served by the deliberate legal twist given to the term “priority of Palestine” in the statement issued by the Joint Distribution Committee. It is obvious misinterpretation. It surely does not expect anybody to believe that we Zionists mean by the priority of Palestine that the demands of Palestine must first be met regardless of the consequences to hundreds of thousands of Jews who may be starving elsewhere. It is gross calumny to say that this represents Zionist views.

“From its inception, the Zionist Organization has been jealously concerned in all things Jewish. Nothing Jewish is foreign to its interests. We speak of the priority of Palestine just as one would say, take care of your father and mother; but the future depends upon the children; just as one would say, feed the hungry, but do your best to create such conditions that none shall go hungry.

“Out of the mess left by the Great War came the Great Historic opportunity for the Jewish people to establish their homeland in Palestine. All that we had suffered in the past was a preparation for this, and the time had come to realize our hope. For the first time in centuries we were given a chance to begin the building of a permanent national home. Simultaneously with the affirmation of the Palestine Mandate all doors were closed to Jewish emigration, and Palestine became, for the first time in its history, the one haven of refuge for the foot-sore, depressed Jewish people. And this land which seemed unable to absorb any considerable number of Jews, in one year gathered within its protecting arms nearly 40,000 Jews, and we saw before us the prospect of increasing the number; of actually building an edifice strong enough and ample enough to serve, to some extent at least, the immediate needs of Jewish life, and at the same time to assure the Jewish future. Not only Zionists began to feel that the hand of Providence was pointing to our deliverance, but many an unprejudiced non-Zionist let his eyes open to see the rise of the New Hope.

“It is short vision to imagine that effective relief work can be done which does not take cognizance of the fact that all anti-Semitic measures in East Europe are calculated to force Jewish emigration. With Palestine as an actual immigration depot, potentially of even greater significance, the placing of Palestine and general relief in mutually exclusive categories is no longer tenable. They interlock for the first time in our long history. And if a relief action in our day sees in Palestine only another land in which there are needy Jews; if it does not take into account that Palestine is the workshop of an organized Jewish effort to establish a national home; it makes the material for inevitable conflict. By setting up general relief as a thing apart from Palestine reconstruction, the Joint Distribution Committee planted the seed of this conflict.

“To discriminate between the temporary and the permanent; to appreciate the difference between the alleviation of individual distress and national redemption; to take cognizance of Palestine as as the haven of refuge and the homeland-that was and is what we mean by the priority of Palestine in Jewish life. To dwell upon incidents of the intellectual struggle, to make unfounded charges of interferences in relief, to speak of sabotage, is to introduce into the controversy material unworthy of the seriousness of the matter.

“If we have pointed out that the same men who last year participated in the Keren Hayesod were conspicuous by their absence this year; and if, harassed by the critical economic situation in Palestine, we have nagged our erstwhile friends for their indifference, we plead in extenuation that not that we desired peace less, but that we wanted cooperation more. And when men who had publicly professed an interest in Palestine, and had made pledges, began to say that in their own way and in good time they would come forward to help Palestine, we would have been less than human had we not given expression to our disappointment.


“Everybody knows what happened after the Philadelphia Conference. No sooner was the conference adjourned than there occurred a series of acts that impaired confidence in the peace profestions of the non-Zionists. A National Chairman took the field, and with an arrogance unparalleled in Jewish affairs, began a deliberate campaign to exclude Zionists from equal responsibility in the relief campaign. He was given unlimited, autocratic powers by the Joint Distribution Committee, He suppressed the Palestine clause in the peace resolution. He excluded all references, in the press reports issued, to the Zionists who had participated at Philadelphia. He declared that he would welcome the opposition of the Zionists, for he did not expect support from them. He wrote abusive letters to all who ventured to criticize his actions. He went into communities and deliberately stirred up non-Zionists against the Zionists. He was responsible for the sending out of publicity which placed the same exaggerated emphasis upon the colonization project, which had occurred before the Philadelphia Conference, and which the compromise adopted was intended to avert. He brawled all over the American map, threatening, abusing, hectoring, and introduced a vulgar spirit and cheap patent and medicine methods in the relief work unheard of in all our previous experiences, which was embarrassing both to Zionists and non-Zionists and a disgrace to the Jewish name.

“The inherent antagonism between a general relief action, which excludes Palestine, and a Palestine effort which is excluded from the relief action, taken together with the boldly divisive activities of the National Chairman of the United Jewish Campaign, have created a situation, which is fraught with great danger to the cause of unity in American Israel, and steps should be taken by serious unprejudiced parties to avert disaster, but such a rapprochement is not served by calumny, partisan prejudice or misstatement of fact, and abuse.

“The Zioaist Organization is a democratic institution. The opinions of its constituents are not controlled nor can they be dictated to. We have managed, in spite of contrary opinion, to hold all responsible elements to a definite policy. That policy was calculated to establish peace and general cooperation. The leadership of the Zionist Organization, both here and in London, is vitally concerned in the success of a policy of adjustment of interests for the sake of practical achievement in Palestine. That does ot mean that we must close our eyes to the anti-Zionist resurgence that now begins to show its head. It is our duty to protect the cause, and to take precautions in advance against the growth of any menace to the progress of our endeavor. But the fact that we protest against the sinister propaganda connected with Russia for colonization, that some Zionists are opposed on principle and from personal experience to it, is not sufficient ground for the abusive attack of the Joint Distribution Committee directed against the Zionist Organization.”

The fifth anniversary of the opening of its new building was celebrated by the Jewish Center of Cleveland. The Center congregation which had a membership of about 300 at the opening of the building now has a membership of 1,215.

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