A national campaign for membership in the American Ort, the society for the promotion of trades and agriculture among Jews in Eastern Europe in order to insure a permanent basis for the organization will be conducted among individuals and organizations in the United States.
An extensive effort to secure the assistance of American relatives for European Jews by their providing them with tools for productive work and self-sustaining, self-respecting life thru the channels of the American Ort will be made.
A plea for greater consideration of the appalling needs of Polish Jewry was presented to the Joint Distribution Committee and the European headquarters of the Ort.
These were the three outstanding features of the National Conference of the Ort which was held Sunday at the Pennsylvania Hotel, New York City, under the chairmanship of Judge Jacob Panken. Two hundred and fifty delegates from New York and other cities, representing various landsmanschaften, labor groups and Jewish fraternal organizations participated in the conference.
JUDGE PANKEN AND DR. MOSKOWITZ RENDER REPORTS
Extensive reports on the work of the Ort during the past year and the situation of the Jews in Russia, Poland, Roumania, Lithuania and other countries, were presented to the conference by Judge Jacob Panken, chairman of the American Ort, and Dr. Henry Moskowitz, chairman of the Ort Reconstruction Fund. Both Judge Panken and Dr. Moskowitz devoted the major part of their reports to Russia and Poland, where Jewish conditions are most acute. While the situation in Russia has improved, the situation in Poland is today as distressing as ever, Judge Panken emphasized. “There is only one possible method of helping the Jewish people in Poland, and that is to rebuild the Jewish life in its entirety and reorganize the Jewish life so that it would fit into the general life of Poland,” he declared.
Toward this end the American Ort has to date remittted to Europe $201,000, Dr. Moskowitz said in his report, while the sum of $700,000 has been collected for the Ort Reconstruction Fund. Dr. Moskowitz paid tribute to the Joint Distribution Committee, which allocated for the Ort $300,000 to cover uncollected pledges in the Ort’s campaign, conducted two years ago.
CONFERENCE HEARS OF COOPERATIVE TOOL SUPPLY COMPANY
Dr. Moskowitz told of the creation of the Cooperative Tool Supply Company the purpose of which is the cooperative purchasing and distribution of machinery, tools and raw stuffs to Jewish artisans. Through this channel it is believed tens of thousands of Jewish families in Eastern Europe can be placed on a productive and self-supporting basis. At present, negotiations are going on between the Russian Government and the Ort aiming at an arrangement to make possible the disposition of approximately $500,000 worth of tools in Russia annually.
The question of Polish Jewry’s share in the funds allocated by the Joint Distribution Committee for East European relief was the subject of considerable discussion at the conference. It was brought up by Z. Tygel, who represented the Federation of Polish Hebrews, and other delegates who contended that the relief program of the Joint Distribution Committee in Poland and the work of the Ort there is not proportionate with the need. This question, which was first broached at the morning session, came up again in the afternoon, when the Resolutions Committee introduced a resolution on Poland, containing the following sentence; “The Conference feels that in view of these conditions both the Ort and Joint Distribution Committee should come to the aid of Polish Jewry to a greater extent than heretofore,” Objection to this part of the resolution was voiced by Mr. Gilis and other delegates on the ground that it was unjust to the Joint Distribution Committee. A modifying amendment introduced by Judge Gustave Hartman, Grand Master of the Independent Order Brith Abraham, was voted down however, and the original resolution adopted.
The full text of this resolution finally accepted by the conference reads:
RESOLUTION ASKS MORE CONSIDERATION FOR POLISH JEWRY
“The Conference has listened to the reports of Dr. Henry Moskowitz and Judge Jacob Panken on the present condition of Polish Jewry. It desires to express its satisfaction with the work that has been done up to date by the Ort and the Joint Distribution Committee in Poland.
“The Conference desires further to call the attention of the Ort in Europe and the Joint Distribution Committee to the unprecedented suffering of Polish Jewry.
“The possibilities there for land colonization are limited, business conditions depressed and the possibilities for emigration restricted almost completely. The Conference feels that in view of these conditions both the Ort and Joint Distribution Committee should come to the aid of Polish Jewry to a greater extent than heretofore. In this it desires to express the thought that the tendency of the work in Poland should be toward the reconstructive activities rather than palliative relief.
“Particularly must the system of vocational training schools be extended and possibilities given our people to earn an independent livelihood thru the allocation of tools and other machinery of production. We feel that the greater allotment should be made to this work in Poland in proportion to the funds given by American Jewry in proportion to the needs of Poland.”
Another resolution adopted by the conference calls for a plan of assistance by American Jews to their European relatives. In accordance with its principle of placing the East European Jews on a self supporting basis, and furnishing them the means of earning their own livelihood, rather than doling out temporary relief to them, the Ort will make a special effort to urge American Jews to send tools instead of money to their relatives. The Ort will undertake to act as the intermediary between the American Jews and their relatives in this work.
QUESTION OF RELATIONS OF ORT AND JOINT DISTRIBUTION COMMITTEE
A lively discussion ensued on the subject of the relations between Ort and the Joint Distribution Committee, when it appeared that some of those present were under the impression that the Ort was merely a subsidiary of the Joint Distribution Committee.
Judge Panken, the chairman, and Dr. Moskowitz, explained that this was not so. “It must be understood,” Judge Panken stated, “that the Ort is an independent organization. The misconception regarding the Ort’s functions arises from the fact that in certain places the Joint Distribution Committee works through the Ort. This is true in places where the Ort is in a better position to carry out the reconstruction work than the Joint Distribution Committee. In such cases the Joint Distribution Committee makes use of the apparatus of the Ort. Then there is another point: the work of the Joint Distribution Committee is for three years only. The Ort is a permanent organization for Jewish reconstruction. Its work began as far back as 1880 and it will continue when temporary relief bodies will have ceased to function.”
TWO RESOLUTIONS ON J. D. C.
Two resolutions adopted by the conference related to the work of the Joint Distribution Committee. One stated: “The American Ort in Convention Assembled on October 24, 1926, send its heartfelt greetings to the Joint Distribution Committee, commending the splendid work being done and the progress made and expressing the hope for its continued and even increasing success. We further desire to express our gratification with the democratic policy of the Joint Distribution Committee in recognizing existing and established organizations in the constructive and reconstructive work among Jewry.” The other resolution “notes with particular satisfaction the splendid cooperation which exists between the Ort and the Joint Distribution Committee and the confidence in which the Ort is held by the various democratic bodies of Eastern Europe where the Reconstruction work is being carried on.”
Messages were read to the conference from the Central Executive of the Ort Reconstruction Fund signed by Dr. Bramson, Prof. Frankfort and Lvovich, from the Ort Committee of Lodz, from Alfred M. Cohen, president of the Independent Order B’nai B’rith, and from James H. Becker of Chicago.
OFFICERS ELECTED FOR ENSUING YEAR
The conference elected the following officers for the coming year: Chairman of American Ort, Judge Jacob Panken; Treasurer, Arthur D. Wolf; Honorary Secretary, Herman Bernstein; Vice-Chairman of American Ort, Dr. Samuel Ellsberg, Judge Gustave Hartman, B. C. Vladeck, J. Baskin and L. B. Boudin.
Among the organizations represented at the conference were the Independent Order B’rith Abraham, by Grand Master Gustave Hartman, United Hebrew Trades, by Mr. M. Feinstein, the Federation of Polish Jews, by Z. Tygel, Workmen’s Circle by Mr. J. Baskin, Progressive Women of the Bronx, the Independent Order B’nai B’rith, Independent Order B’rith Sholom, Warsaw Young Men’s Association, Lodz True Brothers Association, Forward Association, Jewish National Alliance, Jewish Writers Club, Poale Zion of America, People’s Relief Committee, Zeire Zion, International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Furriers Union, Capmakers Union, Pocketbook Workers Union, Independent Workers Circle.
Following the conference a banquet was held at which Dr. Bernard Kahn, European Director of the J. D. C., and Dr. Joseph Rosen, director of the Agrojoint, spoke.
JUDGE PANKEN’S REPORT
In his report to the Ort Conference Judge Panken outlined the present condition of the Jews in East European countries.
“Since we last met,” he stated, “many changes have taken place in the life of the Jewish people in Central and Eastern Europe. It is my duty to report to you that with the exception of Russia, there has been no appreciable betterment.
“The Russian Government has ceded to the Jewish people hundreds of thousands of acres of land because Jewish life in Russia has become chaotic that the only escape was settlement upon the land. When the revolution came it found the Jews unprepared to take their place in an industrial country. It found the Jews unprepared to take up new means, created by a real economic reorganization, to earn their living and the only avenue left to them was to settle upon the land.
“The policy announced in 1925 by the J. D. C. that it would use agencies now existing in Europe to do the work has been carried out. We also wanted the J. D. C. to understand that at least part of the pledges made to us ought to be redeemed and it gives me pleasure to announce that the J. D. C. has redeemed its pledge; it has allocated the sum of $300,000 for Ort work. Out of the $300,00, $75,000 will be spent in Russia. During this year we have already sent to Russia about fifty or sixty thousand dollars, so that makes about $225,000 of Ort money in Russia for work over there.
DEPICTS PLIGHT OF POLISH JEWRY
“I saw our schools and colonies in Poland. There is only one possible method of helping the Jewish people in Poland and that method is to rebuild the Jewish life in its entirety and reorganize the Jewish life so that it would fit in in the general life of Poland. The Jew in Poland has to suffer because he is a Jew in addition to suffering because he is a man. In Warsaw the Jewish population constitutes about 35 percent of the general population. Yet there is not a single Jew employed upon the street cars of Warsaw. There is an organized effort upon the part of the government to keep the Jews from being employed upon street cars. What I say about the street cars is true about the railways and the factories. There are hardly any Jews left in the tobacco industry. When the government took over the tobacco industry it discharged 2,000 to 3,000 Jews immediately on the pretext that the industry would be curtailed, but just as soon as they discharged the Jews they employed Poles. I do not like to speak disparagingly about any government, but it is my duty to tell you the facts as I find them. The Jewish workers of Warsaw have appealed to the General Federation of Labor in Poland, and as a result of that appeal an organization was formed which is called ‘The Right to Work Movement.’
“In Poland only one thing can be done-fit the Jew to take his place in the life of Poland. Economic conditions in Poland cannot continue as they are today. There will be a change. When that change is going to come I cannot foretell, but when the change comes the Jew must be ready to fit himself into the life of the people over there. Poland is not an agricultural country with possibilities agriculturally for the Jew. Poland can become an industrial and economic country with great possibilities for the Jew. There are three million Jews in Poland and these three million Jews must be given an opportunity to learn a trade. We ought to teach our people over there to become artisans.
THE WORK OF ORT SCHOOLS
“The finest furniture built in Poland is built in Warsaw and it is built by the pupils in the schools of the Ort. The finest embroidery, the finest pessamentarie and needle work is done by the pupils of the schools of the Ort.
“Conditions have changed in Poland. Many a man who has been able to bring up his daughter in affluence must now depend upon what his daughter can earn. These girls don’t want to become domestics, and I don’t blame them. The Ort steps in and enables them to escape from the life of the domestic and engage in Productive work. We must be on the watch for the moment when there is an economic rebirth in Poland to give an opportunity to our people to learn some trade.
“There is another angle. A great many of the Jews are emigrating. They are emigrating to Argentine, to Africa etc. For instance, if they come to Mexico without a trade to back them up the government does not admit them. President Calles very frankly said. ‘We want Jews to come to Mexico, but we don’t want any Jewish capitalists. We want Jewish workers; we want Jewish farmers.’
THE SITUATION IN ROUMANIA
“The situation in Lithuania is no better … Roumania has become a large Jewish territory. Roumania today has more than one million Jews. Of course we in the United States today fall to our knees to the Queen of Roumania. And strange as it may appear, some of our Jewish brethren grovel before that Queen. They seem to forget she is the Queen of a government which has made the heart of its policy anti-Semitism. We have over a million Jews in Roumania now. Most of them live in the old part of Austria which has been ceded to Roumania and Bessarabia which has been ceded to Roumania. Since the Roumanians have taken this territory over the condition has not improved. What did we do in Roumania? In Bessarabia we organized schools for the children who want to learn some trades, and in addition to that we have furnished to many Jews who wanted to settle upon the land a possibility to settle upon the land. And I say it with a great deal of satisfaction. I say with a great deal of pride that the Ort has succeded in doing a monumental piece of work in Roumania and today the Ort is looked up to by all of Roumanian Jewry. We have been able to settle many hundreds and thousands of farmers upon the land and these farmers are now returning the money we loaned them.
“A part of the work which we do which is very important is what we call the Tool Supply Company. It is a company which supplies not only tools but raw material and seeds and plants throughout Eastern Europe. We have organized what we call nests-cooperatives who work in conjunction with the mother organization in Berlin. We get credit from the manufacturers and in turn we give credit to the artisan…
“It is surprising sometimes to see a steam or electrically driven apparatus in a tumble down building in an unpaved street. Ort has been able to do this.
ORT DOTS NOT ASK CHARITY
“Ort does not appeal to the Jews of this country, not does it appeal to the Jews of any country, for pity. I was in Paris and in Paris we operate eight schools in which we teach the immigrant various trades-in which we teach the transient passenger a trade. Paris has become the stopping point for many Jews from Poland or any other country on their way to another country. Nowhere in the world, however, do we plead-nowhere in the world do we beg. France has such men as Painleve, Leon Bloom, Moutant, who is not a Jew and many very prominent men in political life, associated with Ort. The same is true of other countries. Nowhere do we make an appeal for pity. The problem of the Jew in Russia, the problem of the Jew in Poland, in Roumania and Latvia and Bessarabia is a problem which not only concerns him but a problem which concerns the Jews throughout the world.”
Dr. Moskowitz’s report was devoted to two subjects-first, the work of the Ort Reconstruction Fund; second, the work of the delegation which was sent by the Ort to the last International Ort Conference in Berlin.
DR. MOSKOWITZ’S ADDRESS
“The Ort Reconstruction Fund is significant and the American Ort is significant because they were the first organizations in America to carry on a campaign of propaganda and education which dramatized not the problem of poverty, not the problem of emergency relief, but the great problem of reconstruction in Eastern Europe. If, later on, any important campaign was successfully waged, and is being successfully waged, for $25,000,000, by the United Jewish Drive, we, of the Ort. can claim credit for doing some of the pioneer work of arousing the public opinion of the Jews of America,” Dr. Moskowitz stated.
“The Ort Reconstruction Fund has waged a very successful campaign. When we started this campaign two years ago, the influential Jews of America were not interested. We were discouraged.
HOW THE WORK WAS STARTED
“The Ort Reconstruction Fund contributed $301,306.95 in actual cash, and there were pledges amounting to over $600,000 which had to be collected in the following year. After we succeeded in arousing public opinion, and after Mr. David Brown visited Eastern Europe, the Joint Distribution Committee organized the Philadelphia Conference which decided upon the United Jewish Campaign-we were in a very difficult position. When the Conference in Philadelphia decided to undertake this campaign, we of the Ort said we must now cooperate to the full with the United Jewish Campaign and help them make this drive a success. But we were embarrassed then with pledges that were due us. We went to the United Campaign authorities and said to them: ‘What shall we do? Here are the pledges. We don’t want to carry on a campaign now, we want to work with you. At the same time we need this money.” An arrangement was made between Mr. Felix Warburg and myself, not as an individual but as representing the Ort Reconstruction Fund, ad Mr. Warburg said that when the campaign was completed and they had received pledges for $15,000,000 they would give to the Ort because the Ort had given up its campaign, and because the Ort was a part of the larger campaign-the sum of $300,000 in lieu of the $500,000 or $600,000 of pledges. After the big New York Campaign, the executive committee of the United Jewish Campaign, upon the initiative of Mr. Warburg, allocated to the Ort the sum of $300,000. In the course of this campaign we secured the help of Chicago. Chicago gave us $50,000 in cash and $100,000 is still due us. So that, as a result of our campaign, we have collected for the Ort Reconstruction Fund the sum of $700,000.
$201,000 IN CASH REMITTED TO EUROPE
“We have remitted to Europe $201,000. The advances to American Ort were $18,033. Now, what have we done with the $300,000? Mr. Warburg agreed that I should go as a representative of the Reconstruction Fund, and negotiate the disposition of the $300,000, with Dr. Bernard Kahn in Berlin.
“I went to Europe this summer for two reasons: one to negotiate the disposition of this $300,000; second, to attend the International Conference. At a meeting with Dr. Bernard Kahn, at which Dr. Leon Bramson and Dr. Zigelnetski, representing the Central Verband, were present with myself, we reached the following arrangement:
“Of this sum, $175,000 will go to Russia. In 1925 I went to Russia, first, to investigation the conditions there, especially the colonization; second, to negotiate with Dr. Zigelnetski and with the Soviet Government, a treaty by which Ort will be officially recognized in Russia and do its work there.
NEGOTIATIONS IN RUSSIA
“When I came there I said to the representatives of the Soviet Government. ‘If you make a treaty with us which will recognize our work. I promise you (and I gave that merely as a personal promise-it was really a point of honor-I hadn’t any legal guarantees or securities to give them) I am very confident that if you will make this contract with the Russian Ort that 1 shall be able to get for the Russian Ort the sum of $75,000 each year for three years’. The representative of the Soviet Government accepted my terms without any guarantees, and we made a treaty with the Soviet Government by which the work of the Ort is now legalized in Russia.
“When I returned to America I remembered my obligation, and in talking with the representatives of the Joint Distribution Committee. I said to hem : ‘Genlemen, of the $300,000 which you are giving the Ort, $175,000 is sacred money that must go to Russia without any strings.’ Mr. Warburg gave me an official letter in which he authorized the sum of $175,000 which will go to Russia-and we have kept our pledge with the Soviet Government in Russia. We have made good our pledges and have strengthened the work of the Ort in Soviet Russia. Ort had already given $50,000.
“We made the following arrangement with Dr. Bernard Kahn: Of the remainder, $80,000 will go for the technical schools which the Ort carries on. This 80,000 represents a three-year contribution to be paid in monthly instalments by the representatives of the Joint Distribution Committee in Europe; $35,000 will go to the work in Bessarabia, to the agricultural work to which Judge Panken referred. I wish to say that the work which the Ort is doing in Bessarabia is one of the finest, one of the most constructive pieces of work that is being done today in Europe. Eight thousand dollars for operating expenses, within the committees, not operating expenses in Berlin, but within the committees themselves.
“The Joint Distribution Committee has cooperated with us to the full. As regards the expenditure of the Ort Reconstruction Fund, let me make one observation to you. Judge Panken referred to the fact that the Ort Reconstruction Fund was intended to gather or accumulate $1,000,000-$750,000 for credit work and $250,000 for schools. We agreed to give 25% for the schools and 75% for credit work, but the people in Berlin, the Ort representatives throughout Europe, came to the conclusion, and properly so, that more of this money should be given to the technical work of the schools. So Judge Panken and I agreed in Berlin that, of the money collected, 60% should go to credit work and 40% to the technical school work. This is a modification of the original proposition, because, at first, we intended to give 75% to the credit work and 25% for the work of the schools.
“In every community, the Ort people, the Ort committees represent the Labor Movement, the Zionist Movement, the Artisans, the Professionals-in other words, the Ort work is being done in every community by a cross-section of the Jewries of that community. The methods of the Ort are democratic methods. You have a combination in the Ort work of democracy and efficiency.
THE ORT’S POINT OF VIEW
“The Jewish social and economic life in Eastern Europe is sick in all its parts. It is a complex organization, and the Ort has taken the position that because Jewish life is complex, the Ort has taken a very balanced point of view. The Ort has not been one-sided in its diagnosis and in its solutions. The Ort stands for colonization-but the Ort knows that, after all, in a normal community, you need artisans; you need professionals. The Ort has never forgotten that, so that in addition to backing up the colonization work, it has not forgotten that the Jews must be productive artisans.
“Therefore the Ort has emphasized the importance of helping the artisan. Five hundred thousand of them are in Russia; one hundred thousand in Poland. The Ort’s program has also emphasized aid to the artisan, which is tremendously important.
THE ATTITUDE OF THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT TO THE JEWISH PROBLEM
“The Russian Government, at the present time, is interested in the Jewish problem because the Jewish problem is a distinct problem and they recognize that they must handle it-that if they do not handle it cut of pure self-interest, they would be subjected to criticism. Secondly, the Russian Government is studying this problem and is working upon it constructively. The Russian Government has contributed a very substantial sum of money. Please do not get the idea that all the colonization in Russia is being stimulated by the Joint Distribution Committee or by the Ort. The movement in Russia for colonization is a spontaneous movement which began before the J. D. C. or the Ort stepped in. Let us not forget that. To the Ort belongs this credit: The Ort was the first movement in the world to start constructive colonization work in Russia. The Odessa colonies in Russia consist of about 1,000 families. It was the Ort that first took up constructive assistance with the 1,000 families in the Odessa colonies.”
DR. MOSKOWITZ DESCRIBES WORK OF TOOL SUPPLY CO
In a special report on the subject of tools, Dr. Moskowitz explained the origin and purposes of the Cooperative Tool Supply Co.
“The Cooperative Tool Supply Company was organized in London in May, 1924. Its object is to improve the conditions of the Jewish artisans and land-workers by supplying them with machinery and raw material on credit. During the years 1920-1923 the same work was done by the Central Purchasing Bureau which Ort had organized. In 1920 when Ort renewed its activities in Poland, Roumania, Lithuania and Lettland, the Jewish artisans and land-workers were pauperized. Seventy percent. of the tailors had no tools at all. Almost all tinsmiths and locksmiths had neither tools nor raw materials.
“To give the Jewish artisans and agriculturists machines, tools and raw material meant to save from annihilation the most productive element of the Jewish population. In order to fullfil this object two things were necessary. One-funds; two-to organize the help work on as broad a basis as possible. This Ort did, and thousands of families in Lithuania, Poland, Roumania and Russia were saved. In Lithuania alone, Ort supplied during the years 1920 to 1922 one thousand machines and twenty-two thousand different tools. There is hardly any Jewish settlement in Lithuania where Jewish artisans and land-workers have not been supplied with tools by the Ort.
“It was decided that all activities of the Tool Supply Company should be carried on through contact with public and cooperative institutions, loan and saving societies, public banks, trade unions, etc. These different institutions are in contact with the buyers of the tools and machinery. They carry on the negotiations with the prospective buyers, investigate their ability to pay back the loans and undertake the guarantee for the given credits.
“The turnover of the Cooperative Tool Supply Company, in its short existence, amounts in one case to $53,770, purchasing 766 machines. We have already purchased over 500,000 pieces of cloth, 250 gross of buttons, 3,370 yards of linings for tailors, and 9,106 feet of leather.
“Now, what does this Company do? This Company serves as an information and educational bureau. Very often the artisan does not know the existence of a new tool, his attention must be drawn to it, information must be given to him. Correspondence must be carried on with almost every buyer. If it is taken for granted that only 10% of those who make inquiries ultimately give orders, it can be imagined how large the correspondence is and what hard work it amounts to. It is not because the Jew has not progressive intelligence, but because he has not the money. He is too poor to buy the most modern machines. Now, what would they do? They would correspond with this particular Company in various parts of Lithuania, for example in Riga, in Dvinsk, who made agreements with the Loan (Kassa) Societies. For example, in Kovno, we have recently established a deport- the Raumach Cooperative, and we send every order to this depot, and we fill it with machines, modern machines, with raw materials, and the artisans come there and look at those machines. They never realized there were such modern machines. They get in touch through us with the Tool Supply Company in Berlin, and the Tool Supply Company gets in touch with these modern, up-to-date manufacturers, and we are able to make a credit business proposition We got our machines from this Tool Supply Company on a long term credit. These people would order on a credit not so long, so that we were able by this credit operation to make use of a lot of money; that is, we had a small sum but the turnover was great.”