Controversy over Zurich Conference Engages French Leaders
Menu JTA Search

Controversy over Zurich Conference Engages French Leaders

Download PDF for this date

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

A reply to the ob-objections voiced by Chief Rabbi Israel Levi to the Conference on Jewish Rights, convoked by the Committee of Jewish Delegations and the American Jewish Congress, to be held in Zurich during August, was made by Leo Motzkin, president of the Committee of Jewish Delegations, in an interview with the representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency here.

Mr. Motzkin expressed his surprise that Chief Rabbi Levi should have seen fit to make public his views on the question, before the official program of the Conference was issued.

“The Conference.” Mr. Motzkin states, “is being convoked in accordance with the decision made last year by a meeting of representatives of the Committee of Jewish Delegations and the American Jewish Congress, including among others. Dr. Stephen S. Wise, Chief Rabbi Chajes, Senator Ringel, Deputy Gruenbaum, Deputy Thon and Senator Rubinstein. The Conference should properly be regarded as a further expression of the ideas embodied in the memorandum submitted in 1919 to the Peace Conference by the Committee of Jewish Delegations, signed, as is known, by Mr. Louis Marshall, Judge Julian Mack, Mr. Nahum Sokolow, and others. The Conference preposes to re-organize, on a proper basis, the work of defending the rights granted to the Jewish minorities in a series of treaties.

“The present situation, with a number of Jewish organizations, some old-established and some of recent creation, and some showing little sense of their responsibilities, undertaking independent and sometimes conflicting action in international affairs, has made the projected Conference a matter of absolute necessity. The existing state of things is a real danger,” Mr. Motzkin stated.

“In order that the Conference should be composed of duly qualified delegates, invitations will be sent to those Senators and Deputies in various countries who have been elected on a Jewish platform and to such others, who, although not elected as Jews, have identified themselves seriously with the Jewish problem. Invitations will also be sent to all inter-territorial and national organizations which are engaged in the defence of Jewish rights or have undertaken any political action in this direction, such as the Alliance Israelite, the Joint Foreign Committee, the Agudath Israel, the various Zionist World Organizations such as the Mizrachi, Poale Zion, etc., the Jewish Socialist Party Bund, and the various Jewish League of Nations Societies.

“The Conference will therefore represent many points of view. It will be faced with the task of working out a method of co-ordinating and unifying Jewish action in international affairs, so far as it is directed towards combating persecution and protecting the rights of the Jewish minorities.

“Anyone who has followed the recent activities of the non-Jewish minorities as manifested in their international organizations will agree that the Jews, as a result of their own weakness are being relegated to the background.

“As for the objection that the Conference may present to the world a spectacle of the divisions existing in Jewry,” he continued. “I cannot deny that and only regret that it should be so. But it is a mistake to think that nothing is known of these divisions in those circles which are in charge of international affairs. They have been known and have manifested themselves on various occasions over a period of many years. Indeed. I hope that when these divisions and antagonisms are brought into the open, it will be possible to bring about a modus vivendi. And even if the Conference fails to set up a united front in the fight for Jewish rights, we hope that it will at least succeed in creating, side by side with the existing organizations, an effective organ for co-ordinating the work, the absence of which results in conflicting action being undertaken, giving at times an impression of chaos.

“As for national rights for minorities. I agree that minority rights can not be forced on any section of Jewry. But where the Jews are already engaged in the fight for the defence of these rights, they must of necessity put their case to the international bodies, before which they would find themselves helpless, if they were left alone and isolated, as Chief Rabbi Levi proposes.

“I also want to emphasize that the Conference is not being convened for the defence of any particular kind of Jewish minority rights, but in order to obtain a clear view of the totality of these rights, personal and civil rights as well as those other rights which throughout Central and Eastern Europe are termed national rights, as for example, the rights of determining communal organization, the language in the schools, Sabbath observance, etc.

“As for the fear that the Conference may have an unfavorable effect on the relations between Zionists and non-Zionists in the matter of the Jewish Agency I should like to say that if the creation of a Jewish national home must, according to the Balfour Declaration, in no way prejudice the rights and status of the Jews in any other country, it is surely to be expected that the creation of a Jewish Agency will provide the same guarantee to its constituents with regard to their liberty of action in Jewish questions. One would have thought, though, that the leaders of the Jewish official world would have waited to read the announcements of the organizations which are convening the Conference before they express their opinions regarding it.” Mr. Motzkin concluded.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund