Wise Urges Ford to Start Commission for Scholarly Study of Anti-jewish Libels
Menu JTA Search

Wise Urges Ford to Start Commission for Scholarly Study of Anti-jewish Libels

Download PDF for this date

A suggestion to. Henry Ford that, as a result of the withdrawal of his anti-Semitic charges, he make it possible for a commission to conduct a scholarly study of the literature of anti-Jewish libels, so that these libels may never be resurrected, was made by Dr. Stephen S. Wise in a sermon delivered at the Free Synagogue. This sermon was the first public statement of the American Jewish Congress on Ford’s recantation.

“Would it not add something of reparation to his retraction,” Dr. Wise declared in his sermon, “if he were to make it possible for a commission to make a scholarly study, if necessary over a term of years, of such anti-Jewish material as the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ which could be adequately documented and nevermore resurrected. A fully documented study of the rise and development of anti-Semitism is owing from Christendom to the Jew. Why should it be left to a Dr. Bloch to answer Professor Rohling in Vienna, or an Edward Lasker to answer Treitschke in Berlin? To make this possible is an opportunity of reparation, the use whereof would indeed be Henry Ford’s distinction.

“Speaking years ago of ‘Henry Ford’s Challenge and a Jew’s Reply,’ this pulpit said, even as it says today: ‘God pity and forgive Henry Ford; God . . . keep America true to the American hope of good-will and brotherhood among men’.

“What shall be the attitude of Jews with respect to their defamers and oppressors, and, in the case of Henry Ford, publication was and is an act of defamation as it is ofttimes of the direst forms of oppression. I have an abhorrence of these Jewish politicians, in and out of the pulpit, who are forever, making capital, chiefly for themselves, out of every petty and obscure anti-Jewish incident, whether it be the stupid jest of a fire-commissioner or the chance gesture of the exclusion of some Jew from a school or club or hotel. On the other hand, I have still a deeper abhorrence of those of my fellow-Jews, whose attitude to all insult and hurt to the Jew is sheer nihilism, not the quietism of high forbearance but the acquiescence of base indifference,” Dr. Wise said.

“From the beginning, I believed and declared that Mr. Ford was not only sadly misguided but wantonly misled. Some of my fellow-Jews chose to be silent on various grounds, adequate to themselves, such as: ‘Why advertise him?’ ‘One only spreads his libels.’ ‘The best thing is to ignore him’. In the meantime, the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ were going round the world, and anti-Semitism getting moral comfort, and probably material help from Mr. Ford and the propaganda machinery associated with his name.

“Then one brave soul arose, and he put Henry Ford to the test. I do not go so far as to say that Aaron Sapiro put penitence into the heart of Henry Ford, but I will say that penitence and the retraction followed providentially close upon the time when Sapiro insisted upon getting Mr. Ford to prove his charges to be true or else pay the penalty of their libelous circulation. Well, Mr. Ford has withdrawn fully and it were unworthy to seek to ferret out motives. Whatever the circuitousness of the motivation, Aaron Sapiro’s downright action had no small part in bringing something quite new into the age-old story of hurt done to the Jew; namely a complete and unreserved withdrawal of all charges, plus a sincere and ungrudging expression of repentance, Mr. Ford being one of the few foes and libellers of Israel, who has retracted.'”

Commenting on this suggestion, “The Day.” New York Yiddish daily, criticises Dr. Wise.

“The recantation of Henry Ford is not sufficient for Dr. Wise He insists that an impartial committee investigate the new facts through which Henry Ford came to his recantation. In other words, Mr. Ford’s recantation and his own denial of his libels against Jews are not sufficient: A commission has to institute an inquiry and issue a certificate to the Jews that they do not want to dominate the world, that they do not rule over the Christians, that they do not bleed the American farmers.

“If somebody were to attack Rabbi Wise, charging him will thievery, ## are also demand a committee to institute an inquiry and issue a ‘certificate’ that he is innocent of these charges? Rabbi Wise would certainly not have committed such folly.

“The trouble with Dr. Wise is, with a considerable number of American Jewish leaders, that they still suffer from an inferiority complex in relation to the Christian world. Those Jews, however, who do not bow down when they come in contact with the non-Jewish world, are too proud to start a dispute with Henry Ford or with any other anti-Semite concerning the veracity of his libels. The Jews do not feel themselves accused and they have no reason to excuse themselves or to prove their innocence. Henry Ford has publicly recanted his anti-Semitic charges. He publicly stated that his anti-Jewish libels have no basis in fact. Jews have nothing more to do with this. By this act he has not become their brother, nor do they now consider him their enemy.

“If it is true that Ford’s anti-Semitic books are still in circulation in Germany, it must be brought to his attention for this would throw a shadow on his sincerity more than it might harm the Jews. Outside of this, the Jewish account with Ford is closed,” the paper declares.

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