London (May. 10)
(By Our London Correspondent)
Claude G. Montefiore, outstanding leader of the group of Liberal Jews in England and outhor of the “Synoptic Gospels,” expressed his views on the present phase of the Jewish question and Zionism at the annual meeting of the League of British Jews following which the organization decided to continue its work.
Admitting that the league had little to do at present, Mr. Montefiore said it was desirable to have a large body to whom one could appeal if occasion arose. There were those who thought that the occasion never could or would arise, and that while there had been a real need for the league some years ago, that need had now passed. He did not share that view. The opinions and the aims which the league was founded to combat had not been abandoned. They were honestly and sincerely held, just as they themselves were honestly and sincerely opposing them. If they would take something more than a merely insular view of the whole matter, it was wonderful that these aims and opinions should still be pursued and maintained. There were several causes which tended to keep these aims and opinions fresh and strong. First, there was the intense nationalism of those Eastern states in which so large a number of their brethren in faith reside. This spirit of nationalism was contagious, and provoked a similar spirit of exaggerated nationalism among racial and national minorities within those states. Then there was the religious decay, or the decline in religious faith, among a large minority of Jews. Their idealism, which could not express itself in religion, sought a vent and outlet in Nationalism. Next. they had the constant friction and disturbance produced by anti-Semitism. The circle was a vicious one. Anti-Semitism caused a Jewish reaction, and the reaction was too often expressed in that Jewish nationalism to which they were so strongly opposed.
He was well aware, Mr. Montefiore continued, that the form of Zionism which the British Government appeared to favor was one which was a comparatively safe and tame variety. The National Home was said to mean a home where Jews might, in safety, help, with the Arabs, to build up a new Palestinian nationality and state. It was conceivable that this might be done while throughout the rest of the world all the Jews adopted, cherished and promulgated the views and ideals of their League. That would be possible. But it would not be easy. It would not be easy for Jews in Eastern Europe, or even, as it would seem, for the Jews of Germany to help in and be intensely eager about, building a national home which was so divorced from all the wider feelings and aims and aspirations and opinions of Jewish nationalism. The via media of the refined Zionism he had indicated was exceedingly narrow and slippery. As a matter of fact it could not be doubted that Zionism and Jewish nationalism outside Palestine acted and reacted upon one another. Each strengthened each.
In those circumstances, their duty was to sit tight and to hold the fort with unabated watchfulness. Their influence was not so small as some of their antagonists affected to believe. And like in a depot, their strength could soon be increased, and put upon a war footing if necessary. They held to two great principles: that the Jews should be linked together by religion, and not by anything which might be likened to nationality, and that in the modern state, their moderate and distinctive religion need be no bar to the fullest participation in the social, cultural and political life of the nations whose fellow citizens they claimed to be. A Jew who was not a Jew by religion was for them a monstrosity, an impossibility. For them such a person could not logically exist, whatever his ancestry. And they held that in the application of their two principles lay the true and final solution of the so-called Jewish problem in every country of the world. And till those two principles were not questioned and attacked both by Jew and Gentile, both by friend and foe, so long, in his opinion, must the League, as their official exponent and guardian in England, be jealously and effectively maintained.