Jerusalem (Aug. 11)
(By our Jerusalem correspondent)
A very unhappy state of affairs has come about in regard to the position of Chief Rabbi Jacob Meir, one of the two members of the Chief Rabbinate in Palestine. In the very midst of the organization of the Kenesseth Israel, the recently legalized organized Federation of Jewish Communities in Palestine, Rabbi Jacob Meir, the leader of the Sephardim, has dealt it a severe blow, the effects of which may be very serious indeed. It happened just before the retiring High Commissioner, Lord Plumer, left Palestine. A representative deputation of the Jewish population went to bid him farewell, to thank him for his impartial administration of the country and to wish, him a happy voyge. Colonel Kisch spoke first, stating that the representatives of the chief institutions of the Kenesseth Israel had assembled to bid Lord Plumer farewell. There were present Colonel Kisch, representing the Zionist Executive. Mr. David Yellin and Dr. Thon, the Presidium of the Vaad Leumi, and Chief Rabbis Kook and Jacob Meir. As soon as Chief Rabbi Jacob Meir heard Colonel Kisch use the words Kenesseth Israel, he jumped up and interrupted him, saying that he was present not on behalf of the Kenesseth Israel, but only on behalf of the Sephardim who do not belong to the Kenesseth Israel.
Dr. David Yellin then spoke, thanking the High Commissioner that it was under his administration that the Jewish autonomous organization, the Kenesseth Israel, had been legalized. Chief Rabbi Jacob Meir again jumped up and angrily cried out that he did not represent the Kenesseth Israel, and so that there should be no mistake about it, he repeated to Lord Plumer in French: “I have not come here in the name of Kenesseth Israel, because the Sephardic Community is not, and never will be, a part of the Kenesseth Israel, whose statutes are in contradiction to the Jewish faith.”
This action of the Chief Rabbi of the Sephardim at a moment when it seemed that the most important point was to stress the unity of the Jews of Palestine to the retiring High Commissioner, came as a bombshell to Palestine Jewry. Lord Plumer himself felt very embarrassed.
Chief Rabbi Jacob Meir afterwards said that he had taken this stand, because he had been fooled. He had been given to understand that no political questions would be touched on, that the delegation was going to Lord Plumer only to bid him farewell, and that the speeches would be very formal. They should have had it in mind, he said, that I am opposed to the Kenesseth Israel and they should not have mentioned it. When they did mention it, there was nothing for me to do but to make it clear that I did not represent the Kenesseth Israel. When they started polities and spoke of the Kenesseth Israel, my conscience demanded that I should disavow them.
The Vaad Leumi has sent a letter to Chief Rabbi Jacob Meir asking him to put himself right in this matter. Chief Rabbi Meir has not replied to the letter. At the same time a communication has appeared in the press, a letter which Chief Rabbi Meir sent to Lord Plumer, in which he protested in the name of the Sephardim of Jerusalem and of the Agudath Israel and an important section of the Ashkenazim in Jerusalem, against the constitution of the Kenesseth Israel, saying that part of its statutes are opposed to the Jewish faith. This has caused still greater indignation in Vaad Leumi circles. It is believed that Chief Rabbi Meir, who came back only recently from abroad, went over during his absence from the country to the camp of the Agudath Israel. Previously he had always been a moderate, and was always been a moderate, and was always regareded as a man working for peace and unity in the Jewish community of Palestine. Moreover, at the first Jewish National Assembly (Assephat Hanivcharim), he was Hon. President, althought there were women taking part in the assembly. And now he finds that giving the vote to women is opposed to the Jewish faith. The Vaad Leumi has issued an official statement declaring that Chief Rabbi Jacob Meir is no longer regarded as president of the Rabbinate, because the Rabbinate is officially part of the Kenesseth Israel and is its organ, and that if he does not recognize the Kenesseth Israel, he has no right to speak and act in the name of the Rabbinate. This is nothing else than a very broad hint to the Chief Rabbi to resign from his high office. He will hardly be silent in the face of such a challenge.
His followers will probably start a campaign in his favor, and there will be more trouble, and “Machloikos” and, of course, it will damage the organization of Jewish autonomy in Palestine. The majority of the Sephardim appear to be very angry with Chief Rabbi Meir for his action. But at the same time Chief Rabbi Meir is a man of more than seventy-two years of age. He has in his long life rendered great services to the cause of Sephardic Jewry and of Eastern Jewry generally in Palestine. Turkey, North Africa’ and Salonica. He is a very popular and beloved man and any attempt to offer him indignity would be resented by the entire Sephardic world.
Rabbi H. Eliot Snyder was installed as Rabbi of Brith Shelem Congregation of Springfield, Illinois, by Dr. P. D. Bookstaber, Rabbi of Ohev Sholom Temple, Harrisburg, Penrsyvania.