A national Federation of American Jews of Lithuanian decent, whose purpose it will be “to cooperate with the Jews of Lithuania economically, politically and culturally,” was formed Sunday at an all day conference called for that purpose which followed a mass meeting Saturday evening at Mecca Temple. Two hundred and fifty delegates from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania attended the sessions, adopted a constitution and elected officers. Henry Hurwitz, editor of the “Menorah Journal” and chairman of the convention, was named president.
The first step of this new organization will be the appointment of a Special Fact Finding Commission, charged with investigating the situation of Lithuanian Jewry, politically, culturally and economically. On the basis of this report the newly formed Federation will undertake constructive work, seek the aid of other interested bodies and make recommendations.
The resolution was unanimously adopted after a stormy session. The suggestion that the resolution refrain from making mention of the political situation called forth a heated discussion in which Rabbi Simon Glazer, Mr. Bernard G. Richards and Ephraim Kaplan participated. The chairman, Mr. Hurwitz, was criticized by Mr. Richards and Mr. Kaplan for inviting Hon. B.K. Balutis, Lithuanian Minister to the United States, to attend the opening session Saturday evening. The opinion was expressed that the dissatisfaction of American Jews with Lithuania’s treatment of her Jewish minority should be expressed frankly and that the inviting of the Lithuanian ambassador to launch the movement of protest was in poor taste.
The Hon. B.K. Balutis was one of the principal speakers at the mass meeting Saturday evening which opened the conference. He brought the greetings of his government, declaring:
“I have communicated with my government informing them of this meeting. In reply I received a cable from Prime Minister Valdemaras requesting me to congratulate you. I am directed also to thank you for the assistance rendered by the Jews in regaining the independence and re-establishment of Lithuania, and to wish you success in this new praiseworthy effort of yours.”
Speaking for himself, he said: “I hope that this Federation will become a good connecting link between the Jews of Lithuanian descent in America and the American Jews in general on one hand and your kinsmen and the Lithuanian people in general on the other hand.” He also conveyed the greetings of the Lithuanian National Committee on Receptions.
Other speakers at the Saturday night session were Saul Tchernichowski, noted poet now on a visit to America, and Dr. Zemach Feldstein, representative of the Tarbuth, now in this country.
That the situation of Lithuanian Jewry is daily growing more critical was the report brought to the conference by Dr. Feldstein. Coupled with his description of Lithuanian Jewry’s need was a plea to the Joint Distribution Committee not to give up its aid.
“The present situation of Lithuanian Jewry is a continuation of the tragedy of 1915 form which they have never recovered. All Lithuanian Jewry is desolate, and in rags. Their economic resources have long ago been eaten up and were it not for their friends and relatives abroad, especially in America, whole towns would starve to death,” he said.
“Emigration has doubled and redoubled. Since America restricts immigration they go mostly to South American and South Africa. With little funds, some even wandering away on foot, they leave the country so great is the economic pressure. And since it is the young men who can easily travel, the young women are left, fifteen to one, with neither hope for emigration nor anyone to marry,” Dr. Feldstein declared.
Despite the poverty of Lithuanian Jewry, it maintains a high culture, declared Mr. Tschernichowski in a brief address in Hebrew. “Ninety-five percent of our children are taught in Hebrew and Yiddish schools, despite lack of buildings, funds, and text books,” he pointed out.
The following officers were elected; Honorary President, Judge William M. Lewis, Edward M. Chase; President, Henry Hurwitz; Vice-Presidents, Bernard G. Richards, Congressman Meyer Jacobstein, Israel Matz, William Loewenstein, A. Isserman, Herman L. Winer, Dr. H. J. Epstein; H. H. Kabot, Treasurer and Dr. M. Katz, Secretary. The following were named to the Executive committee; L. Rokeach.Dr. K. Vernberg, Rabbi J. Predonisky Rabbi Simon Glazer, Louis Solow, Dr. A. S. Sachs, Ephraim Kaplan, Henry Lasker, Meyer Keilson, Elihu D. Stone, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Rubin Finkelstein, Sam Miller, Henry Siminhoff, Miss Gertrude O. Oppenheim, Dr. B. Hoffman, Israel H. Marcus. J. I. Friedman, E. E. Fife Leon Shapiro, William I. Seigel, H. Lang, Dr. Mordercai M. Kaplan, Herbert Solow.
Felix M. Warburg will be Chairman of the dinner for the benefit of the Hastings Hillside Hospital to be held Sunday, Nov. 25, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The speakers will be Justice Joseph M. Proskauer. Dr. Bernard Sachs, neurologist at Mount Sinai, Montefiore and Manhattan State Hospitals; Dr. Foster Kennedy, neurologist at Bellevue, and Dr. Isrel Strauss, President of Hastings Hillside Hospital.