While Mayor Walker’s committee, and scores of prominent New York Jews stood on the windy deck of the Macom singing Hatikvah, the Jewish national song of hope, Menachem Ussishkin, called “the grand old man of Zionism,” stepped from the Bremen, and clambered down the side of a buoy, to be received literally in the arms of the welcome committee.
Rabbis, Zionist officials, and municipal officials were waving American and Jewish flags. They cried “Live ! Ussishkin !” and the burly, 67 year old leader was taken into the cabin of the official reception boat.
Inside, men and women were singing Am Yisroael Chai ! (The Nation Israel Lives.) Photographers called to Ussishkin to “greet America with a smile !”
“Let America greet me with a smile !” he responded.
Hon. Samuel Levy, member of the New York Board of Education, answered with the official smile, as head of the reception committee appointed by Mayor Walker. He made a short speech of welcome. Ussishkin responded in Hebrew, which was translated for the committee.
“This is not the first time I have had the honor of being on this boat,” he said. “Ten years ago I came with a committee to America. I am glad that in America our welcome has not worn off.” Mr. Ussishkin referred to his presence here in 1921 as a member of a Zionist delegation which included Prof. Albert Einstein, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, and Dr. Shmyra Levin.
Menachem Ussishkin is president of the World Jewish National Fund, which is the organization of the Jewish nation, within the Zionist movement, for the purchase and holding of land in Palestine. The Jewish National Fund owns at present more than 300,000 dunams of land; it has done much draining and afforestation work. The land is given for use to settlers, but belongs in perpetual trust to the Jewish nation.
TO CONSULT WITH ZIONIST LEADERS
During his stay of several months here Mr. Ussishkin will consult with Zionist leaders and address many meetings to strengthen the work of the Jewish National Fund.
He is sturdy, and does not show his advanced years. A close-clipped beard emphasizes the round contour of his face. His eyes are blue, and remain wide-open and quiet while he speaks.
His first concern was for news of Palestine. “I have been away two weeks,” he said. “Has anything important happened?”
He was given the latest details, and then he was questioned in turn. “Of course there is absolute refusal among the Jews of Palestine to accept the White Paper,” he said. “There will be no change from that stand.
PALESTINE JEWS DETERMINED
“But the political situation has not affected the determination of the settlers to build a Jewish National Home in Palestine. If their determination can be affected by transitory political events, it can be affected only in the way of strengthening. They are working in an eternal tradition; politics pass.”
He was greeted by Emanuel Neumann, president of the Jewish National Fund of America; Montrose Strassburger, assistant corporation counsel, and Bernard A. Rosenblatt, chairman of the New York Zionist Region. The “grand old man” admitted that his passage had not been of the best. “But I am feeling better,” he said.
Menachem Ussishkin then issued statement concerning his coming here.
ASKS SUPPORT OF U. S. JEWS
“At the most important moment in the history of our nation I come to my brethren, to the American Jewry,” he said. “We stand at the crossroads. We are confronted with the sign “to be or not to be.’ After two thousand years of hope for the return to the land of our fathers and the renewal of lives as we lived them in the olden days, the League of Nations at last, with all solemnity, opened a way for us to back to the land that was taken from us, and to give rest and peace to the hundreds, thousands, and millions of Jews who, while doing no wrong, were persecuted in the many countries of Europe and Asia. The League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the carrying out of this task. Now it is 13 years since this promise was made, and again the waves of unjustifiable and unjustified hatred rise against us. Attempts are now being made to nullify this pledge and to break this promise. With unparalleled hypocrisy they pretend to justify the breach of this promise and the turning of the Balfour Declaration into a scrap of paper by raising a false cry of condemnation in the alleged defense of the ‘unfortunate Arab fellah.’
“As one of those who stood in the ranks of the Zionists from the first day of the inception of the modern Zionist movement, I find it my duty at this moment to come to my brethren in America to call on them in the name of the chalutzim of Palestine, in the name of the 180,000 Jews of Palestine, to save the honor of our people, which is threatened by our enemies.
“You, the Jews of the United States, you who are numerically the strongest part of our people, you with your great political influence and financial strength, have it within your power to become the deciding factor of our future. You must stand in defense against the enemies about us, and prevent their intrigues from destroying all our work.
“I am confident you will make every effort to continue and to increase the constructive work in Palestine, even under these most trying conditions. ‘Keep off destruction. Keep on construction.’ That is my call to you. I am confident it will find an echo from among you.”
It was 10:30 at night when Mr. Ussishkin landed. An escort of limousines took him to the Commodore Hotel.