Berlin Jewish Community Withdraws Its Annual Contribution to Hebrew University: Hard Times Compellin

The Representative Assembly of the Berlin Jewish Community adopted today on a roll-call by 20 votes against 12, with 2 abstentions, a resolution moved by Dr. Bruno Woyda, the Editor of the “Libera E-Juedische Zeitung”, the organ of the Federation of Liberal Jews in Germany, not to continue paying to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem the Community’s annual contribution of 12,000 Marks for the maintenance of the Chair in Botany held there by Professor Otto Warburg, the famous German botanist, and a former President of the Zionist World Organisation.

Dr. Woyda and Herr Heinrich Stern, the President of the Assembly and President of the Federation of Liberal Jews in Germany, who spoke in support of the motion, pointed out that the Berlin Jewish Community is itself in desperate financial straits at present, being compelled in consequence to make a 50% cut in its own expenditure, dismissing many of its officials, and reducing its own welfare work among the Jews of Berlin, so that it would be unjust to send money abroad for the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The last Zionist Congress in Basel had also adopted a resolution emphasising the national spirit of the Hebrew University, they added, so that it was made impossible for non-Zionists to collaborate in the work of the University.

(The “national spirit” reference occurs in the resolution adopted by the Congress in which it” disapproves of the renunciation of the national idea which has been expressed by the leaders of the Hebrew University, and instructs the Executive to watch over the national spirit in the leadership of the University”. It was this resolution against which the Labour Party at the Congress protested, Mr. Katzenelson, the editor of the Palestine Labour daily, “Davar”, describing it as a violation of the principle of liberty of thought and culture, and Dr. Arlosoroff, the new head of the Palestine Zionist Executive, in the name of the Labour Party, declared after the vote had been taken, that his Party repudiated the decision as an attack on the right of the Professors to retain their liberty of thought. The resolution was carried by 87 votes agaist 74).

Dr. Alfred Klee, Vice-President of the Assembly and leader of the Zionist Party in the Berlin Jewish Community, spoke against the resolution, stressing the importance of the Palestine upbuilding work to all Jewry and the scientific achievements of the Hebrew University.

The question of the Berlin Jewish Community’s contribution for the establishment of a Chair at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, caused considerable controversy between the Liberal and the Zionist Parties in the Community at the time the decision now revoked, was adopted in January 1929.

The negotiations had lasted for some time, and the Liberal Party pointed out when it was adopted, that it had been done for the purpose of creating a modus vivendi in the Berlin Jewish Community. We have agreed to the establishment of such a Chair at the University in Jerusalem, Professor Tuerk explained, on the express condition that in return, the Zionist Party will not make any demand for a subsidy by the Community to the Keren Hayesod. Furthermore, he added, this is not the first time that the Liberal Party has shown interest in the Hebrew University, by contributing to the advancement of its library.

There was a suggestion made at the time that the example of the Berlin Jewish Community might be followed by other big Jewish Communities in England, America, France, Italy, and elsewhere, establishing chairs at the Hebrew University in their respective languages and literatures.

When the Hebrew University was opened in 1925, the Berlin Jewish Community, which at that time had a Liberal Majority, as it has again now, after a short period in which the Zionists were in control, was the only Jewish Community in Central Europe which decided not to send greetings to the University on the occasion of its opening, a resolution to send such a message being defeated at the Board of the Berlin Jewish Community by three votes against two, Before the actual opening took place, however, a week after the passing of the resolution, the Board of the Berlin Jewish Community reversed this decision, and in addition to sending a congratulatory message, decided to contribute a sum of 10,000 gold Marks for the Judaica Department of the University Library.

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