Berlin (Sep. 2)
No general lines are to be laid down on the question of co-operation between the Agudath Israel and the Jewish Agency, but whenever there is any development requiring concerted action it should be considered jointly with the Rabbinical Council of the Agudath Israel World Organisation and a decision taken accordingly, the plenary meeting of the Agudah Israel World Executive now meeting in Frankfort has decided. The decision is regarded as in the nature of a compromise between the two sections in the Agudah, who respectively favour and reject collaboration with the Jewish Agency. In this connection, the meeting adopted also a resolution expressing regret at Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung’s resignation from the Agudath Israel Central Council, because he is strongly in favour of participation in the Jewish Agency, of whose Council he is an active member.
Fresh steps are to be taken, it has also been decided, to secure equal public and legal recognition for the orthodox Jewish Communities in Palestine with the organised Palestine Jewish Community, the Kenesseth Israel.
All organs of the Agudath Israel movement are called upon to combat the project to call a Jewish World Congress, which is declared to be a danger to Jewry.
The Executive has decided to convoke the next World Congress of the Agudist Fund, the Keren Hatorah, for the present winter.
AGUDAH AND JEWISH AGENCY
The question of including the Agudath Israel in the Jewish Agency has been under consideration for many years past. As long ago as 1922, several of the leaders of the Agudah suggested the possibility of co-operation between the two bodies, and in 1925 a formal conference was held in London between representatives of the Zionist Organisation and the Agudath Israel, the Zionist delegation being headed by Dr. Weizmann. The question of the Palestine Communities Ordinance (which concerns the recognition of the Separatist Orthodox Communities) was discussed, and it was decided to appoint a Commission to find ways and means of reaching a satisfactory solution. A discussion also took place with regard to the character and competence of the Jewish Agency and the principles which are binding for the Agudah in the event of its participation in the Agency.
Last January a meeting of the Joint Commission set up by the Jewish Agency and the Agudath Israel was held in Berlin to enquire into the possibility of co-operation between the two bodies, and an agreement was reached that pending further discussions the Agudath Israel would not engage in any outside political interventions, the Jewish Agency for its part assisting the Agudath Israel in this respect by keeping it informed on all political developments as far as is possible on discretionary grounds.
The Agudath Israel, it was stated, will be content if the decision of the 12th. Zionist Congress, to respect the Jewish religious law in the public life of Palestine, will be adopted into the Constitution of the Jewish Agency with a guarantee that it will be observed. As to the demand of the Agudath Israel that the cultural work in Palestine should be taken out of the scope of the work of the Jewish Agency, it was pointed out that this could be done more easily if effect is given to the plan which has been put forward for other reasons, to transfer the direction of the Palestine schools to the organised Jewish Community of Palestine. On the question of economic co-operation, it was added in the statement, much less difficulty, was encountered.
Negotiations have also been in progress between the Mizrachist movement in the Zicnist Organisation and the Agudath Israel with a view to bringing about the participation of the Agudah in the Jewish Agency, where it would greatly strengthen the orthodox representation at present in the hands of the Mizrachi.
The last World Congress of the Agudath Israel held in Vienna in September 1929, shortly after the Palestine outbreak, adopted a resolution on the question of the Jewish Agency, in which it said: in view of the devastating events in Palestine, the Agudah. Israel World Congress appeals to its brethren in the Jewish Agency to take into consideration the irreducable demands dictated by the conscience of the orthodox Jewish masses in regard to participation in the economic and political tasks of the Jewish Agency, the most important of these demands being that the competence of the Jewish Agency should be limited to economic and political activities, because the Jewish Agency should be a neutral body in such matters, and to safeguard the principle of carrying out the Jewish traditional laws. So long as this is not done and organised Jewish orthodoxy is excluded from the Jewish Agency, the Jewish Agency cannot be regarded as the representation in Eretz Israel of the Jewish orthodox masses who are interested in the Holy Land.
WE HAVE GIVEN PROOF IN PRACTICAL POLICY PURSUED IN PALESTINE IN COMMON WITH ZIONIST AUTHORITIES THAT WE ARE NOT INCLINED TO INCREASE DIFFICULTIES OF PALESTINE AND BRITISH GOVERNMENTS BY SEPARATIST TENDENCIES WITHIN PALESTINE COMMUNITY
In a memorandum submitted last December to the British Government, the Agudath Israel declared that it can co-operate in fraternal unity with the Zionist Organisation so long as it is a question of representing the common interests of the Jewish people in regard to immigration and colonisation in Palestine, and the safeguarding of life and property in the Holy Land to its full extent. The Agudah is compelled, however, it proceeded, to reject the idea of concerted action and is forced to act independently as soon as religious or cultural questions are involved. As the sphere of activity of the Jewish Agency, it said, includes,
On the question of the separatist orthodox Jewish Communities in Palestine, the memorandum went on to say that the Communities Law in Palestine had resulted in the establishment of a Jewish Community, the Kenesseth Israel, which is publicly and legally recognised, “but the Constitution of which, in our view, does not correspond to the basic principles of Jewish religious life. The Constitution lacks the fundamental recognition of the authority of Jewish religious law in all the acts of the administration, and for this reason about 20,000 Palestine Jews have exercised their right to withdraw and have formed separate congregations, which, while they can freely develop their inner life, lack, however, public and legal recognition and the right of taxation. We consider it an injustice that these very communities which hold fast to Jewish tradition and the Jewish spirit are disregarded by the State to the detriment of their rights. We consider the removal of this injustice an urgent necessity for successful inter-Jewish relations in Palestine, so that these congregations will be given equal public and legal recognition with the Kenesseth Israel, and in like manner the Rabbinates of these congregations, in addition to the Chief Rabbinate. We may mention that even in leading circles of the Kenesseth Israel there is an understanding for our claims and a peaceful arrangement is not impossible if the Government is agreeable to an alteration of the laws”.
AGAINST NATIONAL MINORITY DEMANDS: RELIGION CONSTITUTING FACTOR OF JEWISH PEOPLE
When the first Conference on Jewish Rights was held in Zurich in 1927, the Agudath Israel refused to participate on the ground that it does not recognise the Jews as a national but as a religious minority, and when the second Conference on Jewish minority rights, which was held in Basle this August, decided to arrange for the convocation of a Jewish World Congress, the Agudist papers immediately condemned the project. The attitude of the Agudah on this question has been expressed by the President of the Agudah World Organisation, Dr. Pinchas Kohn, as follows: The minorities question in the new States opens up a new problem for the Jews who have not been out of their ghettoes for more than half a century, but in a sense it is not altogether new, for right up to the middle of the Middle Ages the Jews were recognised as possessing religious distinctiveness, and the religious requirements of the Jews were taken into account by the various States. The Balfour Declaration gave the Jews the legal right of presenting to the world a demand for minority rights. The Zionist Organisation, in taking up this activity tried in this way to draw a complete parallel between the Jewish minority and the other minorities, that is to say, to put forward demands of a purely