Baron De Hirsch Centenary Tribute by Ica President Sir Leonard Cohen at London Meeting of Ica Counci

We are celebrating to-day at the same time the fortieth anniversary of our Society and the centenary of Baron de Hirsch, who was born on the 9th. December, 1831, Sir Leonard L. Cohen, the President of the Jewish Colonisation Association (Ica), began his presidential address, in opening here to-day the meeting of the Council of the Ica. Telegrams of greeting for this occasion have been received from all parts of the world, and were read out to the meeting.

In paying tribute to that great man, Sir Leonard went on, I wish first of all in a few words to recall to your memory the important part that our illustrious founder played in the history of Judaism and in its philanthropic development. He was passionately devoted to Judaism. The many travels he undertook throughout his life in Central and Eastern Europe and the time he spent amongst its inhabitants added if possible to the affection he bore to his unfortunate co-religionists. He gave generously to existing charities. Very soon he realised the necessity that efforts in charitable directions should be co-ordinated. Simultaneous action was necessary everywhere, for misery confronted the Jews all over the world, in Galicia, Russia, also in the United States of America, in Canada and in Palestine, From 1887, the year his son died, he devoted himself to constructive work. He founded the “Stiftung” in Vienna, which saved so many children from ignorance, the Baron de Hirsch Fund in New York, with which we have collaborated so long. Finally he achieved the creation in Russia itself of a vast enterprise of education and rehabilitation. He did not allow himself to be rebuffed by difficulties and finally he founded in 1891 the Jewish Colonisation Association.

ICA HAS EXISTED MORE THAN A GENERATION: HAS SURVIVED MISFORTUNES OF WAR AND UPHEAVALS OF EUROPE: A FEW GLORIOUS MEMORIES-WORK IN ARGENTINE BRAZIL PALESTINE RUSSIA AND CANADA: WE HAVE ASSISTED SETTLEMENT OF GREAT AND PROSPEROUS JEWISH COMMUNITIES AND ORGANISED AND REGULATED EMIGRATION HELPING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MEN TO FOUND HOME IN NEW WORLD: I FIRMLY BELIEVE YEARS WHICH HAVE ELAPSED HAVE YIELDED AMPLE PROOF OUR ASSOCIATION HAS ACCOMPLISHED WHAT FOUNDER EXPECTED OF IT.

Our Association has existed more than a generation, Sir Leonard proceeded. It has survived the misfortunes of the war and the upheavals of Europe. The time has come to cast an eye backwards over what has been accomplished, though I cannot recount in detail the work of the last 40 years. The little book we publish on the occasion of the centenary of our Founder tells of our labours and their results.

You will allow your President, however, he said, to recall to you a few glorious memories-our work in Argentine, in Brazil, in Palestine, in Russia and in Canada, where we brought into being the projects of Maurice de Hirsch by creating not only vast agricultural colonies, but an agricultural population, tillers of the soil. We have assisted the settlement of great and prosperous Jewish communities; we have organised and regulated emigration, first of all at the time of the pogroms, and again after the war, thus helping hundreds of thousands of men to found a home in the New World. We have been the means of giving the unfortunate in the East of Europe a livelihood.

Our work which is so productive, has been assisted during the last few years by the co-operation of our friends in America; the support we have lent to Jewish primary schools, both lay and religious in Europe and America, and our various activities have had the object of alleviating suffering and creating new hope.

I firmly believe, Sir Leonard said, that the years which have elapsed have yielded ample proof that our Association has accomplished what was expected of it by our Founder.

CELEBRATION OF TWO ANNIVERSARIES COMES AT MOMENT WHEN ICA PASSING THROUGH DIFFICULT TIMES SIR LEONARD SAYS: YEAR CLOSING WITH ECONOMIC CRISIS: NEED NEVER MORE URGENT YET BECOMING MORE DIFFICULT TO MEET NEEDS: ICA MUST THEREFORE EFFECT REDUCTIONS TO ENABLE WORK TO CONTINUE: SIR LEONARD REFERS TO CRITICISMS IN CERTAIN PAPERS RECENTLY REFLECTING ON ICA’S CAPACITY TO CARRY ACTIVITIES TO SUCCESSFUL ISSUES AND EXPRESSES HOPE HE HAS DISPELLED MISGIVINGS THEY AROUSED.

And now, Sir Leonard went on, I would say to you a word about our undertakings of the moment, and the methods we are adopting towards meeting our most pressing needs.

Fate has willed, he said, that at the moment of celebrating the two anniversaries I have just recalled to you, our Association is passing through very difficult times. In face the year is closing with a general economic crisis. The trouble has attacked all the countries where we happened to have developed our activities, and consequently at the same time our activities in those countries are feeling its effects.

In Europe itself, the economic situation of those we help is a tragic one; you cannot overlook the misery which exists in Poland, in Bessarabia, our difficulties in Russia, the obstacles to emigration.

Never has the work founded by the Baron de Hirseh confronted responsibilities more grave, or necessities more urgent. Unfortunately, it becomes more and more difficult to meet these crying needs. It is therefore in the direction of the strictest economy that we may hope to find some resources to enable our work to continue, in spheres where we have obvious responsibilities.

The moment has come, he said, to examine all our undertakings, and to see where we can effect certain reductions in expenditure in fields which are not absolutely our own-that of the teaching of religion, and in another sphere which is more within our scope-that of professional teaching.

Education, the development of intelligence, is so much a point of honour with us, that all Jewish institutions began in the 19th. century by creating schools. Our Association was not lacking and at the same time that it founded colonies, it undertook the education of the children. In Europe itself it created a net-work of schools in Russia and in Roumania, and thanks to the Association our co-religionists of the latter country possess to-day an admirable type of modern scholar. The very real progress of education has allowed us to annul subsidies to primary schools. There remain moral and traditional religious teaching to which so many Jews remain attached, and which has seemed to us indispensable to the children of our colonies as it is to the children of immigrants from overseas.

WE HAVE TO-DAY PROSPEROUS COMMUNITIES IN OUR COUNTRIES OF COLONISATION WHERE OUR WORK IS ACCOMPLISHED AND WE CAN CEASE OUR DISBURSEMENTS TO SYNAGOGUES AND SCHOOLS: THEY WILL NOT SHUT THEIR DOORS: MEN WHOM WE GAVE OPPORTUNITY ARE NOW IN POSITION TO SUPPORT THEM.

But we have communities, Sir Leonard went on to explain, often prosperous, which have arisen in these countries, where colonisation has been in progress. We greatly pride ourselves on the thought that a generation of Jews has thus established itself, whilst we have given them the means to preserve their ideal and their faith. The work is accomplished to-day; we can cease our disbursements to those synagogues and schools which will not shut their doors, as the men to whom we gave an opportunity are in a position to support them.

You know, he said, with what foresight we have acted in the Argentine, where our religious classes, respected by all and rich in traditions, will, we hope, be a landmark of the work initiated by our Association. For one year more we continue to play a part, but a very reduced one, towards its upkeep. In future, it will be independent.

Our course of action will be the same in Uruguay, in Brazil and in Canada. We are following a similar line in the realm of professional instruction. At the date of the birth of our Association nothing perhaps was more necessary than to train Jewish workmen and Jewish artisans. We have undertaken to diminish the number of “Luftmenschen”, unfortunate ne’er-do-wells unsuited to specialised work. In Central and Eastern Europe the means were absolutely lacking to teach children a trade; everything was against it – the frequent ill-will of the authorities, the misery of the parents, absence of Jewish patrons capable of training good apprentices. It was our task to attempt to fill the void; everywhere we helped to institute professional training, we opened workshops, which have given and are giving immense assistance.

We have indeed changed the atmosphere by creating qualified Jewish workmen, technicians who are able to transmit their knowledge to the rising generation. And now “les patronages” which we have founded have made so much progress, that the moment has come when they can replace in a certain degree the professional schools.

WE HAVE FULFILLED OUR ROLE OF PIONEERS: THANKS TO SPIRIT WE HAVE AROUSED JEWISH MASSES ARE CAPABLE TO-DAY OF UNDERSTANDING THEIR DUTY AND INTEREST: COMMUNITIES WILL SUPPORT INSTITUTIONS WE HAVE FOUNDED: WE SHALL BE ABLE TO PURSUE OUR WORK IN OTHER FIELDS.

Whether it is a question of primary schools, instruction both moral and religious, all kinds of institutions, these enterprises are useful, necessary and indispensable. In creating them, we have fulfilled our role of pioneers. Thanks to the spirit which we have aroused, the Jewish masses are capable to-day of understanding their duty as well as their interest – the Communities will support the institutions we have founded in their midst. And the final result of our programme of foresight and economy will be to allow us to pursue our work in other fields.

Our Association, appealed to from all parts of the world, cannot confine itself to one enterprise, Sir Leonard declared. As in the Argentine, we try to help newcomers to installations on our va nant lands, instead of always favouring the same families, and we have to keep before us the needs of new circumstances as they arise. Without that we could never have been able to settle during the last few years thousands of families to work on Russian land. Without new ideas, we could never have achieved the acquisition in Poland, Bessarabia, in Bukovina of new land upon which a Jewish agricultural population is arising to develop the land with the success with which you are familiar.

I have been told, Sir Leonard said, that recently criticisms have appeared in some Eastern European newspapers and elsewhere of these activities, and that inferences have been drawn reflecting on our competence and capacity to carry them to a successful issue. I hope that the brief sketch I have given you of our work will dispel any misgivings, which the articles referred to may have aroused. It is not for me to question the wisdom or opportuneness of such criticisms, but at least I may be permitted to say that they are not helpful in the times we are traversing.

The circumstances, Gentlemen, he concluded, are difficult, but we shall learn to conquer them. Everyone must do his duty. In overcoming these difficulties, we shall find our encouragement. May the foundation of Baron de Hirsch be worthy of its founder.

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