London (Jun. 22)
Viscountess Erleigh presided at a reception given at Claridge’s Hotel to-night in honour of Dr. and Mrs. Weizmann, on their return from South Africa where Dr. Weizmann headed the Keren Hayesod campaign.
South Africa is an example of what a small Jewish Community can do, Dr. Weizmann said in his address. It is a very small community totalling 70,000 Jews, who are distributed over a vast area as big as Europe. They live in very small groups and with the exception of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, the Communities are specks in a vast area, and sometimes it is impossible to find a minyan in an area of a thousand square miles. They are surrounded chiefly by a coloured population. They live in isolation and are cut off from the main stream of Jewish life. This is partly responsible for the physical difficulties of the campaign. Large areas have to be traversed. Like the general population the Jews are closely knit in the sense that everybody knows everyone else. This makes the work easier in a sense. Then again they all hail from one particular district of Lithuania. It seems that all the Jews of South Africa came originally from Shavli. I never knew that the community of Shavli was so big a community. I thought it was a very small place indeed. In any case the majority of the Jews do come from between Kovno and Vilna. There are, of course, British, German and Polish Jews, but overwhelmingly there are those who come from Shavli.
There is a great and noble tradition in Lithuania, carried down from the Gaon of Vilna, Dr. Weizmann went on, and the tradition has been transmitted to the Lithuanian Jews in South Africa, and it is their most precious possession. The South African Jews are not a rich people. Even in normal times they don’t get wealthy Jews from Shavli. There are a few rich Jews, but they don’t have any predeliction for Palestine and Zionism. We did not see them all the time we were there, and I don’t think any of the other Jews see them. In the money collected there is no rich Jews money.
In the sum which has been collected, which will amount to Â£100,000, there are only four contributions of a thousand pounds each, and these were given by firms. There were three contributions of Â£500 and one or two of Â£250, but in the main the amount was made up of contributions of Â£50, Â£10, and Â£5, which means that every Jew in South Africa has contributed to the Keren Hayesod. If you take into account that after this campaign another started for the J.N.F., and also take into consideration the large sums invested by the Community in Palestine (I know of one building society which has invested Â£75,000), it is an immense sum, and per capita it has not been equalled by any other community in the world.
South Africa has been badly hit by the economic depression, Dr. Weizmann said. The fundamental industry of South Africa is agriculture, and the production chiefly of maize. The price of this cereal has gone down to the last possible depth, and the farmer is in straits. The Jew is chiefly a small trader, or a storekeeper, and he has naturally suffered very much. It required daring and courage to start the campaign, but there you are, a success has been made of it. The reason for this success is that for the South African Jews Zionism is not a mere pastime. It is the spiritual side of their life. Every thing revolves around it. Money came by itself. They gave all they could. They never stinted themselves. There is no doubt that the type of Jew who in previous years was able to give Â£500 has gone. The economic upheaval has broken up the Jewish bourgeoisie. I do, however, verily believe that in the pocket of every Jew there is five or ten pounds for Palestine, and into his pocket we have to go. South Africa set this example.
RICH JEWS SHOWED THEMSELVES SUPER-PATRIOTS DR. WEIZMANN SAYS: ISSUED WARNING WE HAD COME TO EXPORT MONEY: GENERAL HERZOG’S APPEARANCE AT OUR FIRST MEETING COUNTERED THIS PERNICIOUS PROPAGANDA
For our success in the campaign, Dr. Weizmann pursued, we are grateful to the Jewish Community, and also to our non-Jewish friend, foremost to General Smuts, who from the very beginning lent us his moral support and was anxious to see our work crowned with success. I should also mention General Herzog and his colleagues. I think that if it had not been for General Herzog’s first appearance, our work would have been frought with difficulty. I mentioned that we did not see the rich Jews, but they showed themselves to be super-patriots, in fact 110 per cent. South Africans, and they found their way into the newspapers. They issued a warning to the Jewish Community that we had come to export money. General Herzog’s work, in appearing at our first meeting, countered this pernicious propaganda.
COULD PUT PALESTINE IN POCKET OF SOUTH AFRICA: BUT SIZE OF A COUNTRY IS NOT DECISIVE FACTOR: OUR IMMIGRANTS IN PALESTINE ARE INSPIRED BY AN IDEAL
Very often people compare South Africa to Palestine, Dr. Weizmann said, and the one who is particularly responsible for drawing this parallel is General Smuts. I think that the comparison is correct as far as the climate and physical conditions of the country are concerned. Both countries are sunny, but apart from the analogy in regard to climatic conditions, the comparison stops. There are enormous differences, particularly in size. One could put Palestine in the vast pocket of South Africa. There is in South Africa a game reserve for wild beasts, and this occupies 7,000 square miles. The total of mandated territory in Palestine is 10,000 square miles, but it does not all belong to the Jews, so the wild beasts of South Africa have a national home bigger than the Jews.
There is a fundamental difference in agriculture in Palestine and South Africa. South African agriculture is extensive and based on cheap labour, almost amounting to slave labour. The white man is an overlord, and the actual work is performed by the native. Here is a fundamental difference from Palestine. When you tell a South African that we are trying to settle a family on two or three acres, he doesn’t believe it, but it is true.
The total export of oranges form Palestine is slightly bigger than that from South Africa and Rhodesia together. If you contrast again the policies in both countries, particularly in immigration, you will find that the policy of South Africa is based on the quota bill. It is made as difficult as possible for the white man to settle in the Union.
POLICY IN PALESTINE IS OPEN DOOR AND FOR JEW WHO IS CONSIDERED A WHITE MAN DOOR IS AS WIDE OPEN AS POSSIBLE
The policy in Palestine is the open door, and for the Jew, who is still considered a white man, the door is as wide open as possible. Last month 2,200 certificates were granted. If you consider that the size of Rhodesia is 75 times as much as Palestine, then you should multiply 75 by 2,200 for the total number of immigrants, that is, if the Palestine policy were pursued.
It points to one thing-that the size of the country is not the decisive factor. In Palestine we are more fortunate, because our immigrants are inspired by an ideal. It makes them perform things not possible to others without that ideal in other parts of the world.
NOT MUCH SIGN OF ANTISEMITISM IN SOUTH AFRICA: YET SO LONG AS JEWS WERE TRADERS BOER HAD AFFECTION FOR THEM BUT NOW JEWS ARE BECOMING FARMERS THAT IS TO CERTAIN EXTENT CAUSE OF JEALOUSY OR ANTISEMITISM
There is not much sign of antisemitism in South Africa, Dr. Weizmann continued, but the Jew stands apart, and is not assimilated. The storekeeper is a fountain of information, and his store is a club corresponding to the place of the synagogue in Russia, where war and peace were decided, so the part the Jew plays is not commensurate with his numbers.
In latter years, the Jews have taken to farming. There are 1,000 Jewish farmers, and they are on the increase. The Jews are among the most progressive farmers. They are doing well, despite the crisis. In most cases these Jews have acquired land from the vast surplus of the land in possession of the Boers, who had estates which they could not manage.
The Jews settled down and made a success of the land, and I am informed that there is to a certain extent a cause of antisemitism or jealousy in this respect.
So long as the Jews were traders, the Boer respected them and had, indeed, an affection for the Jews. To-day, to my deep regret, they say in some cases: Look at the Jew. He has taken my land and look what he has made of it. It is painfully reminiscent of what we hear certain Arabs say which has caused the British expert to worry about the “poor” Arabs.
We shall go on with our work in Palestine, crisis or no crisis, Dr. Weizmann said, because nothing can stop us, and if you look at the position of Jewry all over the world, I think you can say that Palestine forms a very happy exception to the rule. Not that it is flowing with wealth, or milk and honey, but there is joy there, the joy of creating, of doing something, of planting something, of working for the future, of doing something that is constructive and not destructive, and not of despairing, which is the lot which has befallen Jews and the majority of non-Jews alike all over the world.
PERHAPS IN RUSSIA JEWISH PROBLEM IS SOLVED MATERIALLY BUT IN PALESTINE PROBLEM IS BEING SOLVED OF HOW TO BE A JEW
Perhaps in Russia, Dr. Weizmann remarked, the Jewish problem is solved. I have no doubt that materially, as compared with the general level of life in Russia in former times, the Jew fares better now than he did under the Czar. But we understand a Jew to be the carrier of a great tradition and you may say that the Jewish problem is solved in Russia if you agree with the dictum that there would be no Jewish problem if there were no Jews.
In contradistinction to Russia, in Palestine the problem is being solved, the problem of how to be a Jew without fear or favour and yet find his rightful place in human society. These 200,000 Jews in Palestine who are the vanguard, have solved this problem, and that is much more than can be said of all the international conferences that sit on all the beautiful lakes of the world with their problems. I am sure that all of you will do your duty to Palestine.
DR. WEIZMANN’S TRIBUTE TO LATE LORD MELCHETT AND HIS CHILDREN LORD MELCHETT AND LADY ERLEIGH WHO ARE CARRYING ON HIS WORK WITH LOYALTY AND DEVOTION
Dr. Weizmann paid a tribute to Lord and Lady Erleigh and to Lord Melchett, who was one of the speakers, for the share which their family was taking in the work. When Lord Melchett spoke, Dr. Weizmann said, somehow his voice sounded like that of his father, who began a great piece of work and was not able to continue it. But his children, he said, are carrying it on with loyalty and devotion. I welcome them and we hope we shall see more of them.
NOTHING CAN STOP OUR MOVEMENT LORD MELCHETT SAYS
Lord Melchett said that Palestine is a country of joy. The people there are happy, happy in quite a different way than we in other parts of the world. The work they are doing there means something to them of a deeply spiritual character and everyone who takes part in the upbuilding of Eretz Israel derives the deepest satisfaction. Jewry in Palestine has turned an important corner, Lord Melchett concluded. Now is the time for joy. Nothing can turn us back; nothing can stop our movement.
The Chief Rabbi, Dr. J. H. Hertz, said that an important factor which had contributed to the success of the campaign was the sympathy and understanding of the aims of Zionism by the non-Jews of South Africa, and in this respect General Smuts and General Herzog had played a noble part.
Mr. Simon Marks and Dr. Eder also spoke.
Dr. Selig Brodetsky, member of the Jewish Agency Executive, was unable to be present at the gathering only because of urgent-University duties in Leeds, which made it physically impossible for him to be in London during the evening.
Lady Erleigh announced at the end of the meeting that Â£2,000 had been raised at the reception for the Keren Hayesod.
Mr. H. M. Davis, the President of the Federation of Synagogues, announced a contribution of Â£250 towards this sum from the Federation, in addition to the Â£500 already contributed by the Federation to the Keren Hayesod this year.
A similar amount, Â£250, was contributed by Sir Montague Burton, who said that he was giving it in honour of Lady Erleigh.