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World Jewish Congress Discussed in Jewish Press Here; Papers Call for Unity in United States Jewry

The advisability of constituting a World Jewish Congress is the topic of comment in the Jewish press in America.

The majority of the papers hold to a neutral point of view, stressing the primary need of unity in American ranks before progress can be made toward world unity.

The papers deplore what they term the acrimonious debate between Dr. Cyrus Adler, president of the American Jewish Committee, and Dr. Stephen S. Wise, honorary president of the American Jewish Congress on the subject of the world Jewish congress.

Of fourteen publications, three papers publish editorials expressing their unequivocal support of the idea of a world Jewish Congress; one paper comes out against the idea; and ten papers hold to a neutral attitude, advocating instead a movement toward harmony and co-operation in American ranks.

Excerpts from these editorial comments follow:

THE CONGRESS ADVOCATES

Taking issue on the question of a Jewish World Congress the “Jewish Daily Eagle” of Montreal says that the opposition of the American Jewish Committee is motivated by the same reasons that led to its bitter campaign against the calling of an American Jewish Congress. The gentlemen of the American Jewish Committe are imbued with the fear that the anti-Semites will utilize the World Congress as a weapon against the Jews to prove that they constitute an organized world power. But the same gentlemen forget that whereas the accusation against the Jews is unfounded, the anti-Semites have themselves created an international of their own and are better organized for the campaign to exterminate the Jews than the Jews were ever organized to defend themselves against their {SPAN}bittr foes,{/SPAN} states this publication.

The “Eagle” stresses the importance of an organization to repel the attacks and carry on a systematic campaign against the Jew-baiters wherever they are found. It bemoans the fact that the question of a Jewish World Congress has received such scant attention and declares that when the matter is placed in the proper light and receives the necessary enlightenment then not only will the Congress be a success but it will also help to make that necessary contact with the outside world.

Rabbi Tobias Schanfarber, in the “Reform Advocate” of Chicago:

“That is rather a vital, pretty and exceedingly interesting disputation that Dr. Cyrus Adler, president of the American Jewish Committee, and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, honorary president of the American Jewish Congress, is having in the public prints.

“I believe that Dr. Wise and the American Jewish Congress have more truth on their side than have the forces of Dr. Adler and the American Jewish Committee. I cannot see how a world Jewish Congress discussing the Jewish Welt Schmerz of today, can make conditions any worse than they are at the present time and I can see how the combined wisdom of the Jews of the world coming together and earnestly studying the problem and coming to some definite conclusion in regard to it may be able to help conditions for the better. Showing the white feather and doing nothing under so grave a state of affairs surely can not help.”

Harold Debrest, in the “Jewish Forum” of New York:

“I hail the decision of the Washington Conference of the American Jewish Congress as the most important achievement in the history of American Jewry.

“Prof. Albert Einstein’s enthusiastic endorsement of the plan contained in a telegram read by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise before the Conference in Washington, is proof that the attempt to establish an international Jewish congress might have been premature, but never unsound; that its organizers, somewhat (a quarter century or so) before the times, were always practical and sincerely in earnest.”

OPPOSED TO CONGRESS

“The Zionist” of New York:

“A speaker at a meeting of the American Jewish Congress last month expressed criticism of Zionist leadership for not having taken a more definite attitude toward the proposal of a World Jewish Congress. Perhaps the answer is that no genuine necessity is felt for such an international conclave. Discussion of a World Jewish Congress at this time springs out of an extraordinary optimism with regard to the status of the Jewish people everywhere. It is difficult to believe that an assembly of Jewish representatives from all parts of the world will be able to accomplish any more for the Jews in Poland and Roumania than the obsolete minority treaties signed after the War which have the character of international obligations. We hardly think that Adolf Hitler will change his views on the Jews of Germany because of stentorian denunciations at a World Jewish Congress. Is it likely that the League for the Godless in Russia will discontinue its activities because pious Jews in Geneva will hurt imprecations at its atheism?…”

CALL FOR PEACE IN AMERICAN RANKS

The “American Israelite”:

“The American Jewish Congress has met, and as everybody expected, voted in favor of convening a preliminary conference concerning a World Jewish Congress. It even set a date for the meeting in Geneva, August 14.

“There is no doubt that the chief reason for holding the most recent session in Washington was in order to take the action which has been taken, namely to vote with due fanfare and publicity to arrange for the meeting in Geneva. There were several striking sessions in Washington.

“Yet the continued attack upon the American Jewish Committee does neither Dr. Wise nor the Congress, nor even the cause of the World Congress either credit or benefit. To welcome and invite the Jewish Committee to participate in the Geneva Conference even at this belated date and in the same breath to attack the Committee and its leaders is a puzzling procedure, to say the least.

Wisconsin “Jewish Chronicle”:

“The creation of a World Jewish Congress,” so fervently and persistently advocated by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and his associates of the ‘American Jewish Congress’ does not seem to have aroused the enthusiasm that so far-reaching and important a project ought to call forth spontaneously and without any propagandist urging. In fact there has been sufficient opposition by so many Jewish organizations in America and abroad as to make the proposal ineffective right from the start.

“We are not prepared to say with certainty that a ‘World Jewish Congress’ is or is not advisable at this time. But many responsible Jewish bodies in America and abroad do say definitely that such an ambitious undertaking is, at least, ‘premature’.

“No Jewish organization, no matter how powerful and influential, can prevent any international meeting of Jews for any purpose, nor can it prevent the use of the title of ‘World Jewish Congress’ being applied thereto, but they certainly have a right to express their opposition to the meeting and refuse to take part therein without suffering the peevish epithets of Rabbi Wise or anybody else who takes upon himself the responsibility of speaking for the whole of world Jewry without their authorized approval.”

The ‘Modern View’ of St. Louis:

A COURAGEOUS WORLD JEWRY

“It seems that Dr. Adler leans further to the side of caution than Rabbi Wise and his associates toward the side of rashness. And it is regrettable that such differences in temperament should contribute at all toward hindering the much desired unity in American Israel.

“Admitting Dr. Adler’s contention that rash statements made by speakers at the Geneva Conference might furnish our enemies with weapons to use against us, the fact remains that anti-Semites will cook up their poisonous charges against us, regardless of whether they find their word in Jewish speeches or in their own imaginations.

“The situation of world Jewry today can hardly be made worse by anything likely to be said by Jews at any convention. A united front, representative of the great majority of a scattered nation that still retains its courage, will certainly bring us greater honor and more favorable consideration than a submissive, over-cautious, shrinking attitude. We would do well to take example from the powers-that-be in the non-Jewish world. They are not meek men-but fighters.”

Brooklyn “Jewish Examiner”:

PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF

“With respect to the controversy which has broken out anew between the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress, we are tempted to say,” ‘a plague on both your houses.’ The subject matter of the present controversy is new-the question of a world congress of Jewry. But the feud is an old one and it is quite obvious that it rises out of a clash of personalities.

“We do not care to enter into the merits of the controversy, if indeed there be any merits. Rabbi Wise’s fervor, whether genuine or spurious, cannot persuade us that a world conference will bring saivation to the Jews.

“On the other hand we are not fearful with Adler that such an event would do tremendous damage to Israel. It would be difficult to see how the position of the Jews in many countries of Europe could be more precarious.

“It would not take much to convince us that Wise’s dramatic insistence on the need of a world congress is prompted by an overwhelming ambition to dominate the Jewish world scene. Nor would we be surprised to learn that Adler’s fierce repudiation of the proposed plan is born of a strong personal resentment of Wise’s steam-roller methods.

“In any event the squabble makes American Jewry look ridiculous.

“We offer the suggestion to both Doctor Wise and Doctor Adler that it may be well for them to devote their exceptional talents to an endeavor to secure some measure of harmony out of the confusion which so thoroughly distorts the horizon of American Jewry today.”

“The Sentinel” of Chicago:

A WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS

“The fact that the heads of the American Jewish Congress have for years been preaching the idea of a world Jewish Congress does not necessarily mean that now is the most auspicious time for its realization. It is true that the Jewish situation in European countries today is so precarious that it requires some action-but will a world Jewish congress alter matters in any way? Certainly European Jews are not enthusiastic about the whole matter and at least German Jews are seriously opposed to it. They are afraid that an international Jewish gathering to discuss the Jewish problem would only add fuel to the fire of anti-Semitism which has been making capital of the imaginary ‘international Jew who is bent on wrecking our fair social order in order to gain his nefarious end.’ Surely, to discuss the German Jewish problem without the presence and cooperation of representative German Jews would be strange and fruitless, to say the least.

“Moreover, even if the leaders of the American Jewish Congress should be fully convinced that a world Jewish Congress is feasible and advisable they cannot afford to assume the initiative in its convocation without first effecting unity at home.”

Detroit “Jewish Chronicle”:

“The controversy that has arisen over the question of a World Jewish Congress is marked by elements so unpleasant that they mar the issue and interfere with calm judgment on the existing problems.

“The personal issue injected, the branding of the opponents of the plan by Dr. Stephen S. Wise as ‘assimilationists’ and the subsequent attack upon Dr. Wise by Dr. Cyrus Adler, tend to make the controversy a bit vulgar.

“While there is merit to the arguments of Dr. Adler, there is no denying the fact that world-wide unity among Jews might create an agency strong enough to cope with the vexing problems which trouble our people everywhere. For instance, pressure from Jewish communities throughout the world might have prevented the oppressive and shameful torture of Jews in Bessarbia.

“There is justification for a division of opinion on the question of a World Jewish Congress, with merit to the arguments of both contending camps. But if we are to have a united front, the issue must be discussed calmly and dispassionately. Such dispassionate calm now appears an impossibility, with the result that the Jewish cause may be harmed. In the event that a World Jewish Congress should be convened, without the united effort of all factions in Jewry, the harm that will accrue may be an unparalelled disaster.”

“The Criterion” of Pittsburgh:

“There may well be an honest difference of opinion as to advisability at this time of convoking the Jews of the world in a Congress to consider the problems affecting our people. With sensitive situations existing in various European countries, a hasty or a heated statement made at such a gathering might create trouble and aggravate an already irritated condition. We don’t say that this will happen, but it might. But more important than this is the fact that in this country there is a definite cleavage between large representative groups of Jews. They are poles apart on many issues and there seems but little hope of a reconciliation of their views to a degree which would enable them to work together for a certain Jewish objective of common value to all our people. There has been a note of enmity struck between the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress. The Congress has never been able to get more than a certain element in our Jewish population interested in its movement. We at this time are not discussing the merit or demerit of such aloofness. We are merely stating a fact. Therefore, to our mind, the American Jewish Congress does not actually speak with any degree of authority for the American Jew, nor can it be said to be truly representative of American Jewry. Its purposes are admirable. The men who are its leaders are earnest minded, sincere men who would go to an extreme to render service to their people.

“There is something to be said on both sides. But we do agree that instead of an exchange of heated correspondence and public statements the leaders of all groups should meet and sensibly and calmly discuss the advantages and disadvanatges and then come to a decision.”

“The Scribe” of Portland, Ore.:

“A concerted attack is being made on Dr. Stephen S. Wise. Dr. Cyrus Adler, president of the American Jewish Committee, is taking Wise to task for his sponsorship of a Jewish World Congress. The American Hebrew is training its heaviest artillery against the leader of the Free Synagogue in every issue. And Borough President Samuel J. Levy of Manhattan, accused by Wise of trafficking Jewish honors for political advancement, answers Dr. Wise’s charges with the statement that ‘Dr. Stephen S. Wise is publicity mad, and not fit to be a Yeshiva College rabbi.’ It seems to us that when a leader of the type of Wise is subjected to insults just because his views on Jewish affairs and prestige are different from those of others, something is wrong with American Jewish life. Controversy is healthy and should not be stiffed. But there should be a line of demarcation between decent and indecent attacks.”

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