To the Editor of the
Jewish Daily Bulletin:
Since an impasse exists which the three organizationsâ€”the B’nai Brith, the American Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committeeâ€”seem unable to hurdle, it is my conviction and that of leaders in other communities with whom I have contacted, that it is absolutely essential to call together a conference of representative Jewish leaders from the large and small communities for the following purposes:
1) to hear the American Jewish Committee, the B’nai Brith and the American Jewish Congress present their sides;
2) to decide on a course of action touching policy;
3) if necessary, to form an organization to speak in the name of the Jewish communities of this country.
I do not believe it will be necessary to form such a fourth organization. I am convinced that the very meeting of such a conference can produce a formula on the basis of which the three organizations can cooperate. I feel this way because I think what the situation needs is clarification, and because of a clash of personalities, this clarification has not been possible.
The Secretary of the American Jewish Committee, in a letter to me under date of April 28, states that he believes that the organization of a body that shall speak in the name of the Jewish people of America, even in this crisis, is a will of the wisp; bt he does believe that cooperation is within the range of possibility.
I know from Mr. Alfred M. Cohen, with whom I spoke only recently that he too is very keen about affecting cooperation.
Even Dr. Wise in his correspondence with me repeats that he believes that there should be one American Jewish organization to represent American Jews, but he says that it cannot be the B’nai Brith nor the American Jewish Committee. And I addâ€”nor can it be the American Jewish Congress, but it can be a conference of representatives of these three organizations, who would be commandeered by a conference of Jews, called for this purpose and by the need of the hour, to work together for one common purposeâ€”and this purpose is clear to everyone. What is at stake is not merely the affecting of the alleviation of Jewish conditions in Germany but the doing of everything in our power to prevent Hitlerism from spreading over to other countries of Europe, and perhaps even to America, for I am very much afraid that it is not unthinkable that a Hitleristic movement in American terms might develop in our own country; and we must be on the alert.
Of course, the immediate thing with which American Jewry is concerned is the situation with the Jews in Germany. The other is only secondary. However, I would like to see the leaders of the three organizations call such a conference as I propose into being. I deem it to be their duty to do so in view of the impasse which they have reached, and since no two of them can speak in the name of the Jews of this country.
Furthermore, it has come to my notice that there is no unanimity within the organizations themselves touching their respective policies. There were those in the administrative committee of the Jewish Congress, who did not favor the calling of the Madison Square Garden mass meeting and the holding of demonstrations throughout the country (see Memorandum on Jewish situation in Germany issued by the American Jewish Committee recently); and I have heard that even within the American Jewish Committee there is a difference of opinion and that some of its leaders are not completely in accord with the policy adopted by it. Under these circumstances, it behooves the leaders of these three organizations to consult with American Jewry and lay before the leaders of the different communities, in a Conference, the problems that have created the impasse.
American Jewry was called together after the Kishinev pogroms. This again happened when the Joint Distribution Committee was created. Now a worse situation has arisen, and it calls for the same kind of action. No one of the three existing organizations has a mandate to act in the way in which they have acted. This dare not be overlooked.
Unless the initiative is taken by the three organizations to convene such a conference shortly, it will become necessary for those of us, who feel that this conference should convene, to issue a call for such a conference. And I am confident a number of signers, who are leaders in their respective communities, could be obtained to issue the call. I hope that this will not be necessary.
Barnett R. Brickner
(Euclid Ave. Temple, Cleveland).
To the Editor of the
Jewish Daily Bulletin:
In your leading editorial of May 7 headed “A Further Plea for Unity” you seem to be more concerned about the amenities between Mr. Bernard Deutsch and Dr. Cyrus Adler than with the core of the question, namely the Jewish attitude toward the German outrages. Now, I submit that the question of State etiquette with regard to the premature publication of letters dealing with a burning question can well wait for a solution until after the main question is disposed of. Incidentally, I may say that your editorial admonishment about some one’e “bad manners” is in itself a poor example of sobriety and moderation. Your allusion to “personal venomous attacks” is not borne out by any impartial reading of the exchange of correspondence between the gentlemen in question. Even more gratuitous is your aspersion about the alleged barter of the presidency of the American Jewish Congress to the “highest bidder”. Editorials ought not to descend to the level of backstair gossip.
Now as to the main issue or issues at hand.
The Bulletin is appealing for a united Jewish front on the German situation. This is indeed laudable. But, after all, we are no longer mere children to prattle phrases without giving ourselves an account of what is in our minds. A united front? Fine, indeed, but for what purpose? Is the united front to be for the purpose of obeying in terror the threats of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels? Is the united front to give its seal of approval in this terrible moment in Jewish history to the well-known “hush” and “soft-pedal” philosophies of Dr. Adler and his allies? I use the word “philosophies” advisedly, because their attitude on such questions is not prompted by the demands of each occasion, but is a foregone conclusion long before any such problem arises.
Forty-three years ago, when I first set foot on these shores, I immediately perceived this brand of “hush” leadership among the German Jews whose hegemony over Jewish affairs was then scarcely questioned. I well remember the statement of the late lamented Jacob H. Schiff that the Jewish question in Russia “must be settled in Russia only.” I also remember how Mr. Schiff, great Jew and gallant gentleman that he was at all times, changed his mind in later years and threw himself into the open fight against Russia in this country with the fervor and passion of a real fighter. As long as I shall live I shall cherish the memory of that great Jew addressing a gigantic assembly of Jews which was climaxed by his clarion call to fight Russian despotism without let or hinder and his warning to Jewish bankers that they would be considered traitors if they lend one ruble to the Czaristic government as long as it persists in its pogroms and persecutions of its Jews. This is equally true of the late lamented Louis Marshall. He also was big enough to admit a mistake, and his last years found this great Jewish leader taking frequent counsel with his people, however humble, and coming around to the position that the Jewish question is not a taboo subject in public life.
Alas, just as Hitlerism itself is a reversion to medieval barbarism, so the present attitude of certain of our leaders is a reversion to Jewish medievalism, a return to a bankrupt philosophy on Jewish problems. The attitude of Dr. Adler and his allies in the tragedy of the Geman Jews is highly reminiscent of that of the prewar diplomats: The people must be frowned upon. Their instincts are always wrong and mostly dangerous. Only “star-chamber” proceedings can straighten out things.
How tragic it is for Jewish leaders of this time to revive such standards of leadership that well-nigh wrecked the whole world! At a time when the President of the United States finds it important and beneficial to give frequent accounts of his stewardship through country-wide radio broadcasts, there are still Jewish leaders left who openly betray contempt for the Jewish masses and pit their solitary judgment against the judgment of the vast majority. According to them, Jews in free countries dare not raise their voices in protest when their brothers are slain, flogged and deprived of their livelihood by a cruel government. And why not? Well, these cruel rulers and satraps are threatening to make things worse for their Jews, (as if that were possible), if we protest. Ergo, only “star-chamber” diplomacy will “fix” things.
In the face of such counsel and leadership, one really is driven to the depths of despair and loss of self-respect. Not enough yet that the degradation of the victims who are forced to flog each other in the torture chambers of the brown-houses. Not enough yet that the German Jews are forced by knouts to broadcast certificates of good character for the bestial fiends who maltreat them, but even the Jews in the free countries cannot give open expression to their horror at these cruelties. Have Jews no red blood in their veins? Are we really so supine and low that we can treat the greatest Jewish tragedy in a century only as a matter for “quiet representations” and “diplomacy”? And, pray, when did diplomacy” ever accomplished anything unless forced to it by the pressure of the masses?
It seems clear to me that such antiquated methods can only play into the hands of the Hitlers and the Goerings. The day they will make sure that the outcries of Jews can be squelched or intimidated will be a sorry one for the Jews the world over. Dr. Adler and his colleagues may perhaps put their reliance in the Gentile world, but they will only bestir themselves as long as the voice of Jacob makes itself heard loud. Let there be a lull in our own protests and the best of the Gentiles will soon forget our troubles.
Dr. Adler and his colleagues have not only been wrong in their attitude as a matter of public policy, but they have done themselves a distinct disservice by their statements opposing the demonstrations of the Jewish masses. They might as well have attempted to hold back the tides of the sea as to attempt to check this natural and great outpouring of Jewish feeling of resentment and emotion. Had they sufficient understanding of human nature, they might have tried to channel these feelings properly. But they have instead chosen the road to open defiance of the feelings of the Jewish masses, and they have no right to complain of the avalanche that has engulfed them.
Now, Mr. Editor, who is to blame for the lack of a “united front”? As far as I am concerned, I say: “There is a united Jewish front against the German Torquemadas, which unfortunately is not shared by some cloistered Jewish leaders of a previous century.”
(Signed) Jacob Fishman.