Rabbi, Mt. Neboh Temple; Author of “Unravelling the Book of Books,” etc.
Since the first days of the depression organized Jewish life in America has suffered severely in practically all sections of the country. What with reduced budgets for institutions, unsuccessful drives for local, national, and international philanthropies, mortgaged synagogues and dwindling memberships, it is small wonder that we reached an all time “low”. Having just returned from a cross – country trip which took me as far west as Los Angeles, certain things stood out in clear and indisputable evidence. Among these were:
There is little or no national leadership, no commanding figure (with the possible exception of Stephen Wise) to inspire the American-born Jewish masses.
There is a most shocking indifference to the menace of Hitlerism.
Ignorance of things Jewish is just as great as ever.
On the whole the synagogues are not at all awake to the needs and demands of this newer era.
Yet, despite these unpleasant factors, which cannot possibly be ignored, one thing alone seems to have emerged triumphantly despite all the factors of the depression and that is Zionism. Evidently the German situation has not only silenced the anti-Zionist but it has converted him! By leaps and bounds Palestine has won friends. Just how these friends will be made into active supporters is another matter. However, at the moment, it is plain that Palestine has made enormous gains in the hearts and affections of the Jews of Americaâ€”especially the old time, (recalcitrant reform Jew who just simply could not be reached by the oratory and campaigns that swept this country from the day of the Balfour Declaration. That the American Jew has been won over to the cause amply proves that Zionism is not only profoundly psychological but that economic determination makes it logical.
In studying the American Jew (1933 edition) I find that he is concerned, along with the rest of his fellow-countrymen, with that far-reaching program of the federal government known as the National Recovery Act. The purpose of the act is to bring everybody into a better social, economic and psychological arrangement which will at once put an end to the ugliness of the depression and also to the philosophy of “rugged individualism” and all the abuses which went with it. Success along these newer business and industrial lines is bound to have its effect upon our communal life; for American Jewry is interwoven with America and must therefore remain highly conditioned by it.
There is no gainsaying the fact that organized Jewish life in America stands sorely in need of the psychology of recovery. We have our big buildings, our costly synagogues, our heavy investments in this social enterprise and that philanthropy. Yet we are lowâ€”not simply in a financial way but “down-in-the-mouth” so to speak. We need to recover our vision and our resourcefulness.
It is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud that an ancient sage once said about the Jews that “this people” is to be compared to the dust and also to the stars. “When it falls, it falls even unto the dust but when it raises itself up, it raises itself even unto the stars.”
THE NAZI NEED OF EXPERTS
Give the devil his due, even if he’s a big devil and its a small due. Adolf Hitler was reported to have confessed that in the fields of international relations and economics he was sufficiently ignorant to require the help of experts. That is why Baron Constantin von Neurath, non-Nazi, is still Foreign Minister and why Dr. Kurt Schmitt is Minister of Economics.
In Der Stuermer, Nazi newspaper edited by Julius Streicher, one of the most vindictive anti-Semites that ever lived, the hope was expressed the other day that the Roosevelt Administration would fail, that the Republicans would return to power and that the creed of anti-Semitism would spread in the United States. Someone might remind Herr Streicher that if the internal affairs of Germany are no business of the White House, then certainly the internal affairs of the United States are hardly the business of Berlin and its co-ordinated cities.
In pleasant contrast to the Streicher statement, it is a relief to turn to the demonstration of German-Americans in Detroit who marked their celebration of “German Day” with a declaration that they looked for guidance not to Berlin, but to Washington, and declaring their opposition to racial and religious bigotry.
Wherever Jews are persecuted there is a Haman, even if he doesn’t always end his days at the end of a rope attached to a high scaffold. Believe it or not, there is a Haman in Germany today, and we don’t mean Hitler. We refer you to Haman, State Commissar in Saxony, who, the other day, in addressing 500 physicians gathered at Halle University in the name and cause of race purity, expressed the hope that no physician who had not taken a special course in race would be allowed to practice. Perhaps the state commissar wouldn’t have to trace his genealogical tree very far before he reached the ape.
It is amazing how fast the Nazis can run backward, once they set their minds to it. In fact they are making a Nazi virtue out of backwardness. Their teachers are being instructed to inculcate the importance of the pre-historic man, Hitler exalts the man of brawn as against the man of brain, and unless the court specifies otherwise, executions are to be conducted with benefit of the old-fashioned axe, even the guillotine of the French Revolution being regarded as too modern.
Palestine imposes duty on the import of decorticated groundnuts, in case you’re planning to bring any into the country.