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R. D. Blumenfeld, Man of the World, Downright, Loyal Jew and Briton

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Mr. P. W. Wilson, former member of the British House of Commons, noted British journalist and student of international affairs, who now resides in New York, in the following article writes of Mr. Ralph D. Blumenfeld, a native of this country, who went to England and became that country’s most celebrated editor.

To the spectator of the appalling insanity which sweeps over Germany like a tornado, there is one circumstance that arouses astonishment. It is the effect of the disaster on Jewry, not only within the arena of persecution but throughout the world. Everywhere courage is rising to meet oppression.

I remember well the scene in the House of commons, twenty or more years ago, when Neil Primrose, the brilliant and favorite son of the late Lord Rosebery, rose in his place and declared his pride in the ancestry of his mother, a greatly loved daughter of the House of Rothschild. It is this kind of loyalty to Jewish descent that is declared today by a number of eminent men.

We have General von Linsingen, described in the press as “one of Germany’s most honored heroes of the Great War,” publicly asserting his “Jewish grand-parentage”. We have the late Lord Melchett recaptured by the ancient traditions of his race, and the present Lord Melchett returning to the synagogue. No less remarkable an illustration of Semitism overcoming anti-Semitism is the latest phase in the exhilarating career of that veteran journalist and editor, popular and respected as the Dean of Fleet Street in London, Mr. R. D. Blumenfeld.

REPORTED THE GOLDEN JUBILEE

Here is a man of world-wide fame in the profession, that, of all others, is the most closely in touch with the varied elements of partisanship and prejudice which combine to make up public opinion. Born in Wisconsin, he was recruited by James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald as a bright young reporter and, at the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887, he exploited his adjectives. For years he has been associated with Lord Beaverbrook in the management of the widely circulated Daily Express — by no means, pro-Hebrew in tone — yet in the maturity of his experience, covering half a century of great events, Mr. Blumenfeld stands for the unflinching as an outspoken champion of the historic community within which — in ancient days his forefathers, generation after generation, lived and suffered and died. “I am”, he said to me, “one hundred and sixty percent a Jew.” Nor does he lose anything by his fidelities. He was the first Jew to be admitted in London to the exclusive sanctuary of Toryism — The Carlton Club.

Mr. Blumenfeld has visited New York, expecting to undertake a lecture tour. The death of his daughter interrupted these plans, and the tour is to be resumed in a few weeks. But I was able to see him privately as a father sorely bereaved, so renewing an old friendship, and arriving in conversation #t his point of view. No one who thus approaches him, will fail to understand the warmth of affection with which — political dialectics not withstanding — he is regarded.

HIS SUMMER LIGHTNING

Few men living are less restrained than he in the opinions that he pours forth. Among journalists, there is the camaraderie that permits such delightful indifference to the safeguards of discretion. But the summer lightning, genial, jesting and kindly even when caustic, revealed a personality, keenly alive to realities. It is beneath the surface that there swells the instincts, powerful and persistent which determine the career of a masterful moulder of opinion.

Mr. Blumenfeld’s position is, perhaps, peculiar. His mother was a Catholic of Irish extraction. It is the Catholic Church that has been and continues to be his spiritual home. I asked him, therefore, how it came about that he developed his eager interest in Jewish movements, and I gathered that the stirring within him was, at the outset, largely subconscious.

“I regarded Zionism,” he said, “as a dream interesting and even absorbing to many Jews. But it was not until recent years that I looked into the subject closely.”

AN IMPERIALIST BRITON

A number of impulses contributed to his study of Jewish questions. Mr. Blumenfeld, though born an American, is more imperialist than many British. With King Fuad of Egypt and other authorities, he has discussed the far reaching destinies involved in the fate of the Near East. Is it possible to think of a Greater Britain without India? Is the Suez Canal in these days the only and the safest route to the Orient? Would it not be prudent to develope an overland railway from the Port of Haifa through Transjordania? Egypt, after all, has now an energetic and immediate neighbor. The Italians are in Tripoli and Tripoli adjoins the Kingdom of the Nile.

Mr. Blumenfeld admits that these considerations, strategic to the British Empire, do not appeal to many Zionists in what, essentially, must ever be an international movement. But it was along such a path that he himself advanced, and he is now — if not the usual type of Zionist — at least an enthusiast whose only criticisms of the great enterprise in Palestine are directed against those who, in his judgment, are overcautious.

HIS PRAISE OF ACTION

In his attitude towards life, Mr. Blumenfeld is all for initiative and results. Hence, his unbounded admiration for that constructive statesman of industrial and agricultural development, Mr. Pinchas Rutenberg with whom Mr. Blumenfeld is associated in the Rutenberg Power Company. “Rutenberg,” says he, “is a man who, with a large and human sympathy, surveys the field of opportunity. He sees what there is to be done nor is he troubled by hesitations. He does those things.”

Over the Arab question, Mr. Blumenfeld confesses few misgivings. “The Arabs,” he says, “and the Jews spring from a common origin. The essential difference between them is due to the Jewish absorption in a wider and more modern civilization.’ He is very insistent that the Arabs should be assured of fair treatment in economic matters—wages and so on. He is, moreover, anxious that only those Jews should colonize Palestine who will recognize their obligations, both to the Arabs and to the larger future of Palestine on which Mr. Blumenfeld, in his estimate of the problems, lays such emphatic stress.

I asked him to give me his explanation of the catastrophe that has overtaken Jewry in the German Reich. With sorrow, he insisted that the calamity—for the time being, at any rate—was irreparable. German Jews are staggering under a grievous blow, and emigration is frequently their best way of escape.

“THE COURSE OF EVENTS”

“The course of events,” he said, “is simple. Under the Kaiserdom the army, the navy and the civil service were managed and commanded by the aristocracy. Nobody of that type wanted to be a merchant, a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher. The Jews, on the other hand, were not welcomed as officers and bureaucrats. It was as merchants, doctors, lawyers and teachers that they were able to render useful service to the community. When Germany was disarmed after the Armistice, numerous officers in the army and navy and officials in the public service lost their occupations, and had to turn to something else. They found the Jews in possession of the alternative jobs which they were seeking, and naturally, they began to be restive. To raise an outcry against the Jews was the best way of getting these positions and it has succeeded.”

Mr. Blumenfeld has his own idea of the Hitler regime. He sees handsome rewards falling to favored leaders of the Nazi movement and, as a man without illusions, he interprets motives accordingly.

AFFINITIES AND ANTIPATHIES

It would be quite a mistake to think that Mr. Blumenfeld regards all Jews with equal admiration. On the contrary, he has affinities and his antipathies. He is a great believer in human sympathies and dislikes anyone, Jew or Gentile, who is as he puts it “a frigidaire”. On the other hand, he has no great use for Jews whose religious faith is no more than nominal. Over synagogue and churches alike, his watchword is — downright! As an imperialist, it is with the Diehards that sometimes he eats his dinner. The Diehards may be all that people allege, but they are downright.

Differences of background yield to community of sacrifice. This son of a Christian Church meets the children of the synagogue at the sacrament of social service. In London, he has been drafted onto the Jewish Board of Guardians and numerous other remedial and educational organizations. Lives thus associated in a partnership of duty to the common neighbor, cannot be far apart from the love that, despite all acrimony, embraces families and mankind.

Copyright, 1933, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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