Mount Zion Temple, St. Paul, Minn.
At no time in the past twenty-five years has American Israel been so leaderless as it is today. With the exception of one or two personalities, who have shown an occasional sense of leadership in this particular crisis, there is no one to whom Israel in America might, look for direction or whose guidance she would seek and followâ€”no one who possesses a sense of resolute wardenship of our weal and woe. Of potential leaders or of men who hold themselves such, there is no shortage. But these would-be leaders lack the gift of transfiguring their work by high endeavor; they lack forbearance and patience, they fail to practice restraint of tongue and manner. In many instances they assume leadership by sheer cleverness and dexterity, by simply affirming that they deserve a front place or by pushing their way to it.
But, perhaps, the absence of great leaders, particularly in the present emergency, is due to the fact that the rank and file of our people have not been properly prepared and disciplined for sober and sane “followship”. Perhaps we are suffering from a bankruptcy of “followership” no less than from a bankruptcy of leadership. And I am not at all sure that as a people we are yet equal to the challenge of an authentically great leadership. It may be that the reason why we have no great leaders today is for the very obvious reason that we have no intelligent followers. So long as there is a total absence of any disposition to responsible “followship”, just so long will the coming of real leaders be delayed.
Is it futile to cherish the hope that the time has come when our leaders shall be more exactly representative of the best and noblest in Israel, so that we shall be able to say in very truth and with becoming pride in the words of Hosea, “Like people, like priest.” Great leaders will be found only as the people develop a new feeling of responsibility. We are prone to spend half our time crying for great leadership and the other half crucifying wise leaders when we are lucky to get them. We cling with a desperate devotion to obsolete loyalties and traditional dogmas. We still resent the man who demands that we surrender the innumerable Shibboleths and slogans that have shattered our minds.
Jewish life in America will become one in its purpose and program when both our leaders and followers will become conscious of their respective responsibilities â€” when those destined to stewardship will cease being superficial, when sincerity will supplant pretense, when unselfishness will replace cleverness; when those who are to follow will select leaders who will not think like them but think for them, who will seek to glorify and dignify the high office of leadership by demanding thereof honesty, intelligence and loyalty. No one knows how much of really great leadership is today being held in leash because the people are not ready to follow wisely and unselfishly.
In our plight let us not be compelled to make the decision made by the trees in the parable of Jotham. When the olive, fig and vine refuse to serve, let us not in despair choose the thorny bramble. Israel will not be led except by its best and choicest fruits!
AMERICA AND THE OLYMPIC GAMES
It is heartening to record the decision of the American Olympic Association adopted the other day at Washington. This decision, in the form of a resolution, expressed the hope that Germany would lift all restrictions against its Jewish athletes “so that the athletes of the teams of the United States of America can and will be certified for competition under the Olympic standard.”
This phrasing was a modification, along the lines of mildness, of a resolution adopted earlier in the week by the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States to boycott the 1936 Olympic Games at Berlin because of the attitude of the Hitler regime toward the participation of Jews in the native contingent. It was felt, when the A.A.U. resolution was presented at Washington, that its tone would antagonize the Hitlerites and get the beasts’ fur up. But the main point is adhered to.
If the essence of the two resolutions continues to be maintained, whatever the differentiations in language, there is no doubt that either more complete guarantees of democracy will have to be made or else there will be no American participation in Berlin in 1936 and a World Olympiad without Americans would be very much like a Before Christian Era Olympiad in Athens without Greeks, for at the last Games in Los Angeles, the American contingent won, almost hands down.
Protestations of democracy have become perfunctory, but we believe that Germans do not realize that sport in America, professional as well as amateur, comes as close to obeying the rules of democracy as any activity practiced in America. Our poloists and yachtsmen may possibly be drawn from the limited upper social strata, because of the vast expense involved in practicing these sports, but otherwise there is as complete democracy in sport as can be imagined.
It is a subject for the gentlest raillery that the lineup of football teams must reveal at least several jaw-breaking Polish names. No football coach, for example, will turn down a tackle-crushing back because he happens to be black. Colleges which are under denominational auspices are not ashamed to record victories that may have been won with the help of Jews. No good white Protestant American alumnus will refuse to cheer a touchdown because it is made by the son of Catholic Italian immigrants. Off the field, at office or mill, he may say hunky or wop or nigger, but the same man, as a good alumnus, will help put through his alma mater an immigrant Jew boy because he can play good football, or baseball, or hockey.