The Full Orbit of Our Responsibility

We are making progress! The decision of the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Palestine to merge their campaigns and to unite in common action to meet the needs of Jewry on all fronts is gratifying evidence that we are making progress. American Jewry will now be called upon to envisage the problem of Jewish relief and reconstruction as a unit and in its totality. The fragmentation of Jewish interests and the annual competition for preference and priority in communal estimation and support comes to a fortunate end.

It would have been an unpardonable waste of money and energy and a cynical disregard of the real wishes of the American Jewish public if in these critical times two separate campaigns would have been projected.

The objectives of the proposed campaigns of the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Palestine overlap to a considerable degree. An essential part of the program of the Joint is the care of the German refugees. This is also true of the program of the Jewish Agency. Nine thousand of the German refugees have already gone to Palestine—fifteen per cent of all who fled from Germany—nearly seven percent of the total number of Jewish immigrants who came into Palestine since 1919. Thousands more will go there. Here at least is one common meeting ground where cooperation in fund raising on the part of the two agencies is clearly indicated. Whatever other purposes the Joint and the Jewish Agency may wish to serve, this large area of common responsibility makes a joint fund raising effort inescapable.

Many of the local Jewish welfare funds throughout the country who are in far closer touch with the real sentiments of the people than the leaders at headquarters have long ago grown weary of the separate and often conflicting campaigns of these agencies and have of themselves merged them, frequently in the face of the obstructionist tactics of isolationist autocrats at national headquarters. Some of our communities were in the past treated to the unpleasant spectacle of attempted sabotage of united community efforts on the part of the national spokesmen of these agencies and to indecent wrangling over quotas and percentages.

American Jewry in its present mood is not inclined to tolerate this any longer, The average American Jew is deeply concerned in the plight of his German brothers. He wishes to contribute whatever he can to a general fund which will take care of the situation comprehensively. He senses the full scope of the problem and realizes that life will not permit a piece-meal solution. He is not interested in antiquated and academic discussions about Zionism. He knows that thousands of those whom he wishes to help, choose to go to Palestine. He realizes that the settlement of these refugees in Palestine has a significance beyond that of private relief. He understands that Palestine is more than just another place of refuge. The German-Jewish tragedy has taught him the lesson which he was reluctant to learn through all these years and which the men to whom he looked for leadership did not teach him—the need of a homeland for a people whom so many peoples are conspiring to render homeless. His entire outlook on Jewish life has undergone a radical change. This change is reflected in his demand for unity of action, at least in the field of fund raising. Most assuredly he is not interested in the petty rivalries and politics of organizations and their leaders.

The separate campaigns which in previous years were launched by the Joint and the Jewish Agency actually encouraged or kept alive separation in the Jewish community. Groups were encouraged to select specific segments of Jewish world need in consonance with their prejudices, predilections or fractional loyalties. One group would take the initiative in Joint campaigns, another in Palestine campaigns. Each had its own leaders, its own workers, its own ideology, its own characteristic appeal. A political and social line of cleavage was thus maintained in those communal enterprises which should have hastened rather than retarded the process of integration of Jewish group life.

Life has now accomplished what reason and sound judgment failed to accomplish. The pressure of an overwhelming Jewish tragedy has forced upon us not a truce, we hope, but a union. The objective of the one campaign will now embrace German-Jewish relief, Eastern and Central relief and the up-building of Palestine—in a word, the full orbit of our responsibility. The antithesis from now on must be not between Zionist and non-Zionist, but between cooperant and separatist Jew. The choice now is between remaining within the generous fold of a united national Jewish undertaking, or outside of it.

If this agreement represents more than an ad interim truce, if it is truly grounded in a new understanding and a new statesmanship, and if the leaders in both camps are prepared to exercise the fullest measure of tolerance, patience and good will in the initial stages of their adjustments, then this decision may prove the germinal basis of great good for the whole household of Israel. Then a great hour will not have found us a small people.

NEXT STORY