Convention Sifts Social Problems
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Convention Sifts Social Problems

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The following is an extract from an address delivered by Morris D. Waldman, secretary of the American Jewish Committee, before the National Conference of Jewish Social Service yesterday. Mr. Waldman’s subject was “Problems Facing the Jews throughout the World and their Implications for American Jewry.”

“American Jewry has never been the victim of the illusion of ‘splendid isolation.’ Always, we have reacted and responded whole-heartedly and generously to the problem of our brethren in other lands. As the largest and wealthiest single Jewish community in the world we have more than adequately played a leading role in all the great crises of modern times, from the support of Palestine development to the alleviation of the effects of Russian famines and pogroms.

“But hitherto we have given and helped as a rich uncle to poor but distant nephews. Up until now, we have been philanthropists; now we are elder brothers united with our kin in a common fate and before a common danger.


“Even a superficial inspection of the Jewish scene reveals that there are no longer distinct problems facing separate communities of Jews but that, by and large, the Jews the world over are faced with the same social and economic problems. In Poland, for example, it has been estimated that 200,000 Jewish families are in need of relief in some form or another. The unemployment among the Jewish proletariat is enormous; the destruction of the middle class continues, the opportunities in the professions and the civil service are increasingly restricted. What is true of Poland is equally true of Roumania, Austria, Hungary. In Germany, the ruthles destruction of economic opportunities goes on. In Russia the Jew as merchant and small trader has been condemned to an economic death. In all these countries in short the prevailing economic structure of Jewish life is being persistently undermined.

“These conditions are only partly the consequence of anti-Jewish activity. Mainly they result from the harsh but immutable economic forces that in our times cut freely across national boundaries. Because these factors are international in scope their effect is to be seen also upon the American Jews as well as upon the Jews of Eastern and Central Europe.


“Since the war, particularly, the old economic order and social system have entered upon a new line of evolution which seems to presage more extensive changes yet to come. Certain tendencies appear to me to be visible, as they affect the position of the Jews of the world. First, there is the tendency toward state capitalism, or state regulation of economic enterprise. This takes the form in many countries of a nationalization of industries and the creation of state monopolies, of a closer regimentation of both capital and labor.

“Secondly, there is the growing trend toward concentration in industry, the trust or cartel movement, which has the effect of shutting out small industries and business. The chain-stores are also manifestations of this movement. These large producing and selling units frequently refuse to employ Jews who were, when salesmanship and personality played a decisive role in the economic order, valuable and necessary as instrumentalities in industry. Now mass-production and the new developments in large-scale salesmanship tend to make the qualities of the Jew less essential.


“There is also the increased striving after national self-sufficiency as expressed in high tariffs and quotas. The Jews have largely contributed to the development of such world commerce, and they are most seriously menaced by its statling decline-especially in Germost seriously menaced by its startling decline-especially in Germany, Poland, and Eastern Europe.

“Likewise, the growth-especially in Eastern Europe-of co-operatives which supersede the old village trade has hurt the economic present and future of many thousands of Jews.

“Then, too, there have recently arisen movements pointing toward an aggravated anti-Semitism of consumers, and “boycott the Jew” movements. There is also an anti-Jewish tendency in ‘big business’ whose interlocking directorates many times attempt to remove the competition of a Jewish fellow-manufacturer or banker.

“In short, and put in its baldest terms, we are witnessing today the suspension of the principle of free competition which until recently was the definitional factor of the capitalist system and under which principle the Jew gained his political emancipation and patterned his social aptitudes.


“These permanent world problems facing Jewry today will, and have already begun to, have their effects on Jewish life intrinsically. Religious and cultural assimilation will tend to become less of an issue than it was heretofore, under emancipatory conditions. Palestine will perhaps assume a new importance as a partial territorial solution. Judaism may be divided by economic and political issues; or it may conceivably find a new unity, since its fate and future are one, for all its members. These questions, perhaps, are imponderables, incapable of solution. Yet they must be faced, and their implications realized, by the Jews of America and the world at large.

“Added to the prevailing economic factors there is the special one of anti-Semitism which whether officially sponsored or unofficially promoted aggravated the economic position of the Jew and confronts him with the problem of civil and social as well as economic adjustment.

“A great danger of this latter-day anti-Semitism is its contagious nature. It appeals to the universal passions of fear, ignorance, and hatred. And, to make it more threatening still, it appeals as a strategy or ‘way out’ for the economic and psychological difficulties of our present day. This unique factor makes Nazi anti-Semitism something infinitely more formidable than any other form of anti-Jewish hostility we have hitherto been called upon to face. It is a phenomenon so world-wide in scope and so fundamental in nature that in combatting it we have the feeling we are fighting for a whole ethos, a civilization, a culture, against the forces of ignorance and reaction that seek to destroy them.


“The anti-Semites’ revolt against reason, these attacks upon democratic ideals, these appeals for a tribual ‘totalitarian’ blood-state and for a return of the Jew to the ghetto, are known in almost every country of the world.

“Perhaps never before have all Jewish problems been so merged into one upon such a universal scale. Whatever may be the commercial policy of governments, there are no high tariffs for Jew hatred. In that respect, all countries are free traders.

“And because we believe that the things for which America stands are so basically antithetical to the tribal system of Hitlerism, our first and immediate problem as Americans as well as Jews is to stem this rising tide in our own land. We must put up a high and insurmountable tariff against the importation of these barbaric principles and their dissemination in our country. We must protect our constitution and our institutions from bigotry and race hatred. This is all the more necessary since these are elements of danger in our situation in the United States. We are suffering under a long and devastating economic depression; which playing upon the minds of thousands of people-render them susceptible to mob spirit and waves of emotion. The fact that some Jews have won important positions and distinctions furnishes under such conditions material for attack; social discriminations against Jews in our universities and clubs are part of our birthright even in this land of refuge.


“The anti-Jewish movement in the United States seems to find its principal support in the active or passive allegiance of thousands of so-called ‘German-Americans. These people are, I think, generally liberals, since great numbers of them originate in families which left Germany in 1848 as political radicals. However, it is natural that their patriotism be stirred by the new German nationalism which they believe vindicates all Germans in the eyes of the world. Also, agitators sent by the German government have done their work well: German vereins or clubs in our largest cities have expelled Jews and other dissidents, and have become Nazi ‘cells’; protests have been silenced by threats against relatives still living in Germany. And consequently you have an Ernst Bohle, chief of the Nazi party’s foreign staff, declaring in a proclamation dated January 13, 1934, and published in Amerika’s Deutsche Post of March 1: ‘Each individual German is today in his guest-country an exponent of our National Socialist view of the world, even when he is not a party member.’

“Then, too, there still remains latent in the United States the anti-Jewish feeling exploited not long ago by the Ku Klux Klan and the Dearborn Independent.

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