World Jewry must have the courage of its convictions if the sweeping wave of anti-Semitism is to be subdued. And in America, one of the great threats against Jewish life is segregation. This, in effect, is the opinion of Mrs. Henry Morgenthau Jr., who at the closing session of the twentieth annual convention of Hadassah held here in Washington, spoke as a Jew, to Jews, in a vein combining sincerity and high idealism.
Denying that discrimination against Jews exists in America, Mrs. Morgenthau said that “discrimination is the exception and not the rule.” More than 3,000 women from every section of the country heard the wife of the Secretary of the Treasury express what was construed to be her innermost feelings toward the problems confronting the Jews in America today.
“Suffering always ties people more closely together,” Mrs. Morgenthau said, referring to recent events in Jewish life. “The cruel misfortune to our fellow Jews in certain parts of the world has made even those of us who were not primarily concerned with Jewish affairs more eager to reaffirm our Jewishness.
“But we must never forget that here in America Jew and Gentile work side by side, that discrimination against the Jew is the exception rather than the rule; and although misfortune may spiritually enrich us and tie us together, we must never allow ourselves to be segregated, nor must we segregate ourselves.”
Calling attention to the contributions made by Jews to the nation’s economic, social and cultural life, Mrs. Morgenthau said, “When a Jew holds a position of trust in private or public life, it is because his fellow citizens think him worthy.
“Because he is a Jew, let him be even more worthy and more deserving of their trust, and more unselfish in giving all of himself to his task than even those who claim him could hope for.”
Speaking of Jewry’s part in the civilized world, Mrs. Morgenthau said, “If we have been of any use to civilizationâ€”and there are those of us who think we haveâ€”it is because of our love of justice, our love of beauty, our desire for intellectual and religious freedom.”
In times or trouble, Jews are branded as capitalists, Communists, international bankers and pacifistsâ€””all in the same breath,” Mrs. Morgenthau said.
“Don’t live in fear of false accusations or misleading labels,” she warned. “Be true to yourselves. In spite of criticism, do not trim your sails. If, for instance, you believe in peace with all your heart and all your soul and all your might, do not be afraid to be called a pacifist.
“I can wish nothing better for myself or my children than that we be true to ourselves, and no matter how difficult or trying the situation may be, we walk the world with dignity.”
Mrs. Morgenthau’s remarks at the Hadassah convention are quite significant. Through her frank discussion of the facts, she has endeared herself in the hearts of American Jewish women. Mrs. Roosevelt, wife of the President, with whom Mrs. Morgenthau attended the closing session as honored guests, termed the talk a “beautiful message.”
All too often, Jews engaged in public life try to hide the fact that they are Jews. Washington has seen much of this. Mrs. Morgenthau has set a fine example and Jews of America may proudly look to her as their ranking Jewish first lady of the land. It is indeed wholesome and refreshing to hear a person speak for what he or she really is.
Mrs. Morgenthau and Mrs. Roosevelt are intimate friends. For years they have been neighbors in northern New York. The two travel around considerably, usually on inspection tours in connection with New Deal relief activities. Only last week-end the two women visited the squalid and terrible homes of West Virginia unemployed miners who live under conditions which Mrs. Roosevelt termed “a disgrace to a country which calls itself civilized.”
At the Hadassah convention Mrs. Morgenthau spoke first and stole the show from the First Lady. It probably was the first time that such a thing happened to Mrs. Roosevelt since the New Deal came into being.
In making her opening remarks, the first words Mrs. Roosevelt said included: “I want to give you first of all a word of greeting from my husband who told me to greet you as I came out this evening.”
Mrs. Roosevelt apparently derived considerable pleasure listening to portions of the Palestinian opera “Hechalutz” as played under the direction of Professor Jacob Weinberg, composer. She listened to the musical strains with her head poised slightly upward. Occasionally her eyes would close for a few moments as if she were trying to visualize the meaning of the emotional sounds made by the piano, the violin and the cello. At the conclusion of the number, she turned to the musicians and applauded them with deep appreciation.