Take a high-geared American business executive of the top flight, multiply him by two and you have a pretty fair thumbnail impression of Neville Laski, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, in New York to attend a series of conferences of far-reaching import to world Jewry.
In America for the first time, Laski, pacing restlessly to and fro in his fourteenth floor room at the Hotel Commodore, seemed thoroughly at home. Although impressed by the architectural magnificence of New York, by the traffic jams, by mid-Manhattan’s mazda brilliance and symmetrical street layout, the distinguished leader of probably the world’s most influential body of Jews didn’t seem in the least miffed by it all.
Mr. Laski is taking New York â€”and a considerable slice of the East and Canadaâ€”in stride. And what a stride! He has mapped for himself one of the most ambitious schedules a visitor to these shores has ever undertaken. The day he doesn’t participate in at least three or four conferences with American Jewish leadersâ€”such as Paul Baerwald, Felix Warburg, Dr. Gottheil â€”deliver a like number of speeches at luncheons, dinners and conventions, Mr. Laski will probably feel as if he’s loafing.
And the youthful British leader â€”he spent his forty-fourth birthday on the boat-train from London â€”didn’t come here to loaf and invite his soul, despite the counsel of the Irish poet, George Russell (AE).
The pace at which he is driving himself during his fortnight’s stay here is characteristic of the handsome, ruddy-faced, nattily-dressed Briton and reflects the life he has led during the past two years.
SURVEYED JEWISH PLIGHT
“I haven’t had a holiday in two years,” he told The Jewish Daily Bulletin reporter who was struggling helplessly to keep up with his clipped, rapid-fire flow of words.
“I’ve traveled all over Europe surveying the Jewish situation. Besides scores of crossings to France, I’ve been to Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Danzig, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland.”
“And now,” he added a bit ruefully, “here I am in America spending my twentieth wedding anniversary. Celebrate it? I’ll probably send a cable.”
By avocation a leader of British Jewryâ€”and by inheritance as well, since his father was long treasurer of the British Boardâ€”Mr. Laski by profession is a barrister, having attained the highest rank in that field, King’s Counselor.
“You want a personal slant?” he repeated the reporter’s query. “What is ‘slant’?”
When the term was properly defined, Mr. Laski smiled and gave unstintingly of the desired “slant.”
SAW WAR SERVICE
“They might like to know that I’ve been a soldier,” he said. “I served with the Lancashire Fusilliers in Gallipoli, the Sinai Desert and in France during the war.”
“You look like an athlete,” the reporter prompted, “what are your hobbies?”
“Haven’t had time for hobbies in the last two years,” he countered, “But I do enjoy walking. I’m fond of collecting books. And I co### stamps, all unused. ### I have ### two boys and two girls. One of the girls, 19, is at Oxford and has been presented at Court. His wife, who is equally active with him in Jewish circles, is the daughter of Chacham Moses Gaster, venerable English rabbi of world renown.
Discussing the role of American Jews in the crisis being faced by the Jewries of other countries, Mr. Laski was enthusiastic in his praise of the work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
PRAISE FOR U. S. AID
He recommended that this body continue its efforts along the same lines it has followed. The appreciation of English Jewry for the work of the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and other American bodies was also conveyed by Mr. Laski. He suggested that the non-Zionist section of the Jewish Agency for Palestine “enlarge the ambit of its membership.”
One of the first missions undertaken by Mr. Laski after his arrival last Tuesday was a visit to the Jewish Theological Seminary, of which his friend, Dr. Cyrus Adler, is president.
His visit to the institution on Broadway and 122nd street was made, he said, “to emphasize that in my view Judaism still means so much to Jews that it was important to perform this symbolistic act.”
He found the seminary thoroughly charming in its atmosphere, architecture and spirit.
After the visit to the seminary Mr. Laski was taken to a session of night court at which Magistrate Jonah Goldstein was presiding.
RELAYS OF SECRETARIES
Practically the only relaxation, aside from those two visits, which Mr. Laski is permitting himself during his stay here is attendance at a theatre sometime during the week. He hasn’t selected the play he wishes to see. It would be the first time he’s been in a theatre in six months, he said.
During his stay here Mr. Laski is being assisted by the American Jewish Committee, which has provided him with relays of secretaries, whom he is finding as efficient and capable as his own in England.
Following is a brief resume of the schedule to be followed by Mr. Laski until he departs for England on January 9:
Conferences with Paul Baerwald, Felix Warburg, Dr. Gottheil. Meetings with James G. McDonald, League of Nations High Commissioner for German Refugees Beginning December 31 and lasting through January 2 he will attend meetings of the administrative committee of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the principal ######tional Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Agencies. That evening he will attend a reception to Commissioner McDonald, who will be awarded a gold medal for his services to Jewry during the past year.
On Friday, January 4, he will discuss general Jewish problems over a national hookup of the Columbia Broadcasting System. The following day he is slated to speak at a luncheon of the Harmonie Club on “Jews in the World Scene.” That same afternoon he will address a meeting of the Hadassah.
The following morning, January 6, he will attend the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee. That same night he is down for a speech at a dinner of the Philadelphia Federation of Jewish Charities. On January 7 he will be in Buffalo for a luncheon of the Jewish Community Center there. In the evening he will attend a meeting of Canadian Jewish leaders in Toronto.
He will have breakfast on January 8 with leaders of the Canadian Jewish Congress in Montreal From Montreal he skips down the same night to Boston for a dinner engagement and speech before the New Century Club. On January 9 he speaks at a luncheon in Baltimore and in the evening will appear at a dinner of the Judeans. He sails for England the same night.
And that, Mr. Laski said, isn’t the half of it. Much of his schedule he refrained from mentioning and much of it is being changed and added to momentarily.