When the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee opens today at the Hotel Astor, an interesting picture of Jewish problems in Europe and America will be given to the gathering by Dr. Cyrus Adler in his report.
The center of the picture will, of course, be Germany. The American Jewish Committee during the past year has concentrated its activities on the Jewish situation in Germany and has fine achievements to report. The Jewish position in Poland will also occupy a good deal of space in Dr. Adler’s review. Also that of Austria.
But the most startling part of the report will probably be the revelation that the American Jewish Committee is now engaged in efforts to obtain from the Soviet government more liberty for Jewish religious activities and for Zionists. On the basis of the exchange of letters between President Rooseve’t and Soviet, commissar Litvinoff, the American Jewish Committee believes that it can secure freedom of action for Zionists in Russia and greater protection for the observance of Jewish religious traditions.
Before starting action on this, the American Jewish Committee made a thorough study of the subject and conferred with a number of important lawyers. Dr. Cyrus Adler, in his report today, will disclose to the gathering all the details of what has so far been done in this direction.
REPORT WILL DISCUSS WORLD CONGRESS STAND
A considerable section of Dr. Adler’s report will be devoted to the question of why the American Jewish Committee does not approve of the calling of a world Jewish congress.
The meeting today will be the largest in the history of the Committee, which has grown in membership. So much interest has been taken this year in the work of the Committee that at this year’s meeting not less than twenty organizations from all over the country will be represented.
The American Jewish Committee. better than any organization in the United States, is in a position to give a review of Jewish life in Europe, because it has been its policy to look into the Jewish position in the different countries every year through special emissaries. For the last five years representatives of the American Jewish Committee have visited various European countries for the sole purpose of getting first-hand information on the position of the Jews there.
LASKI WILL ADDRESS COMMITTEE SESSION
Today’s meeting will also be addressed by Neville Laski, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an organization which represents British Jewry and which for years has been working hand in hand with the American Jewish Committee. Mr. Laski, who recently visited Poland and Austria, will have much to say on the Jewish situation in these countries.
The leaders of the American Jewish Committee, active for European Jewry, are also active for Palestine in the non-Zionist section of the Jewish Agency. The Administrative Committee, which concluded its sessions last week in New York, has, however, brought out the fact that they are dissatisfied with the meagre representation they now have in the Jewish Agency.
As a result of this dissatisfaction, the on-Zionists in America will organize a special body which will give them a stronger standing with the Jewish Agency and which will enable them to exercise a better control over the activities of the Executive of the Agency.
NON-ZIONIST BODY MOST IMPORTANT OUTCOME
This significant development is perhaps the most important outcome of the session of the Administrative Committee held in New York last week. It means that the non-Zionist section of the Jewish Agency will no longer stand for the accusation which the Zionists cast at it, alleging that the non-Zionists are the inactive part of the Agency. This accusation, which appeared in the official organ of the Zionist Organization of America on the eve of the opening of the Administrative Committee, is based chiefly on the lenient attitude which the non-Zionists have taken in permitting the Zionists to be represented on the Executive by a very large majority, despite the fact that the non-Zionists have a right to a fifty per cent representation there.
Heated discussions between the Zionists and the non-Zionists on the above issue were expected at the Administrative Committee sessions. Such discussions will no longer be necessary once the non-Zionists are better organized for a stronger representation.
While the Administrative Committee was in session in New York, two regretful messages came from Palestine. The first reported a flood caused during the week by heavy rains, resulting in $5,000,000 damages, in the loss of several lives, in the ruining of many houses in Tel Aviv and the Jewish colonies and in greatly affecting Jewish orange plantations.
NEW PALESTINE TAX BURDENS CITRUS INDUSTRY
The other message reported that the Palestine government has decided to impose a very heavy tax on land cultivated for orange plantations, simultaneously decreasing the tax on agricultural land. Should this decision be carried out, it would mean that the orange industry in Palestine, which is the largest in the country, will be greatly hammered in its export and its competition in foreign markets, while the Arab fellaheen will be practically exempted from the small tax which they are now nominally paying for their grain fields.
It has been the custom of the Palestine government for the last few years to cancel the taxes due from the Arab fellaheen, sometimes because of the poor crops and at other times because of the generally liberal policy which the High Commissioner of Palestine has adopted towards the fellaheens.
The present decision of the government means, therefore, that the Palestine government wishes to collect from the Jewish orange plantators what it is donating to the Arab fellaheen.
AIMED TO PREVENT OVER-PRODUCTION
It is highly probable that the increased taxation which the Palestine government wishes to impose upon the orange planters aims chiefly to discourage the development of new orange plantations in the country. At present the territory occupied for orange growing in Palestine is reaching such proportions that the Jewish armers’ Association has found it necessary to issue a warning. With tariff barriers existing against Palestine oranges in England, with the competition on the international citrus market coming from Spain and other countries and with the constantly increasing growth of orange plantations in Palestine, it is feared that prices on Palestine oranges may reach a low point on the international market which would endanger the entire export of citrus products from Palestine.
American Jews who have invested substantial capital in the Palestine orange industry are, therefore, watching developments with the utmost interest. The news that the Palestine government intends to increase the taxes on land occupied by orange plantations certainly did not come as an encouragement to those American Jews who were still considering extending their investments in the citrus industry in Palestine. It is estimated that the projected increase in taxes will amount to no less than ten per cent of the average income which can be expected from the orange plantations under normal circumstances.
POLISH SITUATION ALSO STUDIED HERE
The question of Jewish interests in Palestine was not the only one which attracted attention during the week. The serious situation of Polish Jewry also came to the forefront when a conference of Jewish leaders in Warsaw decided to call for wider relief from America.
Utilizing the presence of Dr. Bernhard Kahn, European director of the Joint Distribution Committee, and Dr. Joseph Rosen, director of the Agro-Joint, a number of conferences were held in New York during the week, for the purpose of establishing what can be done to help the Polish Jews in their misery. It is quite clear that this year the Joint Distribution Committee will have to assign greater funds for relief activities in Poland.
EMIGRATION ESSENTIAL FOR POLISH JEWRY
The news which reached the United States from Poland during the week past makes it obvious that the only solution for the three and a half million Jews of Poland is an enlarged migration. Whether this migration will be directed to Palestine. to Biro-Bidian or to the territories now opened in Syria is of little difference to the average Jew in Poland who is starving and has nothing to lose. The Polish government would be only too happy to get rid of as many Jews as possible and would make no difficulties in their going out of the country.
The Joint Distribution Committee, as the largest Jewish relief organization, will therefore have a very difficult and responsible task this year to help the Jews of Poland. The relief work which the J.D.C. will have to develop for them must not be underestimated. It deserves the assistance of every Jew in the United States.