Laski Gives Impressions of U.S. Visit
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Laski Gives Impressions of U.S. Visit

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Neville Laski, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, writing his impressions of his recent visit to the United States in the Jewish Chronicle, states that he does not know of any useful purpose which the proposed World Jewish Congress would serve at the present time. This project, Mr. Laski writes, is one of the chief problems agitating American Jewry.

“I took advantage of my presence at the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee and an invitation extended to me to speak thereat,” the article relates, “to speak on this question.

“I spoke not only for myself but also for certain friends to whom I specifically referred.”


Asserting that a World Jewish Congress might have some value at another time, Mr. Laski’s article says he regards the scheme as “a gratuitous weapon placed in the hands of German propagandists who would not be slow to seize the opportunity of using it.

“Moreover, a close study of the two preliminary experiments at Geneva does not reveal to my mind a single constructive thought advanced toward a solution of the problems which, during the past two years, have pressed so heavily upon us.

“I am no believer in government by public meeting.”


The British Jewish leader then tells how he sought “to establish relations with as many different points of view as possible” during the abbreviated period he was in the United States.

“I met the executive committee of the American Jewish Committee. I met Dr. Ste### Wise and Professor Kallen, two of the protagonists of the American Jewish Congress ### the World Jewish Congress; ##dge Mack, who stands between these two bodies; Mr. Justice Brandeis, perhaps the Elder Statesman of the American Jewish community; Mr. Tygel, the secretary of the Federation of Polish Jews of America, and numerous other persons who might be expected to give what the Americans call a ‘slant’ upon the American Jewish community.


“I heard nothing while in America which led me to the view that the method of approach by the Board and Joint Foreign Committee to the Jewish problems which have arisen during the past two years has been wrong.

“I still maintain that a different approach might have worsened a very difficult position.

“We are, as I have so often pointed out, a very minute facet in a very involved world position. And whatever views we may have upon our own importance, we cannot expect, if we have any sense of proportion, that the same views concerning ourselves will be held by others.

“This is the attitude of the American Jewish Committee. It is not that of the American Jewish Congress. One has to choose between the two.”

Mr. Laski then declares that he has made his choice and that he heard nothing while abroad “which would justify my altering it.

“But, as I have said before and as I repeat, no one with any sense of responsibility refuses to leave his mind open to argument, and if I and my friends can be convinced to the contrary of the view which I have expressed, I am sure none of us would refuse to make public admission.”

World Jewry, another Anglo-Jewish publication, publishes an interview with Mr. Laski, also based on his visit to the United States.

“Were you invited by the American Jewish Committee to make a statement in regard to the World Jewish Congress?” the interviewer asked.


“Not at all,” Mr. Laski replied. “When I decided to go to America and learned that a meeting of the American Jewish Committee would take place somewhere about the same time, I wrote and asked if I might attend, in view of the fact that the American Jewish Committee has been the correspondent of the Board (of Deputies of British Jews) since its inception.

“Neither was I asked to make any statement in regard to the Jewish World Congress.

“I made that statement because I felt that an honest expression of opinion from one who had given time and thought to the problem would not be unwelcome.

“I wish to repeat that I made the statement entirely on my own initiative and entirely on my own behalf and of those associated to whom I specifically referred.”

Another question was phrased thus:

“Are you still unalterably opposed to the idea of the Jewish Congress?”

In answer Mr. Laski said:

“I think I made it clear, at the meeting itself, that I was always a person of an open mind, and if good reasons could be advanced for any change in the opinion I was then expressing I hoped I would not show weakness in refusing to change.”


“Mr. Felix Warburg, Dr. Cyrus Adler, Dr. Karpf, Sir Osmond d’Avigdor Goldsmid and myself were very anxious,” Mr. Laski said, “that the non-Zionist section of the Jewish Agency should not only emulate the Zionist section in forming an active constituency in the organization, but that the non-Zionists should play the part contemplated for them as a piece of machinery for the development of Palestine within the terms of the Mandate.

“We also thought that a meeting in America would be a fitting tribute to the memory of the late Louis Marshall, and at the same time succeed in attracting the attention of the American Jewish public not affiliated to the Zionist Organization to their duty to play their full part in the upbuilding of Palestine, particularly at the present time, when Palestine is the only substantial avenue for emigration from Germany and other centers of Jewish persecution.”

Mr. Laski said there could be no doubt that the gathering achieved its purpose.

“As a meeting it was definitely worthwhile,” he told the representative of World Jewry. “Everybody was keen and anxious that it should be a success.

“If the resolutions agreed to, particularly those which have not yet been made public, are fulfilled in the letter and the spirit, the meeting ought to be a cause for sincere gratification to all interested.

“A number of matters were discussed and a number of decisions have been arrived at upon which public statements have not yet been made.


“When, however, we are in a position to give full details of the decisions come to, the importance of the assembly will be generally realized.”

In his article in the Jewish Chronicle, Mr. Laski writes:

“It is no secret that Sir Osmond and I on this side of the Atlantic and Mr. Warburg, Dr. Adler and Dr. Karpf in America have for a long time been anxious as to the position of the non-Zionist section of the Agency and have been impressed with the view that we must not only do our duty but be given the opportunity of doing our duty as non-Zionists within the letter and the spirit of the Agency agreement.


“I know that good-will exists for this purpose and that the resolutions we have adopted will be implemented both in the letter and in the spirit of all concerned.

“I had discussions with the Joint Distribution Committee and other persons with regard to the position in Poland which has distressed American Jewry as much as it has distressed the Anglo-Jewish community.

“The American leaders are well aware of the difficulties which have also been seen by the Board. Neither they nor ourselves can permit anything which would lead to competitive contrast between the German and the Polish situation or which would interfere with the vital needs of the American or the English Jewish communities.”

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