The arrest of Evelyn John St. Loe Straehey, the non-Jewish author and lecturer, in a synagogue in Glencoe, Illinois, will perhaps serve as a lesson to some of our rabbis who have the weakness of inviting into their temples non-Jewish speakers to lecture on subjects which have nothing to do with religion or with Jewish life.
Every liberal-minded person in the United States will strongly disapprove of the arrest and deportation of Mr. Straehey. As long as the principle of freedom of speech still exists in our country, Mr. Strachey or anybody else has a right to express his views. From the standpoint of Jewish interests however, it is highly doubtful whether the synagogue should be permitted to become a platform for Mr. Strachey, who is regarded as an advocate of Communism, or for anybody else who may even be regarded as a foe of Communism.
The incident with Mr. Strachey, the British lecturer, will, we hope, teach certain congregations that anything which does not deal directly with Jewish life has no place in the synagogue. Our synagogue is the place for the teaching of religion and Judaism only. It is not a tribune for extremists, whether Communists, Fascists or monarchists, since they have nothing to do with Jewry.
On the other hand, it must be emphasized that the strategy of the immigration authorities in choosing a synagogue in which to arrest Mr. Strachey, is also one of those things which can not be commented upon favorably. Mr. Strachey is a public figure. He delivers his lectures publicly. He has long been in the public eye. The immigration authorities could have arrested him in his hotel. They could have arrested him on the train. They could have arrested him in any other public place but a synagogue.
HELPING THE PELLEYS
The fact that the immigration officers chose to seize Mr. Strachey in a Jewish temple will cause many rightly or wrongly to believe that this was a deliberate attempt to help anti-Jewish propaganda. The Pelleys and the McFaddens will certainly owe a vote of thanks to the immigration inspectors who have thus played into their hands.
At a time when nothing is being done by the authorities in the United States to suppress or discourage the propaganda of anti-Semitic elements here who deliberately confuse Jews with Communists, at such a time the immigration authorities ought to have used more discretion in choosing the place for the arrest of Mr. Strachey.
The immigration department has consciously or unconsciously played a role which is far from being in accordance with American traditions. Arresting Mr. Strachey, not in his hotel, but in a Jewish temple, pours oil on the anti-Jewish flames which certain elements are trying to fan in our country. This, however, does not diminish the blameworthiness of the rabbi of the Glencoe temple, who has displayed so little responsibility towards the interests of American Jewry as to invite a non-Jewish lecturer to speak in the synagogue on a subject which has nothing to do with Jews.