Rabbi Jonah Wise Denies Charges of Undermining U.p.a. Drive
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Rabbi Jonah Wise Denies Charges of Undermining U.p.a. Drive

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Charges in a two-column editorial in this week’s issue of “The New Palestine,” organ of the Zionist Organization of America, that he and other leaders of the Joint Distribution Committee were trying to undermine the United Palestine Appeal’s campaign for $3,500,000, were today emphatically denied by Rabbi Jonah B. Wise in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Describing Rabbi Wise as “a persistent and unreserved enemy of Palestine and its implications,” the editorial declares that in confidentially addressing influential groups throughout the country, he has sought to minimize the importance of Palestine in the present situation of World Jewry in an effort to win greater support for the J.D.C. campaign for a like sum.

The editorial states that Rabbi Wise, “as the emissary of the Joint Distribution Committee, has been addressing Welfare Chest Committees, preaching not peace but bitterness, sowing not unity but discord, stirring not friendship but enmity. And furthermore, we declare that exactly similar methods and tactics have been employed by other representatives of the J.D.C. in various parts of the country.”

Answering this charge, Rabbi Wise made the following statement:

“They were quite misinformed. We have no such attitude and we pursue no such tactics. We put our problem before communities and make no reference that I know of to programs of other groups.”

Joseph C. Hyman, secretary of the J.D.C., said he had no comment to make on the editorial.

Requesting a public statement by the J.D.C. “as to its intentions and purpose,” the editorial concludes with the announcement that the U.P.A. is prepared to submit the question of parity with the J.D.C. in its demands for funds to a plebiscite “in every Jewish community in America,” or to any impartial tribunal.

Captioned, “Is the J.D.C. Preparing a Fund-Raising Campaign or a Nationwide Controversy?” the editorial follows in part:

“The spirit of Jewish unity expresses itself not merely in technical union but in affirmative good will and good faith. When the Joint Distribution Committee and the United Palestine Appeal separated after two years of partnership in the United Jewish Appeal, it was assumed that the leaders of the two bodies would appreciate the value and place of each other’s programs. Resolutions of good-will were adopted and published.

“There is substantial reason to doubt that the Joint Distribution Committee is displaying that good-will and good faith toward the cause of Palestine, which was expected to be maintained in 1936, especially in view of the closer relations established between them in the Council for German Jewry…..

“As representative of the J.D.C. Jonah Wise has been visiting a number of communities. This is a laudable display of energy on his part. He has made himself heard especially in the inner circles of Welfare Chest Committees; these confidential exchanges of opinions are usually not reported, but are heard by those who have power and influence. If he were to content himself with a summary of the undeniable service rendered by the J.D.C; if he were to plead for fullest co-operation so that the quota of that body might be realized; if he were to describe the calls made upon the facilities of the J.D.C. in various lands today; if he were building up a strong case for the support of the program of the Joint – he would be fulfilling a mission of public responsibility which all would praise. But Rabbi Wise has chosen for himself not merely the role of protagonist. He is also the antagonist, the disparager of his competitor…..

“The character of Rabbi Jonah B. Wise as a persistent and unreserved enemy of Palestine and its implications should have been mellowed by the last two years of experience, which has shattered the self-satisfaction of even its most stubborn opponents. Over 35,000 German Jews have come to Palestine. Less than half of that number have been permanently absorbed in all other lands combined. At the same time Palestine was making room for some 60,000 Polish Jews and tens of thousands of Jews from other countries. In Palestine they were finding inner serenity and outward security. Those who had found a place in Palestine were happy, content. But Dr. Jonah Wise is not happy about it.

“And he is the man who today as the emissary of the Joint Distribution Committee, has been addressing Welfare Chest Committees, preaching not peace but bitterness, sowing not unity but discord, stirring not friendship but enmity. And furthermore, we declare that exactly similar methods and tactics have been employed by other representatives of the J.D.C. in various parts of the country.

“The United Palestine Appeal has the deepest sympathy for the stated purposes of the J.D.C. It wishes with all sincerity that the full quota of the J.D.C. It wishes with all sincerity that the full quota of the J.D.C. may be reached. The task which face it would require even larger funds. But there is an equally great (in-our view, a far greater), purpose that has been undertaken by the United Palestine Appeal……

“It would well be within the aims of the Joint Distribution Committee likewise to subscribe and heartily endorse the program of the United Palestine Appeal; for by removing Jews from Europe into Palestine, the Jewish Agency is not merely salvaging those who are lucky enough to come to Palestine, but it is diminishing the pressure in European countries tending toward the strengthening of anti-Semitism. An impartial, reasoned approach to the Jewish problem in Europe would try to solve it not on the basis of organizational pride and not in terms of personal prejudice – but with an eye to the best interests of the Jewish people. If those interests can be served through the settlement of the largest possible number in Palestine, why should the Joint Distribution Committee consider it an act of hostility to its own program that this other and more far-reaching task should be carried out, and why should it bend all its efforts to place our enterprise in a position of budgetary inferiority.

“This plain speaking is necessary now. It may serve to check what we regard as destructive work in which Jonah Wise and others are engaged. All that has been done for the cause of unity in American Israel threatens to be utterly destroyed by the partisan zeal and the doctrinal prejudices of the strategists of the J.D.C. All the more is it necessary to speak out because most of this objectionable work is being done through meetings of small committees, through confidential letters addressed to individuals, and it is impossible for that reason to check influences through discussion and argument. We are therefore compelled publicly to call it to the attention of the J.D.C. and to request a public statement as to its intentions and purposes.

“The United Palestine Appeal aims to raise $3,500,000 during 1936 in the United States. The Joint Distribution Committee seeks a similar amount. Our budget is just as legitimate and just as essential as the budget of the J.D.C. It is unfair to match a budget of the Jewish Agency for Palestine with the form of budgetary appropriations made by the J.D.C. The one is the budget of a responsible public organization, the other is a budget drawn up in camera, about which there is no discussion and which involves only voluntary appropriations…..

“Having the same financial goal as the J.D.C., conscious that the whole future of Jewish life in Europe largely depends upon the quickest possible upbuilding of the Jewish National Home, knowing that there can be used for creative and permanent purposes in Palestine in the service of Jews persecuted both in Poland and in Germany, twice and three times the amount of money which we are asking for, the United Palestine Appeal would be recreant in its responsibility if it did not insist at least upon parity in the Welfare Chests and in all local joint campaigns. The United Palestine Appeal cannot, dare not, and will not accept less than parity.

“The United Palestine Appeal is prepared to submit that issue to a plebiscite in every Jewish community in America. It is prepared to submit its just claims to any impartial tribunal. It has a right to ask for peace and harmony, mutual understanding, which expediency if not dignity and self-respect would dictate at this time in connection with an internal Jewish matter. The United Palestine Appeal will not agree to allow these surreptitious and secret confidences and arguments to be made before the Welfare Chests of many communities without any opportunity on our part to meet these arguments and dispose of their inaccuracies, insinuations and prejudices. We submit that by condoning and giving its tacit approval to the mission of Jonah Wise and others like him, the Joint Distribution Committee is not serving the best interests of distressed Jewry.”

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