Opponents of Referendum Assailed As American Jewish Congress Marks 20th Anniversary
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Opponents of Referendum Assailed As American Jewish Congress Marks 20th Anniversary

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A thousand persons attending a dinner last night marking the twentieth anniversary of the American Jewish Congress heard all speakers turn their fire on opponents of the forthcoming referendum, charging that malice inspired them in describing it as an attempt to create political separatism in Jewish life.

Starting with Prof. Horace M. Kallen and ending with Dr. Stephen S. Wise, Congress president, speaker after speaker thrust chiefly at the American Jewish Committee as leader of the group opposing the balloting scheduled for June 25, 26 and 27.

“We who are convinced believers and undeviating followers of the democratic ideal,” Dr. Wise declared, “are accused of undemocratic practices. As for the statement that the American Jewish Congress elections mean the danger of a Jewish political unit, the American Jewish Committee which makes that charge, knows it to be false and sins against the honor of the Jewish people in uttering such a charge.”

Dr. Wise, in a speech part of which was broadcast over municipal radio station WNYC, expressed sharp resentment at the Committee’s use of the phrase “Americans who are Jews” in its statement disassociating itself from the referendum.

Charging that this phrase harked back “to the tragic cowardice of the German Jews who declared over and over, ‘We are not Jews, but German citizens of Jewish Faith, ‘ “Dr. Wise asserted: ” I am a Jew, not an American of Jewish faith. I have been an American for 63 of the 64 years of my life, but I have been a Jew for 4,000 years.” He added: “Hitler was right in one thing. He calls the Jewish people a race, and we are a race. I make no apology for being a Jew, any more than the President of the United States does for being of Dutch ancestry.”

Prof. Kallen, terming the American Jewish Committee “at best a philanthropy and at worst–well, shut your eyes and use your imagination,” declared: “We cannot accept democracy as American citizens and reject democracy as members of American Jewish communities.”

M. Maldwin Fertig, chairman of the elections board which will supervise balloting on the single question of creating a unified agency to combat anti-Semitism, termed “preposterous” the Committee’s allegation that the referendum constituted an “undemocratic attempt to make of Americans who are Jews a distinct political unit.”

The sum of $15,000 was pledged at the dinner to defray expenses of the vote, which will be held simultaneously with election of delegates to an extraordinary session of the Congress next September. Receipt of messages praising Congress aims and condemning advance of anti-Semitism not simply as a danger to Jews but “as the doom of the traditions and ideals we hold most dear,” was announced from 142 Congressmen representing 42 States, and 18 Governors. More than 200 Christian clerical and lay leaders, Dr. Wise announced, have joined in a public statement declaring “what is happening to the Jewish people, tragic as it is for millions of them, is even more tragic to the world at large, as a symbol of the efforts which are being made to destroy democracy, peace, and humanity itself.”

Other speakers included Arthur M. Lamport, Maurice Levin, Rabbi Joachim Prinz and Judge Nathan D. Perlman.

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