LONDON (Dec. 18)
Prof. Selig Brodetsky, noted mathematician and Zionist leader, was today the 35th president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He was elected head of the 179-year-old representative organization of British Jewry without opposition yesterday to fill the unexpired term of Neville Laski, who resigned. The Board at the same time voted to set up a war-time executive committee empowered to act in its name for the duration of the present emergency.
In a short speech thanking the Board for his election, Prof. Brodetsky pledged himself to maintain the Board’s independence and expressed a whole-hearted desire to achieve unity in the ranks of Anglo-Jewry. He made it clear that while he was a Zionist and a member of the Zionist Executive by conviction he considered it the primary function of the Board’s president to conduct the affairs of the Board with due regard to the views of all sections.
The Board, in unanimously adopting a resolution thanking Laski for his “tireless services in behalf of Jewry,” gave the retiring president an ovation. Sir Robert Waley Cohen, who moved the resolution, paid tribute to Laski, declaring that to him had fallen the task of defending Jewry in a world “inured to tragedy by the terrible experiences of the last war.” The resolution was seconded by the Rev. M.L. Perlzweig and supported by Leonard Stein, who took occasion severely to criticize an editorial in The New Palestine, American Zionist organ, welcoming Laski’s resignation.
Laski, in his valedictory address, thanked his colleagues for their support, referred to his association with the Board for 27 years, described the problems facing the organization today, urged reforms to make the Board more representative of the community, and expressed opposition to proposed affiliation of the Board with the World Jewish Congress but advised discussion with Congress representatives on the separate functions of each body.
Stressing Jewry’s general keen interest in Palestine, Laski warned against “rigid, uncompromising orthodoxy” with regard to Palestine. “Remember,” he said, “there are other places than Palestine and other problems than Zionism.”
Laski deprecated as misleading and dangerous the description of the Board as a “Jewish Parliament.” He pleaded for continued cooperation with the Anglo-Jewish Association in the Joint Foreign Committee and urged critics to retain a sense of proportion and to remember that the Jews were a very small factor in the European and still smaller in the world scene.
Concluding, he said: “I know you will refuse to allow a partisan spirit to invade the conduct of public business in this place and that you will realize a united front by coordination which cannot be translated as subordination.”
Acting to place itself on a war footing, the Board adopted an amendment to its constitution permitting election of an executive committee whose functions and powers “shall cease at termination of the present war.” The amendment specifies that the committee can include a maximum of three persons who are not members of the Board.
The Board then voted immediate appointment of the committee to comprise the executive officers and joint chairmen of the Joint Foreign Committee, the chairman of the law and parliamentary committee and five other members of the Board with the power to cooperate with other persons who need not be members of the Board.
The Board elected Mr. Perlzweig, Elsley Zeitlin and Harry Samuels additional members of the Joint Foreign Committee. The latter committee’s report was adopted. Among other things, the report expressed the hope that the present Rumanian Government, which has been committed by Premier Tatarescu to a just policy toward minorities, “will give an opportunity to disenfranchised Jews to regain a status of equality in which they can loyally work for the welfare of the country.”
The defence committee of the Board is considering the launching of a speaking campaign on a limited scale with experienced speakers to counter anti-Semitic propaganda in England which seeks to brand the Jews as the cause of the war, the committee disclosed today.
A scheme is also being prepared to check the marking of walls with anti-Semitic slogans, a report by the committee said. The report stressed the new under-ground methods of anti-Semites who use peace propaganda for their own ends and stated that anti-Jewish propaganda in London was trying to permeate circles more influential than hitherto.