ATLANTIC CITY (Jun. 8)
A plea for mutual understanding between national and overseas welfare agencies on the one hand and local Jewish communities throughout the country on the other hand was made last night by William J. Shroder, chairman of the board of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, at the annual National Conference of Jewish Social Welfare.
Joining in a discussion of “The Relationship of National Agency Programs to Local Community Organization” were Morris D. Waldman, secretary of the American Jewish Committee; Arthur D. Greenleigh, executive director of the National Refugee Service; Harry Greenstein, executive director of the Associated Jewish Charities of Baltimore; Edward M. Kahn, executive director of the Atlanta Federation of Jewish Charities; and Henry Montor, executive director of the United Palestine Appeal.
The chief source of friction between the national organizations seeking funds throughout the country and the local Jewish communities was the tendency on the part of many of the former, Mr. Shroder said, to disregard the local bodies and to make their appeals directly to individual members of the community.
“This claim,” he said, “is postulated on the theory that an agency has the right to function in any community where it can sell itself to a group sufficiently influential to insure financial backing and local leadership, and that any other position would lead to freezing the social program at the existing level. A second postulate is that no local organization represents every Jew in the city, and that any community organization claiming to act for its community is usurping a power it does not and cannot possess.
“While these positions may find philosophical and logical support we must remember that community organization is not a matter of theory, but of fact. If a community recognizes an organization as its representative, supports its positions and follows its recommendations, no philosophical or theoretical demonstration, however perfect, can prevent it from being the instrument through which the local community expresses its will.”
Mr. Shroder said that local communities were often at fault, too, in that they refused to meet the national organizations half way. “A satisfactory working relationship has been attained,” he said, “where the local community organization is recognised as the spokesman and instrumentality of its community; and where it has freely met its obligations to our national programs, and where it has refrained from demands, however theoretically justifiable, which from practical considerations the national agencies could not meet.”
Declaring that the difficulties and conflicts depicted by Mr. Shroder were “only the surface indications of the perfectly natural and inevitable struggle of a once united people. … seeking to adjust themselves… to new and changing conditions,” Mr. Waldman envisioned a possible solution one day along the lines of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
“The Community Council,” he said, “is a harbinger of the future form and structure of the local community organization. Though it resembles the European Kehillah in form and content, unlike the Kehillah it is not imposed from above on an already homogeneous group. Here it is a natural growth like the Welfare Fund before it and the Federation before the Welfare Fund. The Federation movement which reached completion a quarter century ago, reflected the state of development of community life in which local philanthropy was the paramount interest. The Welfare Funds which have been established in the last 15 years reflected a broadening development–the wider community interest in, and sense of responsibility for, extra-local activities.
“The Community Council reflects a still wider development of the communal outlook, concerning all matters, local as well as national, domestic as well as overseas, affecting Jewish life. The terrific disruption of Jewish life in Europe with its alarming repercussions elsewhere throughout the world, including our own country, has violently and radically changed the Jewish community perspective. Philanthropy has to be subordinated to self-protection. This situation has given tremendous impetus to the development of Community Councils. And we can envisage, when Community Councils become firmly established throughout the country, a close organic relation between the local communities and national organizations. It is not improbable that we shall then have here something like the Board of Jewish Deputies of Great Britain, constituted by, and consisting of, the organized Jewish communities in that country.”