Joseph M. Proskauer, President of the American Jewish Committee, Honored at Dinner
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Joseph M. Proskauer, President of the American Jewish Committee, Honored at Dinner

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Joseph M. Proskauer, former Justice of the Appellate Division and former President of the New York Federation of Jewish Charities, declared tonight that "only through a renewed optimism and a faith in our democratic institutions can the onslaught of the world’s aggressors be met both on the battle fronts abroad and on the propaganda front at home."

Recently elected President of the American Jewish Committee, Judge Proskauer was guest of honor at a dinner given at the Waldorf-Astoria under the auspices of the Joint Defense Appeal of the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. The Chairman of the dinner was Judge Edward Lazansky, former presiding Justice of the Appellate Division of the Second Judicial District of New York. More than six hundred prominent men and women of the city gathered to pay tribute to Judge Proskauer who became the sixth president of the American Jewish Committee since its founding in 1906.

In introducing Judge Proskauer, George Z. Medalie, former United States Attorney and president of the New York Federation of Jewish Charities, pointed to his long record of service to the American people and to the Jewish community.

Outstanding leaders of the nation also joined in hailing Judge Proskauer’s election to his new post. Governor Thomas E. Dewey, in a special message declared: "In these days it is more important than ever that this great organization devoted to the protection of civil and religious liberties of Jews throughout the world be headed by a man of your standing and ability." Bishop William T. Manning declared, "I know how ably you will lead the American Jewish Committee in its work of upholding our common American heritage against ruthless and Godless enemies."

Other messages were received from Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Dr. Everett R. Clinchy, President of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and Dr. Louis Finkelstein, President of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Mayor LaGuardia stated, "We cannot fight Hitler and countenance anti-Semitism in our own country at the same time. The combating of anti-Semitism has today become a part of the defense of American institutions against our national enemies. I congratulate you on the signal opportunity which your new office provides to render a great service to your country."

Urging a forthright stand against the onslaughts of the Nazis and their kind in America, who spread the virus of hatred, Judge Proskauer declared, "We must take counsel, not of our indignation, not of our hurt, nor of our fears, but rather of our hopes and our confidence in the basic integrity of American thoughtand of Christian thought.

"We have a right to optimism, for we know that our Catholic friends were moved by the sublime statement of Pope Pius XI: ‘No, it is not possible for Christians to take part in anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is inadmissible. We are all Semites spiritually.’

"We know that our Episcopal friends will follow the declaration of Bishop Manning that ‘any man anywhere who is anti-Jewish in his actions and his feelings is at that moment anti-Christian.’ We know that millions of our fellow citizens obey his exhortation that lip service to this creed is not enough and that we should show the ‘spirit of kindness and good will in our daily lives, in our business, in the subway, in our homes and our offices, and everywhere we go.’

"And Bishop McConnell of the Methodist Church, as president of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, has reminded his people that Jews have persistently sung the Lord’s song in strange lands and ‘have done more than any other single people to make the Lord’s song familiar to strange lands, and have done more to lay the foundations of prophetic, and after that of Christian civilization, than any other single people.’

"We are entitled from these utterances to the pride only that comes from the knowledge that for our spiritual ideals we have withstood through the centuries since our forefathers wept by the waters of Babylon the lash of the torturer and the exile of the oppressor. We owe it to our country to make the guarantees of religious freedom contained in our Constitution something real and vital in the everyday life of this beloved America; and above all, to stand steadfastly with men of good will of every race and sect and creed and maintain against every assault a common brotherhood of man under a common fatherhood of God."

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