Palestine is Only a Secondary Issue with American Jews, Dr. Morganstein Says
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Palestine is Only a Secondary Issue with American Jews, Dr. Morganstein Says

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“Palestine and the Jewish fortune and destiny there, no matter now this may captivate our imagination, stir our emotions and enlist our enthusiasm and energies, can be with us as American Jews only a secondary issue, command only a secondary loyalty and impose only a secondary obligation, even upon the most ardent Jewish nationalist who at the same time regarding himself as an American,” Dr. Julian Morgenstern, president of the Hebrew Union College, declared here today, addressing the exercises opening the seminary’s 70th academic year.

“The issue here is not at all one of divided and preferential nationalism and primary allegiance, as some, mistakenly and perhaps also timorously, would have it,” he continued, “The issue is not at all the priority of American nationalism or of Jewish nationalism; of this there is no question whatever. The real issue is quite apart from and far deeper than that.

“I have said, in a previous address upon a like occasion, that there is absolutely nothing un-Jewish in the theory of a revived Jewish nation or common wealth in Palestine, since this has ample and positive antecedents in Jewish history. To such a program for Palestine for these of our Jewish brethren who may aspire to migrate thither and participate in the great adventure of the upbuilding of a Jewish commonwealth no one outside of Palestine and least of all no Jew, has the slightest right to object.”

“Whether such a restored Jewish Commonwealth is feasible in this twentieth century, whether the hoped for Jewish majority in the population of Palestine can ever be realized, whether a democratic government with complete separation of church and state, after occidental pattern, can ever be set up in the midst of a Moslem world, which has never known either democracy or separation of church and state, and to which the basic principles thereat are at present utterly inconceivable, and whether, if ever realized, such a commonwealth would actually serve the Jewish cause, these are all questions which can never be answered in theory, which neither peaceful debate nor angry contention, nor yet the undemocratic impulse of an emotional majority to impose its will upon a minority of strong convictions, can ever settle. Only the experiment itself, should the opportunity ever offer, can definitively resolve these issues.


“This theory of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine any American Jew, Reform, Conservative or Orthodox, may, as an individual, endorse wholely or with reservation, or from it he may withhold endorsement completely, or even contend against it actively, without qualifying in any way either his Americanism or his Judaism or his loyalties to each, provided he keep constantly in mind that with him, as an American Jew, aspiring to live and have his children continue to live in America as understanding, responsible American citizens, this may be a Jewish aspiration and duty of only secondary import and compulsion, over which another Jewish aspiration and duty have unchallengeable precedence.

“This primary Jewish aspiration and duty for American Jews, which with them must have priority over every other concern and program in Judaism is the up-building of a living, virile, creative Judaism here in America, a Judaism for us and for our children after us, so long as American will endure and will hold firmly to its present traditions and ideals of freedom and democracy.”

Dr. Morgenstern termed as “negative and sterile” the allegation that the environment of America is hostile to Judaism and that no positive and enduring Jewish values can develop here neither those of a Jewish civilization nor those of a Jewish religion. “Never in all its wanderings among almost all the nations of the world has the Jewish people come to live in an environment so congenial, so hospitable, so Sympathetic, so favorable to both its well-being and the upbuilding of a positive, vigorous, confident, self-expressive Judaism end of the Jewish life attendant thereon,” he said. “Why then any among us should long distrust his American environment and regard it as inimical to Judaism and to a truly Jewish way of life, is well-nigh incomprehensible?”

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