Three-day ZOA Convention Closes; Insists on Autonomy; Firsch Elected New President
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Three-day ZOA Convention Closes; Insists on Autonomy; Firsch Elected New President

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The three-day 52nd annual convention of the Zionist organization of America concluded here tonight following the election of Daniel Frisch as president and the adoption of a resolution insisting upon the administrative autonomy of the American Zionist movement in its relationship with the Jewish Agency executive. The 2,000 delegates at the parley also adopted a resolution refer-ring to the incoming administration for study the Rifkind report which recommends basic structural changes in the World Zionist Organization.

The resolution on autonomy, which expressed approval of the resignations of Drs. Abba Hillel Silver and Enanuel Neumann from the Agency executive over the Issue, stated “that it is in the interest of the World Zionist Movement and of Israel that tie influence of the Zionist Organization of America in all fund-raising activities and institutions in the United States shall be preserved and its representation on the governing bodies of American Zionist funds shall be unimpaired.” It also demanded “that the administrative autonomy heretofore enjoyed by American Zionist bodies within the framework of the World Zionist Movement and its constitutional provisions, shall be vigorously asserted and fully preserved and safeguarded in the future.”

In referring the Rifkind report to the Administrative Council of the new administration, the convention said that since it contains “so many far-reaching recommendations” it requires further study and should therefore be widely circulated as “material for study and public discussion.” A third political resolution expressed approval and “full confidence” in the leadership of the administration headed by Dr. Neumann, the outgoing president.


The convention closed with a testimonial banquet for Dr. Neumann. Among the many Zionist leaders who paid tribute to the calibre of leadership provided by Dr. Neumann during his two years as head of the largest Zionist body in this country were Dr. Silver, Mr. Frisch and Aubrey S. Eban, Israeli delegate to the United Nations. Particularly singled out for praise was his role in the upsurge in the Zionist movement in this country since the beginning of the war and hits Jordan Valley Authority plan for the development of hydroelectric power and irrigation in Israel.

In his speech of acceptance of the presidency of the organization, Mr. Frisch placed special emphasis on the United Jewi3h Appeal, declaring that the “heroic, willing self-sacrificing Yishuv” will not be in a position to continue its open-door policy, “unless we provide the means.” The time has passed “when we could afford to indulge in mere sympathetic lip service or contributions to general funds, however important. This is the hour of deeds and more deeds, and we shall accomplish them not in anonymity, but in our own name, in the name of the Z.O.A., as well,” Mr. Frisch stated. He announced that the organization would establish in Israel a Z.O.A. House to serve both as headquarters of activities stemming from the movement in America, and as a hospice and guide for American Jews coming to Israel as visitors or as permanent residents.

Other officials elected included Rudolph G. Sonneborn, chairman of the Nation-al Administrative Council, and Mortimer May, chairman of the National Executive Committee. The election of a coalition leadership once again brought peace to the organization, which had been split between administration supporters and members of the Committee for Progressive Zionism.


Ambassador Eliahu Elath, a featured speaker at the parley, in hi3 analysis of the future role of the Zionist movement, insisted that “Zionism today is as necessary as it was in l897.” Only with a. strong Zionist movement, he continued, “can Israel expect to receive immigrants who will continue the noble traditions of the Bilayim of Hedera, Dagania. Ein Harod and Ein Eashofet, and keep alive the pioneer spirit.” The Ambassador pointed cut that there is still a great necessity for such pioneers to turn the deserts of the Negev into flourishing areas, to restore the fertility of Galilee which sustained several million people in the old days, and to mate the best of Israel’s opportunities on the seas and in the air.

“Israel is the only country in Asia with direct outlets to both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans,” he said. “Her place on the crossroads of the world’s communications makes her one of the most important air traffic centers. Here lies one of the greatest tasks that any Zionist organization and your distinguished organization in particular is called upon to perform: to assist Israel in realizing these great opportunities. Israel needs not only American money, American ‘know-how,’ but also pioneers from this country, who should come to settle in Israel and Join us in the building of our new State. While the State of Israel will remain the responsibility of its citizens, and its citizens alone,” he stressed, “the Zionist movement must continue to be the property of the Zionists everywhere.”

Appealing for the aid of American Jewry in the form of investments, as well as contributions, Ambassador Elath said that the immigration tide “imposes a tremendous responsibility and a great economic problem on Israel.” He declared that “nothing would be more dangerous than to assume that our present day victories on the battlefields and in the diplomatic chambers mean the conclusion of our tasks. History merely opens possibilities to be grasped, and indicates the opportunities available to people. It does not make a present of statehood nor does it insure the continuation of that statehood. These possibilities and the3e opportunities must be utilized and expanded for they may never repeat themselves again.”


Dr. Silver, outling the future function of the Z.O.A. in relation to the state of Israel, asserted that “it is essential to sustain the long-range interest of American Jewry in the economic needs of Israel to insure that in the coming years, when the Israeli honeymoon period is over, the needs of Israel will not be pushed aside.” He added that “now is the time to make every Z.O.A. member a shareholder, an investor — large or small — in Israel.”

Declaring that he does not favor setting up a “monolithic global organization Possessing such unlimited and unqualified authority as to undermine the autonomy of existing Zionist bodies in the countries of the world,” Dr. Silver stated: I do not believe in a type of organization which permits the executive of the Jewish Agency, sitting in New York or Tel Aviv, to dictate. to the Jewish community of the United States or of Canada or of Mexico, whom they must appoint as chairman or executive director of a U.P.A. campaign. I believe that this is unwarranted end impertinent intrusion, and I am persuaded that it will ultimately disrupt and disintegrate the world Zionist movement as well as the local Zionist bodies.”

Pointing out that the Z.O.A. will cooperate with the present coalition Government of Israel and with any future government of the Jewish state, Dr. Silver criticized the present government “because of the attitude of some of its officials toward private investment capital. “Private capital which is so desperately needed in Israel today will not be coaxed into the country when one set of government officials premises it security in law and welcome concessions, while at the sane time another set of government officials of equal or greater authority speaks of establishing Socialism in Israel in our time,” he said. “A strong General Zionist Party in Israel would heighten the confidence of these who are being invited to invest their money in the economic life of the country.”


In his opening address to the convention, Dr. Neumann called for a halt to the growing centralization of power in the World Zioni3t Organization and increasing the autonomy and authority of territorial Zionist bodies. He urged the delegates not to relinquish the “administration and management of American Zionist funds.”

Calling for Zionist participation in general fund-raising on community and national levels and in the management of the funds in this country, the retiring president declared: “The time has come for us to develop our own special activities end projects in Israel under our own management and control. For us this may be a radical departure, but there is ample precedent for such a policy.” He said that the Labor Zionists “have long been raising millions for the Histadrut, a commendable objective, but these millions are not remitted to the Jewish Agency.” He also pointed to the varied projects conducted by Hadassah.

‘I recommend,” he said, “that the convention authorize and instruct the incoming administration to develop a Z.O.A, program of activities in Israel, with due regard to the paramount responsibility which we share in common with the whole of American Jewry for the general fund-raising effort of the United Jewish Appeal.” Dr. Neumann also recommended that the organization, in company with other Zionist” bodies, take the initiative to establish a consultative body representing the largest possible amber of Jewish groups and organizations to explore all possibilities for mutual cooperation on behalf of Israel and to promote maximum coordination of effort.”


Judge Morris Rothenberg, acting national chairman of the United Palestine Appeal, issued an earnest plea to counteract the attitude existing in some quarters that since Israel is now a state, it is or should be self-sufficient and can handle its own problems. A co-chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, he announced that as of May 25 the U.J.A. had received in cash approximately $61,000,000, as compared to the $62,000,000 received at the same time last year. An income of $39,000,000 for the year ending September, 1948, for the Jewish National Fund, an Increase of more than $21,000,000 over the preceding year, was reported by Mendel N. Fisher, its executive director. Of this sum, over $35,000,000 was its share from the U.P.A.

Dr. Israel Goldstein, treasurer of the Jewish Agency, told the delegates that “there are 60,000 people in the reception camps in Israel who are waiting for housing, and that number will be doubled by the end of September.” The cost of ab-sorbing 250,000 immigrants a year into Israel, which is the present rate, involves an amount of $250,000,000 in gift capital, he stated. Seventy percent of these gift funds must be furnished by the U.J.A., he added.

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