American Zionist Assembly Opens; Goldmann Wants ‘dynamic Zionism’
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American Zionist Assembly Opens; Goldmann Wants ‘dynamic Zionism’

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The future of the world Zionist movement will be determined by the success or failure of the Zionist movement in the United States, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, declared here today at the opening session of the National Assembly of American Zionists convoked by the American Zionist Council, central body of all Zionist groups in this country.

The three-day Assembly, which is holding its sessions at the Statler-Hilton Hotel, represents 750,000 members of nine Zionist organizations in the United States. It was called for the purpose of providing a fresh interpretation of Zionist ideology within the context of current world conditions. The 600 delegates at the opening session today were addressed, in addition to Dr. Goldmann, also by Louis Lipsky, honorary chairman of the American Zionist Council; Rabbi Irving Miller, AZC chairman and Moshe Sharett, former Prime Minister of Israel.

Discussing the tasks of Zionism at this period, and its specific problems within American Jewish life, Dr. Goldmann said that “it is a dangerous illusion to assume, as some in Israel do, that the Zionist movement has fulfilled its aims since the State is established. The purpose of Zionism was to secure the survival of the Jewish people by creating a territorial center in the form of a State, and securing in this way the unity and the future of the people. It is true that the State has been established and is making great progress. But, despite this, none of the essential aims are yet fulfilled.

“The State itself not having achieved peace with the Arab neighbors, nor having become economically independent, is far from secure yet, and it will be able to solve the great problems of its survival only with the full support and cooperation of the Jewish people. In addition, less than 20 percent of the Jewish people is concentrated in Israel, and this is certainly by far insufficient if Israel should become the territorial center of a Jewish life.


“As for the survival of the Jewish communities outside Israel, they were never so threatened as now, less by external dangers than by the internal danger of disintegration. Just because most Jewish communities have achieved complete equality of rights, and are economically well off, the great challenges of the past have disappeared and have to be replaced by positive and creative challenges based on the unique destiny of the Jewish people, its great past and its faith in its future. All this can only be achieved by a strong and indissoluble tie-up between the Jewish communities and Israel.

“In order to achieve this, the Zionist movement is just as necessary today as it was when it came out with the demand for a Jewish State. The argument used by the Prime Minister of Israel, that the Zionist movement was a scaffolding for the building of the Jewish State and is therefore superfluous once the building is there, is meaning less be cause the main question is what kind of a building one wants to erect before the scaffolding is taken off. From this point of view, the aims of classic Zionism, with the State as it is today, with only 2,000,000 Jews, and insecure politically and economically, are far from achieved, and to take away this scaffolding would be suicidal.

“It is true that the situation in which the Zionist movement has to function has greatly changed since the emergence of the State, which has taken over many of the former tasks of the movement, especially in the sphere of foreign policy. The essential change in the situation is based on the fact that the majority of the Jewish people wants today to be tied up with the State, and is potentially Zionist.

“The World Zionist Organization has to take this into consideration and create new structures which would enable it to bring in all those who potentially and programmatically are Zionists but are not organized within the Movement. In this respect, the next Zionist Congress will be different from all previous Congresses, as many Jewish communities and organizations which are formally not yet in the Zionist movement will be represented and participate in its deliberations.


“The future of the Zionist movement will be determined,” Dr. Goldmann concluded, “by the success or failure of the Zionist movement in the U.S.A., where the largest and most influential Jewish community lives In the last decade, the American Zionist movement has lost its dynamism and its leading role in American Jewish life. It must regain it and become a decisive factor in all spheres of American Jewish life, community life, in education, youth, cultural activities which all have to be directed and guided on the basis of the principle of the centrality of Israel in Jewish life.

“In order to achieve this, the American Zionist movement must act much more united than it is the case today. Its differentiation in many Zionist groups and organizations has lost most of its meaning, and prevents a real effective functioning of the movement. The differences between the various Zionist groups in the U.S.A. are very minimal and don’t justify the present structure of the movement which has to develop a new organizational framework through the Zionist Council, to unite and concentrate the efforts of all Zionists in order to make the movement the most dynamic leading force in American Jewish life.”


Viewing the relationship between Israel and the Zionist movement from the opposite end of the spectrum, Rabbi Miller, in a keynote address to the Assembly, warned Israel against the danger of regarding American Jews as “merely materialist, to be exploited for their wealth and industrial techniques.”

“Israel,” Rabbi Miller declared, “must take to heart what this great body of Jews, with three centuries of experience and experimentation in freedom behind them has to offer beyond material aid–whether the latter takes the form of funds or scientific know-how.”

He contended that, if Israel continues to call upon American and European Jewry to declare its faith in the unity of the Jewish people, it must balance the scales by taking world Jewry into its confidence, placing responsibility upon it and soliciting its counsel and collaboration. This, Rabbi Miller added, “would constitute a new creative relationship in the making.”

Rabbi Miller expressed his satisfaction at what he termed “a wholesome movement in the United States toward an intensification of Jewish values.” However, he sounded a note of warning against the thinking prevalent among certain Jewish groups in this country that a new Zion could arise in America. “No Jewish spiritual revival,” he said, “can ever hope to succeed that is not intimately tied to that Zion which is Jerusalem.” (As of press time, Mr. Sharett had not as yet delivered his address.)


Louis Lipsky, dean of American Zionists, called upon Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to end “the great debate” on the continuing role of the Zionist movement, while leaving it to the next World Zionist Congress to work out a realistic program to be carried out by it. At the same time Mr. Lipsky praised the “pluck, devotion and integrity” of Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, who, he said, “deserves the sympathy and deep under standing of all Zionists.”

“Dr. Goldmann has been carrying on his shoulders these many years in Israel’s fateful history the heavy burdens of his great office with pluck, devotion and integrity,” Mr. Lipsky said. “Dr. Goldmann deserves the sympathy and deep understanding of all Zionists who are aware of the difficulties he faces, especially in the many doctrinal debates he has been called upon to carry on in public with the dynamic, resourceful head of the State of Israel, to whom it might be suggested with respect, kindness and unabated friendship that the time of the great debates has passed. The agenda should be left to the exclusive attention of the Zionist Congress which is to be convened in December in Jerusalem. A period of restraint in the controversies of leaders should be allowed to prevail.”

Mayor Wagner, in his address, drew a parallel between the decision the Assembly delegates were to render on the future of Zionism, and the decision 67,000,000 Americans had rendered on November 8 in their choice of a new President of the United States.

The mayor urged the delegates not to be dismayed by the enemies and detractors of Zionism. “No matter how they attack,” he said, “no matter how they may seak to tear down your glorious achievements, no matter how they may attempt to detract from the historic and unselfish role you have played in Israel reborn, they are doomed to failure. Place your programs with positive action before the American people, and the American Jewish community. For as Americans you have a right and an obligation to continue our labors for the brotherhood of man and for Israel.”

The organizations represented at the Assembly include the American Jewish League for Israel; B’nai Zion; Hadassah-Women’s Zionist Organization of America; Religious Zionists of America; Labor Zionist Movement; Progressive Zionist League; United Labor Zionist Party; United Zionists-Revisionists of America; and the Zionist Organization of America.

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