NEW YORK (Dec. 29)
A statement made by Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion yesterday, that religious Jews who do not migrate to Israel violate the precepts of Judaism, provoked a storm of protests today on the part of major American Jewish organizations.
Mr. Ben-Gurion made his statement in the course of an address delivered at the World Zionist Congress, now taking place in Jerusalem. He backed his assertion by citing Jewish sages as declaring that “whoever dwells outside the land of Israel is considered to have no God.”
Among the pro-Israel organizations which took issue today with Mr. Ben-Gurion were the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis. The American Council for Judaism, an anti-Zionist group, similarly objected to Mr. Ben-Gurion’s statement.
JEWISH CONGRESS CHALLENGES BEN-GURION’S RELIGIOUS COMPETENCE
Speaking on behalf of the American Jewish Congress, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the organization, said; “The wholesale indictment by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion of all Jews who live outside Israel must be and will be completely and unequivocally rejected by the Jewish community.
“Mr. Ben-Gurion has neither the religious competence nor any other authority to call those Jews godless who live outside Israel, ” Dr. Prinz continued. “His statement has rendered a distinct disservice both to Israel and to the Jewish communities outside Israel and has, more over, distorted the issue of the relationship between world Jewry and Israel–a relationship which has engaged the attention of Jews both within and outside Israel since the State was created in 1948.
“Jews in the United States and elsewhere will continue to contribute to the upbuilding of Israel despite Mr. Ben-Gurion’s statement. They will not be deterred by any attempts to impose on them a decision to emigrate to Israel. Mr. Ben-Gurion should perhaps be reminded that Judaism is a universal religion, and that the worship of God his not been bound to the land of Israel since the utterances of the Prophets of Jewish antiquity. Judaism conceives of God in universal terms, not local ones.
“The Israeli Prime Minister should also be advised that American Jewry is not confronted with ‘strangulation’ or ‘extinction.’ On the contrary, we are witnessing in the United States and in other free countries of the West an unprecedented renaissance of Jewish life, covering both religions and cultural aspects. In this renaissance, Israel has played not the least important role, but it has not played the only one.
“Far from extinction, American Jewry faces its future in this free country of ours with hope and with confidence. The Jews of America will be neither frightened nor intimidated by Mr. Ben-Gurion’s statement which, in calling to the Jews of the world to live and worship only in Israel, and in condemning all those Jews who seek to build a Jewish life for themselves and their families outside Israel, can only be described as a preposterous distortion of Jewish precepts, “the president of the American Jewish Congress concluded.
AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE ‘SHOCKED’ BY BEN-GURION’S STATEMENT
Herbert B. Ehrmann, president of the American Jewish Committee, said: “The American Jewish Committee and Jews throughout the United States and throughout the world are both grieved and shocked by the reported statement of David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel, that Jews, wherever they are, have the obligation to emigrate to Israel.
“As Americans devoted to democratic principles, we have a deep interest in the development of a democratic society in Israel, while, as Jews, we have a natural sympathy with our fellow Jews with whom we are bound by traditional, historic and religious ties,” Mr. Ehrmann declared. He pointed out that “The American Jewish Committee has always maintained that emigration to Israel must be an act of free choice, within the personal discretion of each individual, and certainly cannot be considered a necessary and vital aspect of his religious faith.”
Mr. Ehrmann charged the Israel Premier with violating “an explicit understanding” arrived at ten years ago with Jacob Blaustein, then president of the American Jewish Committee, that “nothing should be said or done which could in the slightest degree undermine the sense of security and stability of American Jewry.”