NEW YORK (Aug. 31)
“American Zionists have a two-fold responsibility–to the welfare of Israel, but no less, to the future of Jewish life in the United States, “Max Bressler, president of the Zionist Organization of America, declared here tonight in his Presidential address at the opening session of the 64th annual ZOA convention.
The four-day convention, attended by delegates from 44 states, was also addressed by Senator Hubert H. Humphrey and Israel Ambassador Avraham Harman. Mayor Robert F. Wagner greeted the 1, 200 assembled delegates and alternates on behalf of the City of New York.
“The day is still far off when the Jews in America can dismiss from their minds the concern about the security of the State of Israel which they helped to bring into being,” Mr. Bressler said. He emphasized that “Israel cannot proceed on its way without the full aid and cooperation of the 5,500,000 Jews in the United States.”
“The current prosperity which many of our tourists observe in Israel is only a veneer,” he said. “Nor can the current peace on Israel’s borders be taken seriously. The delivery of heavy weapons to the Arabs by the Soviet Union and the failure of the United States to sell similar arms to Israel, may encourage aggressive action against Israel.” At the same time he pointed out that “the aim of Zionism is far from being attained through the creation of the Jewish State.” This aim, he stated, will only be realized when Jewish continuity and full development in countries outside of Israel is assured.
AMERICAN JEWRY LACKS DYNAMIC LEADERSHIP, BRESSLER ASSERTS
Touching upon the future of American Jewry, the ZOA leader said that “while the Jewish community in this country is outstanding for its dynamism and generosity in fundraising–particularly for Israel,” it is, in terms of cultural and spiritual attainments and in historic consciousness, “like a flock without a shepherd, lacking in dynamic leadership that is capable of arousing them from their state of apathy and indifference without preparation to meet the challenging uncertainties that lie ahead.”
“We close our eyes to the sad spectacle of seeing the greatest number of our youth drifting away from Judaism,” he continued, “spurning the acquisition of Hebrew knowledge and ignorant of our glorious heritage. The contemporary young generation is a confused generation, one that gropes for guidance, for an answer to their problems but find it difficult to find any.” He said: “It is no over-statement to assert that great as are the tensions that face the State of Israel, the menace that confronts the Jewish community of the United States and its perpetuation on the American soil is just as great, if not greater,”
Warning about the “peril of assimilation that threatens the very existence of our American Jewish community,” Mr. Bressler stated: “We in the Zionist movement generally, and of the Zionist Organization of America in particular, must provide the measures that would ward off this great threat to our survival as Jews. When we think of ways and means of counteracting assimilation, it is Jewish education that must come to mind.”
His appraisal of the American Jewish position also demanded “reciprocal arrangements where other minorities join in the fight against anti-Semitic forces in this, our own land” in the same way that American Jews have always participated in the struggle for the preservation of equality and freedom for all races.
PESSIMISM EXPRESSED ON WASHINGTON’S POSITION TOWARDS ISRAEL
The head of the ZOA recalled the great hopes of “a new era of America-Israel relationships” that were engendered by Mr. Kennedy’s “memorable utterances at our 63rd annual Convention less than a year ago, bravely and enthusiastically discussing the whole problem of the Middle East.”
“Today, eight months and more after his induction into his high office, we shall retain our belief that President Kennedy will make good the statements made by Senator Kennedy,” he said, but admitted that “as time goes on, this confidence I harbor is being put to an increasing strain.”
Mr. Bressler questioned “President Kennedy’s correspondence with the Arab Chiefs of State with regard to the Arab-Israel relations,” and added that “some go as far as to attribute this correspondence to an American effort to placate Arabs’ ruffled spirits that were aroused by the visit of Israel’s Prime Minister in the United States.”
“While we do not have before us the full text of President Kennedy’s message to the Arab Chiefs of State, we do know definitely from the portions published in Arab newspapers that, in dealing with the problem of Arab refugees, President Kennedy dealt mainly with compensation and repatriation by Israel, and without even once mentioning resettlement in Arab countries as a means of solving the refugee problem,” the ZOA president said.
He expressed concern over the stand our Government will take when the problem of Arab-Israel relations come up before the forthcoming sessions of the UN General Assembly, “The cruelties of history forbid us to be optimistic,” he stated. “To me the indications are that this stand, once taken, will not be unequivocal in favor of the State of Israel.”