Jonathan Thursz Dead at 81

Jonathan Thursz, a leader of Zionism in Morocco prior to World War II and afterwards a specialist in foreign affairs for the U.S. government, died Sunday in Sinai Hospital in Baltimore at the age of 81. A funeral service was conducted yesterday by Rabbi Levy Smolar, president of Baltimore Hebrew College.

Thursz, born in Poland in 1895, spent his youth in Belgium and England and settled in 1927 in Casablanca, Morocco, where he started publishing a Jewish magazine that same year. In 1940 the Vichy government then in control of Morocco closed it. He was a leader in Morocco’s Zionist organization and represented it at World Zionist Congresses. While in Morocco he translated a number of Theodor Herzl’s works from German into French.

In July 1941, he left Morocco after being warned of his imminent arrest by the Viehy regime because he was serving as head of the refugee committee of the Casablanca Jewish community. The Vichy regime was the puppet organization French collaborators with the Nazi-regime.

Thursz, arriving in New York, became editor of the now defunct monthly “Jewish Mirror” and then, with America’s entry into World War II, entered the service of the U.S. Office of War Information and the Office of Strategic Services. Afterwards he joined the State Department only to face a new crisis in 1953 when he was suspended from his job and then terminated during the witch hunt against alleged Communists in government by the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Thursz fought back and three years later he was cleared of all charges and reinstated with full back pay. He worked in the State Department until the compulsory retirement age of 70 for a civil service employee. For the last 10 years he has lived partly in Baltimore and partly in Israel. He spent the entire time in research on African countries.

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