WASHINGTON (Oct. 31)
Nahum Goldmann, stepping down as president of the World Jewish Congress, said in a farewell address to the organization last night that Jewish leadership is “more complicated” at present than “in my time” and must shift its emphasis.
“Today, we have to oppose men of good will and convince them they are wrong,” the diminutive 82-year-old leader said, in clear allusion to Middle East policies being pursued by Western democracies and voting in the United Nations. He noted that when Israel was founded, two-thirds of the United Nations General Assembly had voted for Israel.
Referring to himself as “a non-conformist” and one who has “often expressed ideas which others dislike or oppose,” Goldmann hailed the Gush Emunim who are striving to settle in Judaea and Samaria as the “most idealistic group in Israel today.” He also praised Israeli Premier Menachem Begin as “the most honest man of all politicians in Israel” and called himself a “good friend” of Begin.
Goldmann received standing ovations before and after his extemporaneous 50-minute address from the approximately 800 delegates from 41 countries at the WJC General Council Conference at the Hotel Capitol Hilton which opened yesterday. Among them are representatives of four countries in the Soviet orbit–Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland–as well as from Rumania and Yugoslavia. One Arab country, Morocco, is also represented.
Goldmann, who was a co-founder of the WJC with the late Rabbi Stephen Wise in 1932 and remained a leader in it ever since, virtually discarded his prepared valedictory in keynoting the conference at its first night session. He warned that “If Israel remains a state like other states it will not survive.” He added that “Israel must be a unique country because the Jewish people is unique.”
He said that “If the people of Israel don’t want to see this, I don’t want to say what will happen to Israel.” He observed “the ideal of a people is more important than a state,” although “sovereignty is needed to implement it.”
JEWS FACE TREMENDOUS DANGER
Goldmann warned world Jewry that it faces “tremendous danger” to its existence because of “the most revolutionary change” in its position. He noted that in the diaspora, Jews have solved their external problems with those among who they live but “our internal front” is eroding and “becoming weaker from year to year.”
Jewish historical evolution, he said, in his prepared text, was dominated primarily by a conflict of political and theological ideas. “These ideological issues were the basis of our creativity, he said. “If we compare this with the situation in the Jewish world today, both in Israel and the diaspora, we find its main context a struggle for positions, fund-raising, protests of all kinds of injustices–all fully legitimate but unable to fill the life of such a talented and creative people as ours.” Differences, he said, have “nearly disappeared” among Israel’s political parties, he said, contending that there is only a “minimal difference” between the Likud coalition and the Labor Alignment it succeeded.
Goldmann criticized U.S. Jewry for having “too many organizations and presidents” and noted that in America “everything is superlative.” Jews have a “great quality–over-optimism” and “also a tremendous genius for fooling ourselves, and we pay for this,” he said, pointing to the Holocaust.
In a tribute to Zionism, Goldmann said that in an age “more destructive than constructive,” Zionism “is one of the most constructive. Zionism’s essence is to give Jews the possibility of a state with which to create the totality of their ideas,” he said.