In connection with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency dispatch from Riga of last Saturday, revealing the fact that the Joint Distribution Committee has allotted $400,000 for the purpose of starting Jewish colonization work in Crimea and voicing the criticism of many influential Jewish circles in Russia for delivering the control of the Relief Fund to the Idgeskor, the Communistic Jewish relief organization of Soviet Russia, Mr. Louis Marshall, Chairman of the American Jewish Relief Committee, and Col. Lehman, Vice-chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee, made the following statements, respectively:
“It should be appreciated”, stated Mr. Louis Marshall, “that the work of that organization had to be performed at all times under the most trying conditions. It was out of the question to select the most ideal methods of carrying on the work, first, because of the absence of the necessary agencies, second, because of the prohibitive cost, and third, because of the importance of prompt remedial action. It is a simple thing for one seated in his comfortable office thousands of miles distant from the scene of action, and after the fact, to argue how things could have been done differently or more efficiently than they were. Post mortem wisdom is the most worthless emanation of the human intellect. Few people are possessed of that sense of justice which involves putting themselves in the place of those whom they are seeking to judge. I can say that, assuming that from time to time mistakes must have been made in dealing with the complex problems which confronted the Distribution Committee, it is remarkable that, taking into consideration the volume of its work, its errors were not more numerous. In estimating the value of its achievements it is safer to be guided by the opinions of those whom we sought to serve than by the views of carping critics.
“As to the appropriation of $400,000 that has been made for the purpose of helping Jewish Farmers in Russia, it suffices to say that the fears entertained by your informant that the money is to be placed into the hands of Idgeskom or under the control of the Russian Communist Party, are without foundation. The money is to be administered solely under the supervision of Dr. Joseph Roser as the representative of the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Dr. Rosen’s
high character, his great experience and his expert knowledge are such as to inspire confidence and to satisfy the unprejudiced mind that our organization will continue to hold itself aloof from all political commitments and will administer this fund with the single purpose of performing valuable reconstructive work in enabling industrious and earnest men and women to engage in agricultural pursuits. Nothing is further remote from the minds of our committee than to foster the idea of the establishment of a Communistic Jewish Republic. There never was any foundation for such a suggestion, had such a plan been presented it would have been unhesitatingly rejected.”
“It appears to me,” states Col. Herbert Lehman, “that so far as the Joint Distribution Committee is concerned, the interview or despatch of your correspondent substantially answers itself. The statement reads in part as follows:
” ‘Jewish circles in Russia agree that with the prevailing economic crisis in Russia, the inability of Jews in Russia to find a livlihood in the cities, the Jewish ‘back to land’ movement is a dire economic necessity. Any attempt made by the Jews to facilitate this movement would be of the greatest benefit to Russian Jews.”
“Again, ‘While non-communistic Jewish circles cannot emphasize strongly enough the need for helping the Russian Jew in his attempt to settle on the land they point out the necessity that nothing should be undertaken by American Jewry unless it will secure the administration of whatever funds will be put at the disposal of this plan by its own representatives.”
“Here is evidence from unbiassed and well informed sources that the Jews of Russia are having unusual difficulty in finding a livlihood in the cities, and also that the encouragement of the Jews in Russia to take up agriculture may and probably will be of great benefit. The Joint Distribution Committee during its ten years of existence has concerned itself exclusively with the problem of bringing relief to the needy and of reviving the economic life of individuals and communities. What ever may be our political sympathies or our philosophical views, it is not within the province of the Joint Distribution Committee to assume a partisan attitude. The Russian Government is an established fact and while we may or may not sympathize with its attitude on many questions, a relief or reconstruction organization such as the Joint Distribution Committee has neither cause or justification for quarreling with it or of trying to impose its views on it. The only questions that should be and have been controlling in the councils of the Joint Distribution Committee are (a), is there need for this work; (b) is there reasonable hope for success; (c) can the funds and the work to be done with it be properly safeguarded? Of the answer to the first question there can be no doubt. The need, of this work is apparent, and every advice which is received from Russia strengthens the conviction that
it should be attempted. With regard to the probability of success in the undertaking, there must obviously be some reservation. The results obtained from past effortson a small scale are, however, distinctly encouraging, and the hope may properly be held that muck good will come of the present effort. Obviously the present undertaking is an experiment and this has been frankly conceded. In the opinion of the members of the Joint Distribution Committee the possibility of favorable results commensurate with the amount involved is substantial. That some good will result is almost certain, while the possibilities for good in the event that this test meets with success are unlimited. I believe that while frankly conceding that the undertaking must necessarily be at lest in its initial stages more or less in the form of an experiment, it is one very worthwhile carrying on in order to establish by practical experience what the agricultural possibilities among our co-religionists in Russia are.
“The only other factor of importance in the situation is that of safeguarding the work and the funds involved. Dr. H.B. Rosen has gore abroad to be in charge of the work. He is convinced, heart and soul, of its prcticability and advantages. He is not a dreamer, but a practical, hard headed, experienced agriculturist, who has gone through the fire and has shown his ability and worth. He is a man of action, whose achievementscover two decodes both here and in Russia. He knows the difficulties as well as the pitfalls, and his record as Reconstruction Director of the Joint Distribution Committee in Russia justifies the expectation and confidence that he will plan the work ably and ssfeguard it is every pay possible.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.