Jews and Non-jews, at New York Meeting, Urge United States Protest Against Roumanian Excesses
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Jews and Non-jews, at New York Meeting, Urge United States Protest Against Roumanian Excesses

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Reverend Arthur J. Brown, chairman of the American Committee on the Rights of Religious Minorities, declared in his address: “I have gladly come here as a Christian to join you in this meeting. Any invitation from Rabbi Wise is equivalent to a command, for I have long loved him as a personal friend and honored him as one of the great moral leaders in our city and country. But if the invitation had been given by a stranger I would have come, f.? the occasion for this meeting stirs my soul to its depths. Injustice anywhere by anybody should be denounced by every right-minded person, and the injustice to which the Jews of Roumania have been subjected is one of the tragic iniquities of history. I need not recount the details since they arcknown to you and have been widely published.

“I have heard three explanations of the persecution of the Jews as if they were, in part at least, justifications. One of these explanations is that the persecution is due to the race hatred that is inevitable to human nature. J reply that from the viewpoint of the alienable rights of man to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, there only one race, and that is the human race. We should not think of the Jews of Roumania, or of any other country for that matter, as if they belonged to a different species. Indeed, I think of them primarily not as Jews at all but as my brother men, men made in the image of God like the rest of us, and as much entitled as we are to the common rights of humanity. As for race hatred being inevitable, I deny it flatly Nothing that is wrong is inevitable Wherever it exists, earnest, high minded people should resolutely try to cradicate it.”


Max J. Kohler, speaking on behalf of the Independent Order B’nai B’rith, reviewed the role of America as a factor in carrying into effect the principle of religious liberty. He dwelt particularly on the diplomatic precedents in United States history in dealing with the Jewish problem in Russia, Switzerland and Roumania.

“I esteem it a privilege to be able to be here as spokesman for the B’nai Brith, because that organization, starting as far back as 1870 at a time when there were scarcely any Roumanians or Roumanian Jews in the United States, espoused ardently and ever since has consistently advocated the matter of Roumanian Jewish emancipation,” Mr. Kohler declared.

“Today we count about 900,000, thanks to annexations, of Transylvania, Bukowina and Bessarabia, and we have there now about fifty-five Jews to every thousand of population, a ratio of Jewish population which is exceeded only in two countries of the whole world, namely in Poland and western Russia. We can therefore see, especially as “Pale” settlements were compulsorily established in those sections, how much opportunity there is for Jews to become the victims of riot and mobs.

“The Roumanian Government is capable at least in this respect, that it has failed to do its duty to preserve order and prevent mob violence, insult and injury.

“Our government has been remarkably vigorous in its espousal of religious liberty for the Jews in America and for religious liberty throughout the world. We can turn with pride to the action of President Grant, referred to in appointing Benjamin F. Peixotto, United States Consul, in order to war against religious intolerance and persecution in Roumania.

“We can point with pride to the fact that the United States Consul to Austria in 1878, John A. Kesson, was the first to urge publicly that the Congress of Berlin of that year should take up the matter of Jewish persecutions in the Balkan States. We can turn with further pride to the fact that Bayard Taylor, a distinguished author and statesman, then United States Minister to Germany, records officially that the only question which he considered himself as having a right to take up in connection with the Congress of Berlin, as our representative abroad, was a matter of religious persecution, that he took up unofficially with the distinguished statesmen who attended the Congress of Berlin.

“We have already heard reference made here to the vigorous note of Secretary Hay of 1902. We might also have referred to the attitude of the United States in the Bucharest Conference of 1913 on that question. More important is the vigorous action taken by the Peace Conference of 1919, particularly at the instance of President Wilson and of Colonel House, formulated in such large degree by our own representatives, Louis Marshall, Judge Mack, Stephen Wise, and their associates there, including Dr. Cyrus Ad-ler, which has put upon the books of International Law, and the rules governing the relation of nations, the provision and principle that a matter of religious persecution is an international affair, at which all countries have a right to speak out, government and individual.

“This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first establishment of religious liberty anywhere in the world. It took place first in Virginia, in June, 1776 in their splendid bill of rights; a few months later here in New York, in 1777, when the first effective religious liberty clause was adopted. What our people did at home in safe-guarding religious liberty from an early day, we attempted to do abroad also. Notwithstanding our unwillingness to interfere with what has often been called the internal affairs of another country, we have a proud record with regard to efforts to prevent religious intolerance and persecution all over the world. As far back as 1796, under Washington, the Treaty with Tripoli was drafted which stated that man’s religious concern was no matter of the government, and amity and good will should prevail among all religions of the world and the countries in which they predominated. As far back as 1840, a notable message was sent at the instance of President Martin Van Buren, by his secretary of State Forsyth, which read that the United States, being a friendly power whose institutions, political and civil, place upon the same footing the worshippers of God of every faith and form, acknowledging no distinction between the Mohammedan, the Jew and the Christian. This distinctive characteristic of our government invests with a peculiar propriety and right the interposition of your good offices in behalf of an oppressed and persecuted race, referring to the Jews at the time.

“In the fifties, our United States Minister to Switzerland devoted almost all of his time during the term of his office to effective measures for abolishing restrictions against the Jews there.


“Still more germain today and particularly apt is the direction which was given by President Grant to Peix-otto, before he left for Roumania as the Consul, mainly to teach in practice religious liberty and cessation of discrimination on the score of religion and intolerance. President Grant said –and would that those words could be brought home to the rulers of Roumania, the Cabinet, as well as the King and the Queen :

“Respect for human rights is the first duty of those set as rulers over nations and the humbler, poorer, more abject, and more miserable a people be, be they black or white. Jew or Christian, the greater should be the concern of those in authority to extend protection, to rescue and redeem them,” Mr. Kohler said.

“The United States, knowing no distinction between her own citizens on account of religion or nationality, believes in a civilization the world over which will secure the same universal views. So spoke President Grant officially in 1870,” Mr. Kohler stated.

“In the same year one of our greatest authorities in international law, the distinguished chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Charles Summer, in emphasizing our duty to prevent some of Roumania’s continuing anti-Jewish persecutions, said that it was our duty to take action ‘in the interest of humanity and in that guardianship of humanity which belongs to this great republic’.

“Hamilton Fish, one of the greatest of our Secretaries of State, wrote officially on May 13. 1872, in instructions to Peixotto: ‘Whatever caution and reserve may usually characterize the policy of the Government in such matters may be regarded as inexpedient when every guarantee and consideration of justice appears to have been set at defiance in the course pursued with reference to the unfortunate people referred to.’

“It may be commented upon that that is not diplomatic language, but it was used because the requirements were such as to necessitate it by one of our great diplomats.

“At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the President, Prince Bismark, referred to M. Waddington’s liberty and equality provisions and described them as ‘propositions which have in view an advance in civilization and against which doubtless no cabinet will have objections in principle.’

“M. Waddington said in regard to his propositions: ‘It was important to seize this solemn occasion to make the representatives of Europe affirm the principles of religious liberty.’ He added that Servia–later he applied the same language to Roumania–‘who wanted to join the European family on the same footing as the other States, ought first acknowledge the principles which form the basis of social organization in all the governments of Europe, and accept them as a necessary condition of the favor which she solicited.’


“In 1913, at the Congress of Bucharest, M. Majerescu, the chief Roumanian plenipotentiary, gave specific guarantees here applicable. He said that the inhabitants of any territory newly-acquired would have, without distinction of religion, the same full civil and religious liberty as all the other inhabitants of the State. Would that those guarantees had been saved.

“Others no doubt have referred–some I know have–to the magnificent chapter in international laws and international affairs which was written at the Peace Conference of 1919 in the form of the minority guarantee provisions which we invoke.

“If the time permitted, I would like to read a cogent and emphatic passage in the famous letter written by Cle-menceau, as Chairman of that conference, to Paderewski, the President of Poland, directly applicable and showing that the fundamentals of civilization are involved and require each State, in the matter of religious persecution, to make that its concern when it occurs in another offending State.

“The United States has not joined the body, though a party to that treaty, which was specially called upon to enforce them; but its duty remains as before, following its precedents, to speak with no uncertain voice in protest at the horrible arocities that are occurring in Roumania.

“Let us hope that these precedents, so cherished in our own history, will be observed at this juncture by our Government,” Mr. Kohler concluded.

“We are gathered at a solemn moment for a solemn task,” Judge Mack began. “I share the regrets that I understand were expressed by some of the earlier speakers–unfortunately I could not get here in time to hear them, that we are not in the League of Nations, for if we were, I sould have no doubt as to the right and duty, as well as the power, of this government as a government, to speak out against the wrongs that are occurring in Roumania.


“Despite the precedents that have been cited, it may well be that our government can take no direct action. We as American citizens, of course, have the right to petition and to appeal to it to do all that lies within its power in its dealings with a friendly nation. To that extent we can go, and I am sure we will go. But peoples, nations, are even more powerful than their organized governments in some respects, and Roumania will listen with attention to the voice of the civilized world, to the voice of men and women of all shades of religious beliefs, men and women whose ancestors came from all parts of the civilized world, and will listen as keenly and as closely as she will to the word of a friendly government. Because, in the end, the government can but voice the views and the opinions of its people, and that people need not express itself through its government, but may rise in its own majesty and declare its own view in a way that the government of other nations will hear and ponder, and, may I hope, respect?

“Roumania, as one of the results of the war, has become one of the great powers in numbers and in extent of territory. They are a proud people, and as a proud people they must wish to be a great people in other senses than in magnitude of territory or in population. Roumania must know that she can never be great in the eye of the civilized world while she acts against the opinion of the civilized world in the matters of fundamental human rights.

“And so I say in all good will to that great power, great let us hope to be in all respects, and with the friendliest feelings so far as it is humanly possible at this time to cherish friendly feelings, and in the hope that we may have cause to have even friendlier feelings in the future, we appeal not only to our government, but we appeal to the rulers of Roumania to be men and women of true worth, for our good, but also primarily for their own good.

“No people on the face of the earth is quicker to forget the past than the Jew. The Jew has lived through too much in the past 2,000 years to hoard it up in his memory. He is always ready to forget and to forgive, and Roumania will find no one warmer in her support, despite the past, than the Jewish people of the civilized world, if she becomes indeed worthy of the support of civilized men of other nations. We wish her no harm; we who were her allies, we who assisted her in obtaining the new territory; we assuredly had nothing against. Roumania. Not even as Jews did we consider in those days the past. We attempted nothing with our government or other governments because of her wrongs to the Jews in her own land. We stood by, ready, as American citizens, to help along all of the allied and Jewish peoples, including Roumania. We wished her well, and those of us who were in Paris in 1919 and participated in securing from the League of Nations the adoption of the minorities treaties, did not work out of hatred for any nation. We worked in what we believed to he the interest of all the nations, standing for justice and decency and equality among their own citizens.

“My friends, I trust the voice or America throughout this and is going to sound strong and firm elsewhere as it has in this meeting in New York.

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