Louis Marshall Makes Reply to Critics of Joint Distribution Committee
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Louis Marshall Makes Reply to Critics of Joint Distribution Committee

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Theories Alone Can’t Help, He Declares in Address; Defines Character of Constructive Relief; Urges Immediate Payment of Pledges. (Jewish Daily Bulletin)

A reply to the critics of the Joint Distribution Committee’s relief work in the post war period, particularly in Poland, was given by Louis Marshall in the concluding part of his address Sunday afternoon at the Constructive Relief Conference of the United Jewish Campaign. Mr. Marshall said:

“I am going back where I started from. We have men who are busy. It is not the whole thing in their lives, looking after the Joint Distribution Committee. They are busy during the campaign, enthusiastic but when the campaign is over they cool off a little; in two or three months they get a little cooler; after a while there is a tendency to grow cold and then indifferent. Then if somebody whistles they prick up their ears and say, “Perhaps there is something in this thing.”

“If you only come here you will get lots of literature. Dave Brown is prolific in literature; he has a good deal of literature, but it is good reading, and you can get these reports, and if you do not get them ask for them and read them with understanding, and you never would get cold, your hearts would be warmed when you read it. You would feel that you had done a piece of work the like of which has never been done since the world began. That sounds extravagant, but let’s see if it is so.


“There are 15,000,000 Jews in the world; more than half of them, 8,000,000, have lived in that war zone; they were, many of them, prosperous, they were all industrious; they were not beggars; they brought up their children honorably; they were religious in their temperament and they were charitable and helped one another. Then came this great war, this titanic contest when all Europe became a battlefield, when all Europe was drenched in blood; when every country was at war with the other, and for four years that war without parallel, took place and the battles were fought largely in Eastern Europe, and the Jews who lived in those countries, 8,000,000 of them, were wanderers, practically, on the face of the earth. Their property was destroyed. Their homes were looted; they had no hope of regaining their property. And after the war, the aftermath which was worse than war, there came typhus and all diseases; there came famines in such dimensions that nobody in the modern world ever dreamed it was possible that there could be such a state of human suffering and privation. There was no work to be had, no occupation. Nobody could find work. The money of the country became worthless; exchange went up and down; nobody knew what would become of it. It became, finally invisible. Nothing like it had ever occurred, and eight million Jews, more than half of the Jews of the world, were affected. Who was there to help? England could not help, France could not help. Nowhere could they get help except here, where by the providence of God, three and a half million Jews were collected and were prosperous.

“They were going to help. They acted at first gently, then became more interested, and finally the emotions which carried them, through them swept over the country, swept them away off their feet, and they contributed very large sums of money.

“They had a recognition of a duty, but they did not know how to perform that duty. It required great labor, skillful management, familiarity with every phase of human activity; it required financiers, required men who had a vision as to what could be done in industry, in agriculture, in a thousand different human employments. There were men who were social service workers, and who understood certain problems better than the trained business men. That was the situation. It seemed to be a state of general confusion. Well, it was the problem of the Joint Distribution Committee to bring out of chaos. It was its duty to get the funds, then to know how to spend them, and who should do the work of spending these funds, and that, I say, created a situation the like of which was never known; a problem the extent of which was faced by no other people.” Mr. Marshall declared.

“It is true the Red Cross society had many problems during the war; but their work ceased shortly after the war and ours assumed so many different phases, we had a new phase every month in the various countries. Nobody could say why it was not settled. You could not reckon from one day to another what would happen next. If you have a problem of poverty in the city of Chicago, or in the city of New York, you can say. ‘That is a stable proposition.’ You can work out a plan, and know just how much money you want and know what to deal with, but here you had to raise an amount of money and even if it had been five times as large it would not have been enough, hut you had to meet new-phases, create new agencies. Faced with such a stupendous problem we had to build from the ground up.


“We did not know the people. We were separated by a wide ocean. Dr. Bogen took his life in his hands and we were afraid every day that we would hear of some awful calamity which threatened. If for instance, all of the inhabitants of Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Omaha and Denver and, I might add, a few more, say 8 million who were accustomed to trade and industry and not workers upon the land, and suppose if this great war and this great calamity had happened right here in the mid-west and these cities had been overthrown and there had been a holocaust and a cataclism that overwhelmed them and imagine that there was nobody in the United States that had any money and that a dollar wasn’t worth a hundredth of one cent, that property which yesterday may have been worth millions today was worthless, that the manufacturing establishment that might employ a thousand people could not give work to one, where hunger and every horror that the mind can conceive was rampant. Think of that, and then that our help has to come from the other side. That is the factor that I want you to think of. I merely reverse the story and it isn’t at all impossible with aeroplanes and T. N. T. multiplied forty-fold. Such a thing might happen even here, with the popularity that we have achieved in certain directions.

“This is the situation that confronted us with regard to Europe and of course if there had been representatives sent, there would have been complaints no doubt from the people here if things were not done immediately, just as they wanted it. There might have been people here like some of the great statesmen in Poland who said at the time there are too many Jews in the United States, and that 1 million of these should be sent abroad. This is only an illustration. It is a fact that if there were a million Jews sent abroad and you were going to send them out of the country, how are you going to get them out? Some of us made a calculation and we think it is wrong because our calculation was too small. A million people represent 200,000 families and we have to get them across the ocean and then they have to have something to start life with and we can’t send them into a wilderness without money and the average amount of settling each family would mean about $5,000.

“People are criticizing us for our method of work. That is all right, if you have the money, but we can’t do what Daniel Webster did who was proverbially impecunious and when he was once asked to talk about the national debt, he put his hands deep in his pocket and said ‘How much is it.’


“There have been other criticisms made and we have been chided because we did not let them starve. We did too much soup kitchen work, we did too much palliative work. What is palliative work? If a man is hungry and comes to you and wants food and you appease his hunger, that is palliative work. Certain people think that the whole idea of charity is wrong. I don’t know whether Mr. Gilles has such an idea but I know Mr. Gilles would not let anybody starve if he had to take off his coat and pawn it and get him a loaf of bread, and that is true with every man who has a conscience. It is true that when we are seated at our own firesides with all the luxuries, we cannot sympathize with those who are hungry and we can’t understand why somebody else is hungry. It is also true that a man whose stomach is full does not study with any great zest and a man who does not have much in his stomach sometime does have that zest. It has been said we should have done constructive work and should have taken the people from Poland and put them on land. That is the trouble. That is the mistake we made. We did not put them on the land, and let them do what we are doing in Russia.


“The difference between the two situations is as great as between day and night. Russia–there is a land unoccupied and there was a desire to put people upon the land and the government which operated and had the land to give. It did not cost as much money as it would cost in another country. You heard the report about Poland, that it stands first in all the countries in Europe as to the relative acreage of land which is cultivated, so that 67% of the land is occupied and used and is actually cultivated and the peasantry owns the land as they have owned it for centuries in some cases and he won’t give it up and you won’t drive him out. I have never known of a minority that could do that in any country. So the result is that it is a pure theory. Theories are very interesting when you can study them, without anybody there on the other side to criticize the accuracy of the theory occasionally needs a little hard headed common sense. That is what we need, and you can’t deal with these great human questions by sitting down and making out an algebraic formula and say, ‘now all you have to do is carry out that formula! Things do not go that way in the world. The world has its own method of dealing with these subjects and it isn’t logical. Logic is a very beautiful thing in school but there isn’t logic even in courts sometimes.

“Judge Stern would tell you that very largely logic is wrong in the courts. So here we are concerned with these various criticisms and it would be all right if we had time to deal with them all, but we haven’t. Hunger knows no law, and when people are starving you have to feed them and if you feed them it is really constructive work. If you don’t feed them it is destruction, degeneration. What we needed to do was to feed the people and give them as much as we could to keep body and soul together and everybody who wants more is an unreasonable fanatic if he isn’t something worse.

“There are worse things than being a fanatic. We did this as long as they could not help themselves. Then we began the reconstruction work to enable these people to help themselves. That is what we try to do, and that is what we have been doing in Poland and in all the other work which you have heard described. Work which Doctor Waldman in his magnificent report today said was recognized by the people of Poland and the work which they were talking about, was the work which preserved the youth, the Jewish youth of Poland and without it there would have been no new generation of Jews to take the place of those who have gone before.


“One thing I think I have the right to ask, because when a man gets old he may presume once in a while upon the generosity of the younger generation which confronts him. I want you to do it as a favor to me and do it as another act of justice to the men who prepared those reports and who did the work, take those reports home and read them and study them and understand them. Take home those reports of the auditor. The accountants are men who stand at the head of their profession. Read those reports, read those figures. You are all business men, you will understand it. You will not then be silent when anybody tells you there has been no accounting and nobody knows what the Joint Distribution Committee has done. If you don’t know, then it is your fault. I have, year after year, read these reports and attended convention after convention that has been delegated to the consideration of the problem and they have always been at your command and nothing has been concealed and there has always been an accounting before you and the state of our ledger and the conditions that we have to deal with. I have attended, and made perhaps a thousand speeches during the various campaigns during the last fourteen years and I never made one without laying before the people everything so that they would be acquainted with our problem and so that they knew how much money we had expended. If you people who attend these conventions do the social act and forget all about it when you go home and do not read these reports and give them a great deal of thought you would not know very much about in.

## Waldman, who went to Poland with the express purpose of making an investigation which resulted in illuminating what we have done, should be entitled to your reading that report. I will say although I have known considerably them what the Join Distribution Committee has done, yet I have read from the first line to the last every single line of the report that has been presented and I have done that always and I know you have not as much leisure as we have, but my once in a while to familiarize yourself with those facts, and know what is being done.

“We have been coming here those of us who have been on the stage to make speeches–if you knew how much I dread them–you would not put me through such as experience, but when I am called upon I will have to say what I know and say it just as I think it, but you haven’t come to hear speeches, you can hear better speeches any day in your own town than you can hear here, but you will never hear truer ones them are ## in ## report. You will never hear more ## ones than those that have been ## before you. Every single line means something that has constructed to the preservation of Judaism and the continuance of human life which is dear to us.

“Now we have also called you here not only to tell you what has been done but to tell you what you could do. It is rather presumptive for a man to address such an ## as these intelligent men in their own communities and I am not going to ## you what you have to do but simply the answer you have got to do your ##. A minister or a Rabbi would tell you that (applause). There have been subscriptions made to the amount of ##ly## million dollars during this campaign and we need every single dollar of it and more and than money can only be raised if those who occupy the positions you do in your respective communities put your land to the grow and grow up than money from your community and make those with subscribe pay, (applause).


“There must be no slackers and no slackers. If anybody for 999 reasons which be made as no, why he changed his mind and does not believe in this he must be told that he would have to keep his word and that his obligations must be carried out. Although we have no desire to call the courts into action, I have always taken the position if a man makes a subscription and doesn’t pay it, sue him, (applause).

“If you have had the experience that we have had those men sometimes become your best friends and they thank you in the end for having saved them from the dishonor of refusing to pay a debt of this character. Men who will consider it a disgrace if they didn’t pay a poker debt and who were willing to let human beings die in order that they may say, ‘well they could not fool me, (applause). That is what you have got to do and I can’t say it any stronger than I have. If I could I would say it again. We have to have the money. Colonel Lehman has told you that we have to work according to a budget. We can’t appropriate the money without seeing the money in sight. We have got to have it in hand before we can give it away. We have made our arrangements so that certain amounts of money should be forthcoming and it has to be, that is all there is to it. It has got to be here when we need it and we are carrying on. Doctor Rosen on a certain day needs a certain remittance and if the money doesn’t come a thousand families may suffer, two thousand, even five thousand. They cannot buy horses, they cannot buy seed, and they cannot build houses, and they cannot improve their land unless we do not have to wait until Mr. A. B. C. contributes from this country. We have got to have the money to do this work with and we have got to have it at once.

“Here comes another year and we have to plan for that. We have to have the money. We cannot do without it. That is the practical way of looking at it. You are all men of affairs and do not do your business in a #### manner. You have to know where the money is coming from to meet your obligations. I do not want to make this speech too personal in order to show you what we have to do. I am an utter conservative and I can say that until the last two years I never borrowed a dollar and I never guaranteed an obligation or endorsed a note and it came very hard when I felt it my duty to keep the work going to guarantee with these other gentlemen an amount up to a million dollars, (Applause).

“Haven’t we any rights! Aren’t we to be considered! Does the great body of American Jewry expect Mr. Warburg and Colonel Lehman and a few of us schnauzers to hold the hay for you? (Applause). It would be a shame if you did. It would have to be accompanied by a most terrific thumping of your breast if you allowed any such thing to take place.

“You heard Dr. Rosen outline the work. You can fist it as a great enterprise, one which ought to make your hearts palpitate with joy that you are permitted to participate. One which is, whose purpose it is to recreate those who have gone down to despair and make of them honorable, upright people, useful members of human society. That is an opportunity which comes to but a few of us. It has made of the American Jewry a body of men the Eke of which has never been known. It has made us self-respecting. It has indicated to us higher things than wealth and money that is in our pockets. That the money we get for such purposes is that which is best spent and which gives us the greatest happiness and that privilege which I want you to feel when the time comes, when the people of this country will be asked not to give but to help in the continuance of this magnificent piece of work,” Mr. Marshall concluded.

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