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Marshall Outlines Future Plans for Jewish Relief Work in Europe

May 14, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Louis Marshall, president of the American Jewish Committee, who was given a rousing ovation by the delegates and frequently interrupted by applause, led the conference in its major action when he presented in his address the resolutions for the new campaign and the reorganization of the Joint Distribution Committee. In the course of his remarks, Mr. Marshall said:

“The J. D. C. is a name to conjure with; it has entered into the vocabulary of philanthropy, into the vocabulary of statesmanship because through its acts the Jew throughout the world has been ennobled and has been raised to greater heights than he ever before occupied in the eyes of the world and, thank God, in his own eyes. He is no longer concerned with controversies as to little things, as to matters of form, as to matters of geography, as to matters of intonation. He is now concerned in that which pertains to Kol Israel-the entire household of Israel.

“When we first began this work, we were confronted by the fact that a great calamity was facing the Jews of the world. If anybody had then suggested that such a meeting as this could take place, and that here could be united the Jews from every part of the known world-because last night I saw a Jew here from Afghanistan-for the purpose of working together, for the purpose of preserving Judaism and the Jews, he would have been thought to be a dreamer. And so what was done was not an attempt to organize the J. D. C. You historians last night were all wrong. But when people get older they forget.


“We formed the American Jewish Relief Committee at the instance of the American Jewish Committee in October 1914 and the people who there gathered were principally those whose ancestors came from Central Europe, not from Eastern-there were some,

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but not many. The orthodox communities were largely represented by those whose cradles were rocked in Eastern Europe and who formed the Central Relief Committee; the working people coming largely from Eastern Europe and who could not join and coalesce with the Central Relief Committee, formed the People’s Relief Committee. There were many different opinions, theories, methods and ideals and finally by a happy thought which emanated from the heart and brain of that Prince of Israel, Felix Warburg, in June 1915, and even Dr. Adler who wrote the Life of Jacob Schiff forgot that fact, in June 1915 the Joint Distribution Committee was organized.

“As Thackaray says, even then, all was not beer and skittles. There were controversies, there were differences, there were hot debates, there were threatened revolts. But, in course of time, the different organizations of Jews sat around the table, discussed everything calmly; nobody ever got up on his feet to make a speech. But the work was so conducted that we would dispose of millions of dollars without a vote being taken. Everybody knew what was in everybody else’s mind. Everybody had trust and confidence in his fellows. Everybody felt that this or that was the right thing to do, and it was done without protest. And the lion and the lamb haven’t got anything on the Jews of the United States with regard to dwelling in peace and amity together.

“As Judge Proskauer has so very beautifully said, all this not only had its effect upon the Jews of Eastern Europe and of Palestine, but it also had its great educational and moral and spiritual effect upon the Jews throughout the world, and especially here among the Jews of America. And nobody can go throughout the country and address the Jews of the various communities, as David Brown has and as others have, to induce them to cooperate in this work, without honoring and respecting the Jew, without loving the Jew for those things that have made the Jew from the earliest days the greatest civilizing power on the globe.

“I was not aware until last night that the Jews had actually, in dollars and cents, done so much as has been indicated by the figures presented; that there had been sent abroad through the agency of the Joint Distribution Committee, directly or indirectly, including the money recently raised for the extension of the agricultural work in Russia, the sum of one hundred millions of dollars. And I might also add that those returns are incomplete; because, as a result of the influence of the Joint Distribution Committee, because of the spirit which it engendered, thousands upon thousands of people, of their own accord, sent money abroad to the extent of tens, yes, twenty millions of dollars, in the sums which in the aggregate, probably equal the sum which the Jewry of the United States contributed through the Joint Distribution Committee.


“You can search the pages of history, the history of philanthropy, and you will not find anyting which can equal it among any people, however rich, however powerful and however theoretically good they may be. But the Jews have always been educated in the school of trouble and tribulation and oppression. They have always been men of pity and the sons of men of pity, as Judge Proskauer has indicated. They have fell for one another in their misery. In the days when they lived in the Ghetto, the Jews constituted a single family and a united family. The harm of one was the harm of the other; and the joy of one was the joy of the other. They lived together, they died together, glorifying the Name of the Almighty and being witnesses to His Greatness and His Goodness.

“The Jew was something more than a man of pity. Pity is an emotion. It is creditable to the human heart, but they were and are and ever will be men of justice, men who believe that charity means justice and they who are satisfied that any attempt to do charity which is not based on the spirit of justice is destined to be incomplete.

“And so the Jews of America have been imbued with that spirit more than ever before in the history of the Jewish people. They say to themselves: “We have come to this country, the freest, noblest, best country in the world, we have participated in its prosperity, we have no needs and wants that cannot be supplied; we have no serious problems of our own, except that of not being admitted into social clubs once in a while. We have nothing to complain about. We are citizens in the best sense of the word. And there is nothing that a Jew cannot aspire to which another part of the American citizenship can aspire to.’


“But there are other Jews who are in misfortune. They are as good as we. They are of the same stock. They belong to the same aristocracy: they can date back as far as we and some much further, as men who have had culture and education. Then we must say, and do say, it would be unjust, the height of unrighteousness, if we were indifferent to the fate of those men, our brethren in whose veins flows the same blood as ours, if we were to neglect them, to be indifferent to their fate, and not share with them if need be the last crust that would be ours to divide.

“And so, with few exceptions, and they are the exceptions which prove the rule, the Jews of this country have recognized those eternal principles, their hearts have beaten with pity and compassion and sympathy, their minds and their souls have been burning with justice and with those desires actuating them they have given generously in the way in which you have had it described to you and you don’t know, you never can realize, what it has meant to the Jews of Eastern Europe.”

Mr. Marshall continued: “We have formed this organization. It was in a sense an emergency organization. If anybody had consulted the man who considered himself the best prophet of the future on that day in October 1914 when we met in the vestry rooms of Temple Emanu El and asked him how long the war would last and he said it would last for six months longer, he would have been examined as a psychopathic case. But, it continued until now, the troubles of the war. The aftermath of the war was probably worse than the war itself, because through the war there was still food to be had, shelter was occasionally destroyed but there were still places of shelter. But when the war was over, there was an impoverished people. They had no homes, they had no food, and their strength was sapped and continued to be sapped during those horrible years, especially during those years of famine which began in worst form in 1920.”


After highly praising the work and accomplishments of Dr. Bernard Kahn, European director of the Joint Distribtion Committee, and Dr. Joseph A. Rose, head of the Agrojoint, Mr. Marshall said: “They tell us that if we were to stop now we would confront a tragedy and we would lose much of what has been accomplished in the past and in time would be obliged to start over again, when it would be more difficult to do what is now comparatively simple, namely, to continue what we have been doing and to continue it along the same lines that it has been done. That does not mean that we have got to raise such sums as we have during the past three years. It does not mean a fifteen, twenty or twenty-five million dollar campaign. It does not mean that we have got to feed thousands and tens of thousands of people. We will still have to deal with the acute problems which now exist in Bessarabia, in Lithuania and in a part of Poland, due to the extraordinary weather conditions of the last year and of the few years preceding, when in consequence of those exceptional conditions there have been crop failures. Of course we have got to take care of those people. Nobody is more opposed to palliative relief in principle than I am, but the best principles must sometimes yield to the necessity of the occasion.

“We intend and we must with your sanction continue this work. Nobody should have the hardihood to suggest for a moment that it shall cease or be suspended. We must go on or we must, in the light of the past and in the light of the future, be regarded as recreant to a sacred trust. If we should fail now at this critical moment and desert these people it would be not only tragic, but it would be criminal and we would be the criminals.

“Mr. Warburg has indicated what he believes we should do. All those who have visited Europe in recent years

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from among ourselves have told us what we ought to do.


“Here, therefore, I call it a problem. I don’t know why I should call it a problem. If the old geometry was still in force – I think Professor Einstein has abolished it and started a geometry of his own-we would consider it an axiom, self-evident proposition, that given the need, given the fact that the Jews are still struggling and are still in trouble, given the fact that here we have the richest community of Jews that has ever existed in the world, then what should be done? You have got to make the money go to the man who needs it. We are merely the agents who shall distribute the money after David Brown has collected it from you. That is all there is about it. It is the simplest proposition in the world.”

Presenting the resolution on the new campaign, Mr. Marshall said:

“You will observe that we have been very modest in our expectations. We are not looking to such a campaign at in the past, but a simple effort during the coming twelve months in order to bridge over what might possibly be called interregnum, to raise the sum of $2,500,000 from four millions, not three million, but four million Jews.”

The resolution was moved, seconded and unanimously adopted. In presenting the resolution on reorganization of the J. D. C., Mr. Marshall stated further:


“I told you the circumstances under which the Joint Distribution Committee was organized. It was, as I have said, an emergency movement. It had to be done in a hurry. We had to take into consideration the existence of these various organizations. Now, the time has come when a more orderly method of carrying on the business should be adopted, and that the public may know when the time will come for the change in administration.

“Up to the present time, the officers have been hold-overs, to a great extent, and it is really a pathetic thing to see the list of our officers, because unfortunately a very large percentage of those who were active fifteen years ago and ten years ago and five years ago are no longer among us.

“It is impossible, before a large body like this, to formulate by-laws and discuss them. They have got to be worked out carefully and in orderly manner and with due deliberation by a smaller body. This matter has been receiving attention for several years.

“You will remember, those who were in Chicago in October, 1927, that at that time Mr. Rosenberg, speaking for the Executive Committee, suggested this idea of having a reorganization of the Joint Distribution Committee, in order that there might be this more orderly method of carrying on the business; that it should not be done haphazardly; that the members of the Executive Committee should continue to act. Some of us have really outlasted our welcome, I think. Some of us have been on that Board for almost fifteen years; there should be some voice in the general organization with regard to the choice of successors, and the Executive Committee should not take it upon itself to elect members of its body. This being the case, we have felt it desirable to here suggest the outline of an organization.

“In the first place, we have recommended that the chairman of this session shall designate an Organization Committee, consisting of eighteen members. They shall be charged with the duty of formulating suitable by-laws; that there shall be, in the first place, a Council, which shall consist of not less than 150 or more than 250; that from that Council there shall be elected a Board of Directors or Executive Committee of thirty, and that that Committee shall elect a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and other officers.

“In that way, in a very simple manner, we will have had a regular and orderly arrangement. The members of the Board of Directors are to be divided into three classes, each consisting of ten, and the thirty seats shall be allocated among these three classes so that one-third shall hold office for one year from now, another third, two years, and the third group three years from now and the successors of these shall be selected for a term of three years. The details would have to be formulated by the Organization Committee.”

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