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Judge Brandeis Reaches 75th. Birthday: Tributes from Mr. Nahum Sokolov President of Jewish Agency Mr

November 13, 1931
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Mr. Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis, Judge of the United States Supreme Court, who was for many years the head of the American Zionist Organisation and a leading figure in the Zionist world movement, attains to-morrow his 75th. birthday.

Tributes are pouring in from all sections of American Jewish and general life and from many Jewish organisations and personages abroad.

Louis Brandeis who is celebrating his 75th. birthday is an adornment to his people, Mr. Nahum Sokolov, the President of the Zionist World Organisation, and of the Jewish Agency. writes in a message for warded to Judge Brandeis through the J.T.A. He embodies in a high degree, Mr. Sokolov says, the genius of his race and would be admired even if he were not active as a great Zionist – as one of the most striking examples of what Jewish emancipation has given to humanity.

Free from self-conceit or arrogance, he continues, a stranger to affectation or dissimulation, he is a pure, true man. His genial manner, his frank enjoyment of life, his impeccable honesty, his crystal insight and admirable tact have made him a man of many friends and no enemies. If he fails to touch us with his thoughts, he wins our hearts with his life; if we shut our eyes to the splendour of his career, we cannot resist the charm of his idealism. In fact he never fails. It was often said of him that he could turn away even those who had an axe to grind without antagonising them.

Both by his learning and by his achievements in the domain of Law he is one of the outstanding figures in world Jewry.

The services which he has rendered to democracy in America are tremendous. During all his life he was a tower of strength for the defence of labour against unjust exploitation.

The most extraordinary thing about Brandeis’ personality is that it captivated the imagination of America as a whole, and not merely a restricted public professing a certain religion or belonging to a certain party. The name of Brandeis is known to millions of Americans; it has become a title of honour, almost a symbol.


In addition to these glorious qualities and achievements, Mr. Sokolov goes on, Louis Brandeis is to us one of the greatest living Zionists. He has a place of honour in our national biography. The highest delight of a people, the flowering of its creative imagination has almost expressed it-self in national biography. Infinitely more interesting than what any individual historian will set down about Louis Brandeis is what the Jewish people are going to set down about him in the collective mind. As each one interprets this impression, stresses that detail, tells this or that story to his children, he is unconsciously writing his part of that biography.

“He lives in the heart of his people”, is literally true of Louis Brandeis. He is not a “man of masses”; nevertheless he is a favourite of the masses in a higher sense. He is, perhaps, the least familiar to the man in the Jewish street of all who have been at the head of Zionist affairs in our time – not so much as a figure, but as a personality. The common being knows that he is a man of great accomplishment, one whose mind works in unusual ways, an aristocrat who strolls within a walled garden, and has no love for the market-place.

But at the same time no one has more democratic views and tendencies than Louis Brandeis. I had the privilege of being associated with him at the very outset of his Zionist activities. At the beginning, he was in an atmosphere very strange to him, but soon he accommodated himself to it, and then his genius came out.

Both in Zionist practical activities and in the political domain he has done important work; sometimes not in agreement with some parties, but he has done it gracefully. He has done it with subtle intellect, and we were stimulated. His was ever a sort of solemn seriousness; no emotionalism, no “oratory”, no fancy, no slipshod conclusions, but wise judgment, not always opportune, but always well meant and idealistic in his individual way.

Brandeis has the magnetic quality that belongs to one who has had a great spiritual experience. There is a power and a radiance about him that are strongly attractive. I remember him, when he was fifty – a most energetic, successful and highly respected lawyer in Boston. I met him two years ago in Washington. He scarcely seemed to have changed at all since then (except for the silvery whiteness of his hair). There was still much in him of the charm of his middle age; not a little of the fire of his youth. There is still his formidable capacity for work, his impulsive energy and calm tenacity, his fighting spirit and tenderest kindness – his love for his people and for Zion. The confidence, devotion and resourcefulness in Zionism which Brandeis is showing at seventy-five furnishes an example to inspire younger men. His longevity is a blessing to us.

May the evening bells of life sound around him the sweet harmonies of Zion’s love.


I am happy, indeed, to extend my sincere congratulations to Justice Louis D. Brandeis on his seventy-fifth birthday, Mr. Felix M. Warburg writes. In his service to his country, in his keen concern for the welfare of humanity, Mr. Brandeis has earned the highest regard and affection of all who are privileged to know him. In spite of the cares and responsibilities of his high office, Mr. Brandeis has devoted himself in full measure to the solution of the difficult problems which face the Jewish people. I join his many other admirers in wishing that he be spared to us for many years to come.

Mr. Herbert H. Lehman, the Lieutenant-Governor of New York State, writes:

I deem it a great pleasure to join his countless other friends and admirers in congratulating him on the attainment of this age and in a tribute to his character and accomplishments. Judge Brandeis is one of the outstanding figures in present-day American life. He is both a great American and a great Jew. Of liberal thought, of keen mind, of broadest vision, of indefatigable and unselfish devotion to service, he typifies the best of American citizenship. I pray with all my heart that he may be spared for many more years of willing service to the people he has already served so well.

I want to add my good wishes to the many Judge Brandeis will receive on his seventy-fifth birthday, Mr. Adolph S. Ochs, the publisher of the “New York Times” writes. His has been a notable and inspiring American career. Apprenticed to the law, he early devoted much of himself to what he considered to be the rights of the individual, whose cause he urged with a passion for justice which has been one of his outstanding characteristics. When in 1916 he was called to the Supreme Court he brought to his task a zeal that had been trained and

tested by years of industry and a devoted ability to weigh those grave questions which concerned themselves with individual liberty and governmental restraint. He has served the public well and has fulfilled the prophecy of Woodrow Wilson – “This friend of justice and of men will ornament the high court of which we are so justly proud”. May many years lie ahead of him for continued service.

Colonel Edward M. House, who was President Wilson’s friend and confidential diplomatic representative, has sent a message to the J.T.A. in which he writes:

When Woodrow Wilson appointed Louis D. Brandeis Justice of the Supreme Court he did a notable service to his country. Wilson was an intellectual aristocrat – so is Brandeis, and when Attorney-General Gregory suggested his name Wilson readily concurred.

Justice Brandeis brought to our highest court an element hitheto lacking, an element partially supplied by Justice Holmes, that of broad and enlightened liberalism. While he has advanced views on social, governmental and religious affairs, he has a well-balanced, orderly mind that keeps his opinions within bound of the law and common sense. He has lived long enough to see most of his earlier critics become his admirers, and his seventy-fifth birthday will be marked by the good wishes of his fellow citizens regardless of race, occupation or previous hostility.


Mr. Jacob de Haas, at one time Secretary to Dr. Theodore Heral, who has been one of Judge Brandeis’ closest associates in the Zionist movement, and who claims to have first directed his attention to Zionism, at the time when he was a lawyer in Boston, and Mr. de Haas was editor of the Boston “Jewish Advocate”, relates in his biography of Judge Brandeis, that once his attention had been aroused he snatched odd hours in 1911 and 1912 in which he gave close application to Jewish matters. It was in 1913, prior to President Wilson’s inauguration, when the whole country was gossiping aloud as to the possibility of Brandeis becoming Attorney-General, that he made his first engagement to appear on the Zionist platform. Men were looking at him as a possible member of the Cabinet, while he was seeking the form for his first public utterance on Zionism. And on that critical day in 1916, when the newspapers were issuing hourly bulletins of the rumours from Washington as to whether his appointment to the Supreme Court would be confirmed by the Senate, he was quietly and persistently discussing with me (Mr. de Haas) the precise known facts that explained the specific cause of the marked poverty and misery of the Jewis in Galicia.

His affiliation with the Zionist Organisation was reported at the Cleveland Convention of 1912, but the announcement created no great stir. It was when Mr. Sokolov was in Boston in the spring of 1913 and Mr. Brandeis presided at his meeting that Mr. Sokolov, captivated by this new Zionist, made his meeting with Brandeis the leading theme of his account of his visit to the United States in his report to the Zionist Congress of that year.

But his interest in Zionism remained still intellectual rather than active. It was the Great War that abruptly changed his academic interest in the evolution of Zionism. On the last day of August 1914, Brandeis assumed the office of Chairman of the Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affaris. In June 1914 Brandeis was an unknown factor in Jewry – one whose Jewish affiliations had been doubted in 1913. On November 13th., 1916, on the occasion of his 60th. birthday, a volume containing 10,000 signatures, quietly collected, with a dollar donation for each signature, was presented to him in token of the regard in which he was held by Jews in all parts of the United States.


The Brandeis regime lasted from September 1914 to June 1921, Mr. de Haas writes. In this period of less than seven years, the face of the Zionist movement was wholly changed and the power of American organisation in Jewry and in Zionist affairs made a page in world history. War conditions unquestionably conspired to aid the effort, but the seizing of opportunity is a real man’s game, and under Brandeis’ direction the Zionist forces were employed effectively, whether the objective was diplomacy, organisation, or rigid accounting of American receipts and Palestinian expenditure. From the day Brandeis accepted office till October 1916, when he took his seat on the Supreme Court, he devoted part of every day to the business of Zionism and to a close study of related Jewish affairs. He was habitually punctual and expected punctuality from everyone who sought to associate with him. In the next place he believed in the written word. Every oral report to him and every oral instruction given by him was followed by a written record. The installation of a time-clock in the Zionist offices meant more than checking the hours of employees. It implied an end to the “slippered ease” with which Zionist affairs had been conducted. Some of the old “machine” rebelled against this and at the Baltimore Convention in 1917 made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Brandeisian supremacy. They were wholeheartedly willing to fight under Brandeis’s name, but they were equally opposed to his ceaseless spurring, his demand for self-discipline, his insistence upon accuracy and his stern opposition to compromise. “Never before in Zionist history had so much work been done in one year”, was a fair interpretation of the Brandeisian practical leadership.


Brandeis had received verbal assurances from President Bilson and the British Ambassador in 1914 as to the Allied policy to be applied towards Palestine, Mr. de Haas relates. At that time some of the British officials favoured the gradual acquisition of authority in Palestine by the Jews. They were thinking of mass Jewish settlement and the opening up of successive areas in orderly progress. The glowing hopes of the after-war prospects of Zionism, coupled with the direct news of negotiations in progress in London brought by European visitors, led in the spring of 1916 to the reopening of the diplomatic discussions with President Wilson and the British Ambassador. The assurances, reduced to a six-line memorandum with the initials W.W. were wholly satisfactory. In the early spring of 1917 the attitude of Great Britain towards a Jewish settlement in Palestine had become a matter of public discussion and American diplomatic resistance to an immediate official announcement was based on the difficulties that would follow a British statement unsupported by the agreement of France and Italy. The press even discussed a Jewish Republic in Palestine, but President Bilson made it clear that while he was determined to aid the Zionist cause he would not add to the possible friction between Allied Powers by previous action nor countenance the proposals launched in England for an American suzerainty over Palestine and Armenia.

In 1917 Lord Balfour headed the Balfour Mission to the United States. Mr. Balfour, as he was then, singled out Judge Brandeis at the first official reception given him by President Wilson as one with whom he desired private conversation. His own attitude, Mr. Balfour summarised in Washington by saying “I am a Zionist”.

Of the Balfour Declaration a considerable number of drafts were made in London and transmitted to the United States through War Office channels for the use of the American Zionist Political Committee. The draft cabled from Government to Government was handed to the Brandeis regime for its approval. After a most necessary revision, President Wilson, acting through Colonel House, who was in full sympathy with the Zionist aims, authorised cabling to the British Government the version that was published, and to which all the Allied Governments in turn gave their approval.


As soon as the Supreme Court rose in 1919 for the summer vacation, Brandeis proceeded to Europe for Palestine. In London he met Dr. Weizmann for the first time. He arrived in London on a Saturday and left for Paris on the following Monday morning. The evening he reached Paris the Peace was being signed, but he ignored the public festivities. He called on the President, Colonel House, Mr. Balfour, the French Cabinet, the Italian Ambassador. He met officials of every description and he lunched with Baron Edmond de Rothschild. The third evening he was on his way to Palestine. Palestine made a deep and lasting impression on him. In spite of all the receptions tendered him, he never uttered a word in public while in the country. “He saw the land and it was good”. But the heart of the situation he realised was political. He had gathered that information in his interview with Lord Allenby. The British Commanderin-Chief and his military and civil aides regarded the Balfour Declaration as a forgotten episode of the war. They had other plans for the future of Palestine and all other Occupied Area Enemy Territory eastward and northward. The British Military Party supported Colonel Lawrence’s adventure in Arabia, which opposed the Jewish claims. The civil aides to the British military authorities took advantage of every local opportunity to strengthen the British foothold, ignoring all Jewish considerations and treating the Arabs as “natives” in the approved Colonial manner. The Jews brought eloquent testimony to the fact that Palestine was already slipping away from the vision of a Jewish Homeland they had conjured out of the text of the balfour Declaration.

It was not until Brandeis returned to Paris that he unbosomed himself. It was to Mr. Balfour that he spoke. A few hours later the British Foreign Office, through the British War Office, was reminding the military authorities in Egypt and Palestine not only of the verbal contents of the Balfour Declaration, but that the matter was chose jugee. A number of Palestinian officials immediately sought desirable “exchanges”, and Colonel Meiertzhagen, a pronounced pro-Zionist, was despatched to Palestine. There had been no protest, no stirring of the troubled public waters. The Brandeisian direct action diplomacy had achieved results. The result was so clear to the Palestinian that the silent but efficient Brandeis is still a golden memory.


Soon after came the first clashes between Dr. Weizmann and Judge Brandeis, which grew more acute at the London Zionist Conference of 1920, at which Judge Brandeis was elected Honorary President of the Zionist World Organisation. A few months later Dr. Weizmann went to America, and the Weizmann-Brandeis conflict began with its slogan “Pinsk or Washington”. Finally, at the Cleveland Zionist Convention of June 1921, the majority of the delegates formally denied a vote of confidence to Judge Brandeis and his regime. Judge Mack then read out a letter from Judge Brandeis to the Convention, in which he declared that he and his adherants could no longer take part in the administration of Zionist affairs. “Our place will be,” he wrote, “as humble soldiers in the ranks, where we most hope to hasten by our struggle the coming of the day when the policies in which we believe will be recognised as the only ones through which our great ends may be achieved”.

After reading the letter, Judge Mack reported the resignation of 37 members of the Executive and officials, including Mr. Israel B. Brodie, Mr. Jacob de Haas, Mrs. Mary Fels, Dr. Bernard Flexner, Professor Felix Frankfurter, Dr. Harry Friedenwald, Rabbi Dr. Max Heller, Dr. Horace M. Kallen, Mr. Emanuel Mohl, Judge Hugo Pam. Mr. Sol. Rosenbloom, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Mr. Nathan Straus, Mr. Robert Szold, and Rabbi Dr. Stephen S. Wise. Judge Mack and some three-score delegates and members of the Executive then withdrew from the Convention and from all active participation in the affairs of the Zionist Organisation.


Until the Zionist Convention held again in Cleveland in July 1930, almost exactly nine years later, the Brandeisists took no further part in the American Zionist Organisaion, but through the Palestine Development Council helped to raise funds for promoting the economic upbuilding of Palestine. At the 1930 Cleveland Convention, however, the Brandeis Group came back into power, and now again, at the Convention which has just been concluded at Atlantic City, the Brandeisists are taking their place together with representatives of the Lipsky group in a Coalition Zionist Executive.

The first public utterance on Zionism in all the years since he relinquished his position as head of the American Zionist Organisation was made by Judge Brandeis in November 1929 after the Palestine outbreak of the previous August, when he addressed a meeting of leading American Jews at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, called by Mr. Felix M. Warburg, who was in the chair.

The events in Palestine, Judge Brandeis said then, have shown the manhood and courage of the Palestine Jews. I know nothing in recent history finer than the character displayed by these men and women. Knowing Palestine and its possibilities, I have no fear of the Arab question or of any other question. I am not sorry that our representatives have been tested. It gave me infinitely more courage and infinitely more desire to help than ever before. I was strongly in favour and still am of the Balfour Declaration, because I believe that the development of Palestine by the Jews is as much in British interest as in our interest. As a group of American businessmen of proved ability, under the leadership of Mr. Warburg, I am convinced we can assure a Jewish Palestine.

Since the return of his friends and adherents to American Zionist leadership at the Cleveland Convention of 1930, in which a considerable part was played by the so-called Brandeis memorandum of Zionist reorganisation in America, Judge Brandeis has remained in close touch with Zionist developments. When Mr. Ramsay MacDonald was in America he took the opportunity of seeing the British Prime Minister, and at the American Zionist Convention which was concluded at Atlantic City yesterday, Mr. Emanuel Neuman, the American member of the Zionist World Executive, reported that during his stay in Washington, on the eve of the Convention, he held several conferences on Zionist affairs with Judge Brandeis.

Mr. Jacob de Haas also states in a special article on Judge Brandeis released on the occasion of his 75th. birthday through the J.T.A., that he saw Judge Brandeis in Washington on October 13th., just a month before his birthday “and about the 21st. anniversary of our first discussion on Zionism”, “for one of those periodic discussions on Zionist affairs that have been the pleasure as well as the routine of these two decades. Not a word passed in reminiscence. We addressed our selves immediately to a problem that interested us both, a question that has to do with some to-morrow and the day after, and yet may not prove unrelated to the immediate present if what we had separately planned proves tangible and practicable”.

Had there been a listener present, Mr. de Haas writes, he might have been impressed with the rather dry, wholly unrhetorical and undramatic exchange of views, and the easy give and take of our conversation. Next he would have been amazed and this amazement holds good for nine hundred and ninety nine out of every thousand Zionists – at Justice Brandeis’ complete mastery of the details of a comparatively obscure piece of work which he desired to employ as the fulcrum of a new leverage for Zionist achievement in Palestine.

There was a report that was prepared for him a year ago. He had left his copy in Chatham with some other papers. He knew I had a copy of it and some other documents and had written for them. The whole matter was in his mind in logical sequence. He had worked out precisely the possible balancing of cause and effect. As he planned it he left nothing to chance or what is often worse misunderstanding. That discussion ended, the session was practically over. We talked of other things, touching lightly on current problems, Zionistic, non-Zionistic. But the heart of our talk was this one problem and when disposed of, the Zionist leader soon disappeared in the Justice, busy with the duties of his office.


He looks at seventy-five hale and hearty, Mr. de Haas declares, better if I may tell him so in print, than he looked a year or two ago, as keen and alert as at any day during these twenty-one years that I had been favoured with the opportunity of discussion and talk with him. Nor on reflection do I see much change in the manner of his approach to problems which became familiar after he had assumed, in 1914, the responsibility of chairman of the Zionist Provisional Emergency Committee. The amount of time he devotes to Zionist affairs is more compressed since 1923. He avoids during the period the court is in session, the fatigue of frequent conference in which he indulged freely during the war years, but on the other hand he devotes all his summer vacation to Zionist reading, Zionist thinking, and the receiving of Zionists, who wish to consult him. This summer, largely as the aftermath of the Congress, and the political situation, he received a great many visitors at Chatham, but the dedication of his vacation to Zionism is part of his fixed programme for years.

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