Rabbis Trapped into Endorsing Labor Palestine, Says Newman
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Rabbis Trapped into Endorsing Labor Palestine, Says Newman

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The endorsement of the Palestine labor movement by 241 reform rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis last week was termed “inflammatory, deceptive and partisan” in a statement issued Friday by Rabbi Louis I. Newman of Congregation Rodoph Sholem, himself a member of the Central Conference.

Rabbi Newman in his statement charges that the endorsement was promulgated with the deliberate intention of discrediting Vladimir Jabotinsky on the day of his arrival in America. He declares that his 241 colleagues “fell into an obvious trap,” and that they are guilty of having enrolled the Central Conference in a questionable dispute, despite the fact that their views ostensibly were presented “as individuals.”

“The editorial in the Jewish Daily Bulletin criticizing the pro-Histadruth and pro-labor league statement of certain rabbis ‘holding membership’ in the Central Conference of the American Rabbis deserves the commendation of reasonable and fair-minded persons,” Rabbi Newman writes in his statement.

“Nothing was said in the original letter accompanying the pro-Histadruth statement when it was sent out to the rabbis of the Central Conference that it was intended as a blow at Vladimir Jabotinsky to be published on the day of his arrival in America.

“I did not believe that my colleagues would fall into the trap which was set for them (and of which I was not made aware until a letter written to me by Rabbi Israel on January 25).


“Therefore, to my present regret, I did not at once in December warn my colleagues against the partisan implications of the statement, as I would have done had it been presented in the form of a resolution in the resolutions committee of the C.C.A.R., and on the floor of the convention for full and open discussion. When I urged Rabbi Israel to postpone the publication of the pro-Histadruth statement, he wrote me:

” ‘The reason that we have acted now is very definitely because of Jabotinsky’s visit…. To wait until next Summer and thrash (the matter out) before the C.C.A.R. in an effort to get an official stand on the subject was to participate in an anti-climax. The time to rally the reform rabbinate was now.’


“Rabbi Israel Harburg of Lynn, Mass., a member of the executive board of the C.C.A.R., has written me that though he signed the pro-Histadruth statement, ‘it was not without a lengthy letter of disapproval as to its tone and phraseology.’ He suggested that the publication of any statement be postponed ‘until the next conference, when we can draw up a resolution satisfactory to all of our members who are Palestine-minded. I am sure that the cause of labor in Palestine is not in such a desperate state that it could not wait six months for our moral support.’

“I replied that his letter urging postponement should be addressed to Rabbi Israel, who had already arranged for the release of the pro-Histadruth statement on January 26.


“Doubtless a number of my colleagues would not have objected had they known of this partisan and political intention to strike at Jabotinsky; but I am convinced that for several reasons a great number would not have signed the pro-Histadruth statement if they had been aware of Rabbi Israel’s intention to attempt a blow at a distinguished Jewish leader. I consider such tactics unrabbinical.

“Originally Rabbi Israel’s statement was an open commitment of the C.C.A.R., but authoritative intervention prevented this. The statement now mentions signatories ‘holding membership in the C.C.A.R.,’ a phrase which, though indirect, is from the standpoint of public opinion an embroilment of the Conference. At its next convention this matter will be brought before the members for discussion, and I am of the opinion that Rabbi Israel and his collaborators will be made the target for severe criticism.


“Permit me to say that at the Wernersville conference last June a number of pro-Palestine resolutions were unanimously passed. Rabbi Israel and I were included in the membership of the resolutions committee, and together with our colleagues we found a common denominator of viewpoint and phraseology on several difficult themes. Had Rabbi Israel not been so intent upon a prejudiced gesture, little related to the genuine issues of social justice in Palestine, he would have waited until the next convention of the C.C.A.R., when with the pro-Palestine members of the conference we again could have found a common platform for the unanimous action of the members.

“Instead, a statement has been issued, sub rosa in the name of the C.C.A.R., the implications of which, I am convinced, the majority of the signatories did not know. From letters I have received and from personal conversations it is my belief that many of my reform colleagues signed the pro-Histadruth statement, not because they favor the Histadruth and the Labor League, but because in the absence of a non-partisan statement, they believed this an opportunity to express their interest in Palestine and in social justice. For example, Rabbi Louis Witt of Dayton, Ohio, has written me:


” ‘I signed (Rabbi Israel’s) statement over my inner protest but did so because I have determined that I would allow nothing in my attitude as a non-Zionist to stand in the way of my doing whatever I can for Palestine in this world crisis of Jewry. I felt that (Israel’s) group was not reaching their objective in the right way.”

“In order that it might be known to my fellow rabbis and to the general public that the C.C.A.R., contains members opposed to a collective partisan approval of any special sect or party within the movement, an impartial social justice statement was drawn up by a number of rabbis, among them Rabbis William F. Rosenblum of Temple Israel, New York; Sidney S. Tedesche, Union Temple, Brooklyn; J. X. Cohen of the Free Synagogue; Herbert I. Bloom of Hudson, N. Y.; John J. Tepfer of the Jewish Institute of Religion.

“Among those who in a brief time have withdrawn their names from the pro-Histadruth statement

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