Spirit of Tolerance in France Nullifies Bias, Says Bodenheimer
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Spirit of Tolerance in France Nullifies Bias, Says Bodenheimer

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Although there is a very pronounced anti-Semitic propaganda in France, Henri Bodenheimer, one of the leading French-Jewish leaders, believes that French Jewry has nothing to fear, Bodenheimer, president of the World Ort organization, here on a brief visit, believes in the essential spirit of equality and tolerance of the French people and government.

“The Nazis,” he said, “are conducting an intensive propaganda campaign in France. They are spending large sums of money in an effort to induce some of the weaker French newspapers to take anti-Jewish stands. Undoubtedly, their campaign is in part successful. Anti-Jewish propaganda is noticeable and it can be traced to the Nazis.

“But in the long run I don’t think they will achieve any great success; that French Jewry is in danger of any great wave of anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, we must keep our eyes open. We must do our utmost to defeat and counteract Nazi propaganda.”


{NOTE}After explaining that a lot of what seems to be anti-Semitic in Character is really anti-alien and based upon the unemployment of one million Frenchmen, Mr. Bodenheimer explained his reasons for his belief in France’s essential good-will to the Jews.{/NOTE}

“It must be remembered,” he said, “that France emancipated its Jews 150 years ago, that it took Jews out of the ghetto, gave them the same rights as all other citizens at a time when this was rare in Europe.

“France had an attack of anti-Semitism forty-five years ago, the Dreyfuss incident. Though that was a vicious manifestation, and no great credit to any country, I think that only in France was an eventual vindication for Dreyfuss possible. Since then, we have heard nothing of anti-Semitism. France has learned its lesson; it will not unthinkingly swallow propaganda.”

Conversing with Mr. Bodenheimer at his suite in the Hotel St. Regis, he didn’t introduce the subject of anti-Semitism in France. That was the reporter’s doing; if it were up to the visitor, the subject would never have been brought up.

The short-gray-haired man, who can neither be described as stocky or pudgy—but something in between the two—just didn’t think French anti-Semitism a subject for discussion. Not believing it possible, he scarcely realized the concern that cabled reports from Paris had engendered among leading Jews here.

He was more disposed to discuss the work of ORT, the organization which he heads and the American branch of which had just tendered him a reception.

Mr. Bodenheimer described the purposes of the ORT, namely: to reorientate uprooted Jewish professionals for artisan careers and the preparation of under-privileged and persecuted Jews for a new life, sometimes in foreign countries, in which they can lift themselves above the ignorant peasantry.


{NOTE}Although not precisely a colonization organization, ORT, he pointed out, is closely allied with organized movements of Jews. A Biro-Bidjan colonization project, involving 20,000 to 25,000 families, is now being negotiated with the Soviet government, he stated. Dr. David Lwowitch, an ORT executive, he said, is now in Moscow making arrangements for the guarantee by the Soviet government, as to principal and interest, of a million dollar loan that is needed to finance the plan.{/NOTE}

ORT in all, he revealed, has a hand in the development of 119 colonies involving 4,665 families. The organization also conducts vocational schools and factories. A total of 409 students are being vocationally trained as carpenters, painters, mechanics, blacksmiths, etc., in 11 schools and 6,800 workers are employed in eighty-seven factories.

The problem of ORT, Mr. Bodenheimer pointed out, has been complicated by the problem of German-Jewish refugees. It is for them, as well as for disenfranchised Polish and Rumanian Jews, that the Biro-Bidjan project is being developed.

“With so many people uprooted,” he said, “the problem of ORT is to help people to once again become self-sustaining. This,” he very pointedly stated, “is more human than charity. Charity humiliates. We have to help the refugees find themselves so they live later without charity.”

Regarding amelioration of the problems of German-Jewish refugees, the visitor made a plea for the necessity of cooperation among the various relief organizations.


{NOTE}”Each organization,” he said, “has a job of its own. I wouldn’t be stupid enough to criticize any one of them. But there is sometimes in France, as here, too, undoubtedly, a duplication or multiplication of effort. There should be some way of unifying our work. For in unity the best results can be achieved.”{/NOTE}

Mr. Bodenheimer described himself as a Zionist. He said: “I believe in Palestine. It is a very good thing. But Palestine is not big enough for all the Jews needful of a new home.”

Recalling the Arab riots of 1929, Mr. Bodenheimer said the number that can possibly be admitted to Palestine is “limited.”

After expressing this point of view, he was careful to emphasize that the ORT is not opposed to Zionism.


{NOTE}”The ORT,” he said, “supplements the work of the Zionists. We prepare men—as they say in Palestine—to be good chalutzim. Whether they go to Palestine or elsewhere is unimportant, that is if they are settled under happier circumstances than under which they lived.{/NOTE}

“Both the Zionist Organization and ORT have a reason for existence. No one should consider them as opponents.”

As a Jew, Mr. Bodenheimer is a nationalist, not an internationalist. All his philosophy, he revealed, is predicated upon his French citizenship.


{NOTE}”I am a Jew,” said this man who has lived in France forty-seven years though he was born under the German flag in Baden, “but also a Frenchman. A French Jew knows only French politics. I would never do anything opposed to French policy. The country in which I live must always come first. But I am a Jew, even though a Frenchman. My two allegiances have never conflicted. There is no reason why they should.”{/NOTE}

Mr. Bodenheimer who came to this country two weeks ago will leave on the Isle de France March 23.

A banker and produce merchant, Mr. Bodenheimer is, besides being leader of the ORT, a member of the French Consistory, on the board of directors of the Jewish Seminary in France and a member of the Jewish Charity Committee of Paris.

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