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American Jewish Conference Concludes Debate on Palestine; Discusses Jews in Europe

September 1, 1943
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Following conclusion of a full-dress debate on Palestine, which was marked by a powerful plea by Dr. Abba Hillel Silver for an unequivocal declaration by the gathering favoring the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth, the Conference entered its second phase today, devoting the entire afternoon session to discussing the fate of the Jews in Europe.

Depicting the tragedy of European Jewry were two rabbis from Germany who now live in this country. One of them, Rabbi Max Nussbaum from Berlin, related his experiences under the Nazis, while the other, Rabbi Jacob Hoffman from Frankfurt-on-the-Main, expressed the hope that the United Nations will establish a post-war order in Europe which will make anti-Jewish activities impossible. The session was also addressed by Rabbi Irving Miller of the World Jewish Congress, by Louis Siegel of the National Jewish Workers’ Alliance, and by Dr. Joseph Tennenbaum, vice president of the American Federation of Polish Jews.

The delegates also heard an appeal from the Representation of Polish Jewry reviewing in details the sufferings of the Jews in Poland and asking the Conference to heed the call of the surviving “desperate souls” and secure for them immediate help and rescue. The appeal urged the Conference to undertake the following steps immediately:

1. Impel the Allied Nations to issue an immediate categorical warning to the German people that they will be held to strict accountability unless the slaughter of the Jews in Poland is brought to an end.

2. Appeal to the Allied Nations to obtain the release of all Jewish women and children from Poland, this to be done with the cooperation of the neutral governments.

3. Undertake all the necessary steps to secure and assure immediate shipments of food and clothing to the ghettoes of Poland.

4. Intercede with the Allied Nations for the recognition of Jews in the ghettoes, the concentration and labor camps as civilian internees, entitled to regular help from the International Red Cross which is granted to all other civilian internees.

5. Appeal to American Jewry to send funds to the Jewish Underground movement in Poland, for immediate rescue work among the Jews in the ghettoes.

“The fate of our brothers and sisters lies in your hands,” the appeal said. “You are in a position to save them from brutal destruction. Destiny so willed it that you, breathing the air of freedom in the United States, may become immortalized as the saviors of your people in the darkest hour of their history.”


Dr. Abba Hilled Silver, co-chairman of the American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs, who last night emphasized that there can be no compromise on the Zionist demand for a Jewish Commonwealth, was today elected chairman of the Palestine

The Conference today also elected a presidium of fourteen. Stephen S. Wise, Henry Monsky, Joseph Proskauer and Adolph Held were designated as members at large. The other ten members are: Judge Louis Levinthal, Rabbi Israel Goldstein, Hon. Carl Sherman, Herman Hoffman, Mrs. David deSola Pool, Edgar Kaufmann, Leon Gelman, Chaim Greenberg, Adolph Rosenberg. The tenth seat is reserved for the nominee of the Conservative Religious Bloc.

With the Palestine issue constituting the major point of disagreement between the various groups at the Conference, the Committee on Palestine lost no time today in drafting a declaration to be submitted to the general session as soon as negotiations over the final text are concluded within the committee. The groups taking exception to the text of the declaration in its present form, which includes a demand for the establishment of Palestine as a Jewish Commonwealth, are the American Jewish Committee and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The Jewish Labor Committee announced that it is taking no stand on the issue of the Jewish Labor Committee announced that it is taking no stand on the issue of the Jewish Commonwealth since its members are divided in their attitude on this question.


In the course of the debate on Palestine last night, the Conference heard a number of prominent Zionist leaders appeal for adoption of a resolution supporting the demand for the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth. Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, whose address was often interrupted by stormy applause, moved many of the audience of 3,000 to tears. He declared that “there is but one solution for our national homelessness which is the source of our millennial tragedy, and that solution is a national home.”

Dr. Silver cited statements by Lloyd George, British Prime Minister at the time of the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, and by the late President Woodrow Wilson to prove that they had in mind the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine when the Palestine mandate was entrusted to England. He also quoted one of Winston Churchill’s pre-war speeches in which the British prime minister definitely expressed himself in favour of settling millions of Jews in Palestine.

“If the overwhelming majority of the American Jewish people favor the up-building of Palestine as a Jewish homeland, they should have the right to express their belief through this conference, Dr. Silver said. He appealed to the “non-Zionist, anti-Zionist and neutral” delegates to submit to the majority even if they disagree with some of the decisions which the American Jewish Conference may take. “In a democratic situation,” he said, “unity depends not on unanimity, but on the willingness of the minority to submit to the decisions of the majority.”


Speaking for the Jewish Labor Committee, Israel H. Goldberg emphasized that whatever differences of opinion there may be in the Jewish Labor Committee with respect to Palestine as a national Jewish objective, all agree that Palestine is able to admit large numbers of homeless Jews. All members of the Jewish Labor Committee also agree that Palestine must occupy an important place in any program

“1. We declare our solidarity with organized Jewish labor in Palestine and its demands regarding Jewish immigration and colonization of Palestine.

“2. We demand the immediate annulment of the White Paper, and the guarantee of free Jewish immigration, land purchase and colonization of Palestine.

“3. In regard to the ultimate constitutional status of Palestine, the Jewish Labor Committee takes no stand, because there is no unanimity among its membership on this question.”

Rabbi Solomon Goldman, former president of the Zionist Organization of American, said that private expressions by the delegates to the Conference and the speeches at the opening sessions indicated complete agreement that the Jews were a people, that the White Paper should be condemned as an abrogation of the Balfour Declaration, that the upbuilding of Palestine during the past twenty-five years had been an achievement of the Jewish people and that there should be unlimited Jewish immigration to Palestine.

On these bases, he urged the Jews of the United States to defend the rights of the Jews in Palestine “as unequivocally as the Arabs of Egypt and other Arab countries speak for the Arabs of Palestine.” Pointing out that in the 1873 years since the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. there had only been the seven years between 1260 and 1267 when there had been no Jews in Palestine, he said “justice demands the return of Palestine to the Jews.”


Rabbi James G. Heller, former president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, expressed the hope that “the Conference will not break on the rock of an insensate partisanship. “The decisions of this Conference,” he said, “will test and reveal the character of the American Jewish Community.” The reopening of Palestine to Jewish immigration he declared was a minimum symbol that justice will come to the world after the war. He called upon the United Nations to treat the Jewish problem in the same spirit displayed toward the Greeks after the burning of Smyrna in 1922 when Fritdjof Nansen repatriated large numbers of Greeks on behalf of the League of Nations.

Judge Louis E. Levinthal, president of the Zionist Organization of America, praising the speech of Judge Joseph M. Proskauer, president of the American Jewish Committee, delivered at the Sunday evening session, for its emphasis on “the opportunities which exist for joint action,” recalled the reversal of opinion by the late Louis Marshall in 1918 when the latter occupied the post that Judge Proskauer now holds.

He expressed the hope that discussions might lead again to the result that “those who thought they were poles apart” would discover “that the only thing dividing them is words and phrases.”

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