Jewish Nationalism Assailed by President of Hebrew Union College
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Jewish Nationalism Assailed by President of Hebrew Union College

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“There is absolutely no compelling urge towards Jewish nationalism today other than that of sheer desperation and despair,” president Julian Morgenstern of the Hebrew Union College said here at exercises marking the opening of that Reform Jewish theological seminary’s academic year.

Dr. Morgenstern spoke on the topic, “Nation, People, Religion–What-Are We?” and he assailed the idea of Jewish nationalism at a time when Reform Jewry is confronted with a request for a decision to approve or reject the American Jewish conference’s recent resolution demanding that Palestine be proclaimed a Jewish commonwealth.

In his address he followed the history of the Jows from their origin in the Arabian Desert down to their present crisis to stress his declarations that the Jews’ contribution to the world never has lain in the field of nationalism.


“Israel, as a nation, has achieved no distinction whatever and has made no contribution whatever to human civilization,” he said. “As a nation in the past, Israel was not one whit different from numerous other little and equally insignificant nations. And nothing whatever suggests that today, restored to national existence, Israel would be aught different from the many little, insignificant racial states which struggle desperately to maintain and to justify their national existence.

“On the other hand, that Israel is a people and Judaism a religion, and that these two principles are eternally and inseparably linked, and that in this indissoluble fusion they make Israel a unique people among the nations of the world, a people animated by the consciousness of divine commission to play in the world a unique role as the bearers and custodians of the knowledge of the one, universal God and of His way of life for all men and of the sole way of universal salvation, this fact is beyond all question, It is attested by all the evidence of 2500 years of Jewish history. Israel is indeed a people with a religion, a religious people, and naught else.”

Emphasizing his belief that there is nothing un-Jewish but nothing specifically Jewish in nationalism, Dr. Morgenstern said, “The present Zionist movement represents the most wide-spread and intensive revival of the nationalistic hope and program in Judaism in over 1800 years. It also represents the complete reversion from the free and almost unrestrained universalism in Judaism of the first two thirds of the nineteenth century to a nationalism, particularism and isolationism, in some respects, almost as extreme as, and in other respects more extreme than, the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah.”


Reviewing the birth and development of Zionism, Dr. Morgenstern stated; “I has run the entire gamut of modern racial nationalism from the, as we now see, very modest hope of restoration of Palestine as the center of a new, positive and intensive Jewish cultural life, to the extreme theory of Jewish nationalism, practically identical with Nazist and Fascist theory, which holds that the bonds of Jewish. racial nationalism are eternally indissoluble, that there can be ever only one Jewish homeland, only one land in which the Jew can ever feel himself completely at home; that eternally he is a member of the Jewish racial nation, however that term may be defined; that he resides among the nations, as at present, only as a temporary sojourner; that he is in the ‘Diaspora,’ in ‘Galut,’ in ‘exile,’ and that

It seems “decidedly improbable” that an independent Jewish political state will be established in Palestine as an outcome of the present war, Dr. Morgenstern continued. But even if such state were achieved, he said, it “must be granted by all who can interpret Jewish history aright that a twentieth century, restored Jewish state would be merely another nationalistic episode in the life of the Jewish people, would represent but another backward swing of the pendulum.”


“Despite the oft-repeated, high-sounding asseverations of the beneficent role which a Jewish state or commonwealth in Palestine may play or will play in setting a happy pattern of equitable social relations for all other nations to emulate the most recent formulation of which is in the bombastic peroration of the so-called Palestine resolution of the American Jewish Conference, the fact, incontestably established by history, still confronts us with brazen truth, that the true genius and destiny of Israel finds expression only in its role as a religious people, Israel has no need and no compulsion to become again a nation to fulfill its God-appointed destiny.

“The solution of the Jewish problem and fulfillment of Jewish genius and destiny lie far less within than outside Palestine. For even should the seemingly vain and self-deluding dream of an eventual Jewish population of some 5,000,000 in Palestine, through some miracle, be realized, nonetheless in the post-war world the larger and happier world of true human brotherhood, eventually the far larger section of the Jewish people must necessarily continue to reside outside Palestine. Where, other than in the United States and Russia, the main canters of this post-war, extra-Palestinian Jewish settlement will be, it is far too early even to prognosticate.

“But wherever it be and what and how many the lands in which our Jewish brethren may eventually find new and permanent residence, they will become speedily and eagerly, just as we are here in these blessed United States, full and contributing citizens of their new nations. They will still be an indissoluble part of the Jewish people. But of a Jewish political state in Palestine, they will be no part at all and to it they will owe no allegiance, political or cultural, other than that of the consciousness of common spiritual brotherhood. They will not feel themselves a part of a Jewish Diaspora for under the conditions of that new world, there will be no Jewish Diaspora. They will not look upon themselves as in exile for in that new world there will be no exile.”

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