American Jewish Conference Opens; Monsky Warns Against Usurping Functions of Other Groups
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American Jewish Conference Opens; Monsky Warns Against Usurping Functions of Other Groups

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Opposition to establishment of the American Jewish Conference as a permanent organization “which shall function, supervise or direct the activities in areas which are now the special responsibility of established, well-recognized and responsible Jewish organizations,” was voiced today by Henry Monsky, president of the B’nai B’rith and co-chairman of the Interim Committee of the Conferen Conference, addressing the organization’s second session, which opened today at the William Penn Hotel here.

Mr. Monsky, who was instrumental in the establishment of the American Jewish conference last year, warned the 480 delegates, representing 60 organizations, that an attempt by the Conference to take over the duties of long-term Jewish bodies “is fraught with grave danger to the Conference. It threatens to destroy its integrity and solidarity,” he continued. “It disregards certain basic principles and fundamental understandings which must be respected if the Conference is to survive and perform its important tasks.”

An indication that groups within the Conference who favor enlargement of the scope of its activities do not plan to force through a decision to this effect was seen in the address of Dr. Israel Goldstein, another co-chairman of the Interim Committee. Declaring that he shared the view of those who believe that nothing related to Jewish interests should be excluded from the scope of the Conference, such as American Jewish affairs, Dr. Goldstein added that “since it is apparent that it can not be had, we have no right to force it by majority rule.”


Outlining his reasons for opposing extension of the Conference’s activities, Mr. Monsky said. “Does anyone imagine even the remote probability of this Conference, as presently constituted, developing the capacity to take the place and perform the functions of such agencies in Jewish life as the Joint Distribution Committee, the United Palestine Appeal, the National Refugee Service, HIAS and other overseas agencies, most of which for a quarter of a century or more have built up a recognized tradition of magnificent service to our stricken brethren throughout the world. These same principles apply to the defense agencies.

All of these organizations,” he continued, “deal with combined budgets of upwards of 50 millions of dollars annually. They have built up tremendous machinery, facilities and community support, aside from adequate experience in dealing with the problems within their field. Wholly apart from the insurmountable legal, ethical and moral obstacles to the enlargement of the scope of the Conference, it behooves us to think well before we undertake to pass pious resolutions of good intentions which can only result in disturbing the relationship between the communities and these well established agencies in Jewish life.

“It is my profound conviction,” he concluded, “that the program of this Conference is too important in relation to the life and the future destiny of our people to permit it to be jeopardized. The task that we have before us, the responsibility with which we are charged are of such magnitude as to command the exclusion of all peripheral and extraneous considerations which should find a form in other organizations, under such circumstances as will not threaten to frustrate this important effort.”


Dr. Goldstein, in the course of his address, pointed out that in regard to rescue, the Conference will have to seek increasing contacts with UNRRA and with the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees to impress upon them the policies it recommends in connection with rehabilitation, relief and resettlement. In regard to the Palestine resolution of the Conference, he urged that the organization “seize every opportunity and every contact to bring it home to American bodies and bodies abroad until its irresistible thesis wins not merely the sympathetic expressions, but the active support of the American and British Government.”

Dr. Goldstein also urged that “in order that the Jews of the world may speak to the United Nations with one voice a close cooperation between the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Conference is indicated, and there is a third important partner in this, the Jewish Agency for Palestine.”

After reviewing the founding and organizing of the Conference, Mr. Monsky said that the effectiveness of the Palestine resolution adopted by the Conference had been demonstrated by the favorable declaration of the two major political parties in regard to the Jewish Commonwealth and also pointed out that “Christian leaders, laymen and clergy have rallied to our cause.” Dr. Stephen S. Wise presided at the opening session.

Delegates of the Jewish Labor Committee, R. L. Goldman, Isidore Nagler, Benjamin Gebiner, Israel H. Goldberg, presented today to the general committee of the Conference their case against admission of the Jewish Peoples Fraternal Order, which, they charged, was a Communist organization. The whole morning session was occupied with consideration of their statement. It was decided to refer the dispute to a subcommittee for further study.

The following members of the praesidium were chosen today, Rabbi Israel Goldstein, Henry Monsky, Dr. Stephen S. Wise, Mrs. Moses P. Epstein, Judge Louis C. Levinthal, Herman Shulman, Hayim Greenberg, Edger J. Kaufmann, Adolph Rosenberg, Louis lipsky, Harold O. N. Frankel, Leon Gellman and Samuel Rothstein. Another member of the praesidium will be named tomorrow.

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