Jewish Leaders Focus on Israel’s 25th Anniversary Soviet Jews, American Society
Menu JTA Search

Jewish Leaders Focus on Israel’s 25th Anniversary Soviet Jews, American Society

Download PDF for this date

The 25th anniversary of Israel’s Statehood, which will occur during the Hebrew calendar year 5733 that Jews usher in this Friday, was the focus of most messages issued by American Jewish loaders on the occasion of Rosh Hashana. Others also called attention to the continuing struggle for the rights of Jews in the Soviet Union and the latest tactic of Soviet harassment–the demand for ransom for Jewish intellectuals wishing to leave.

Jewish leaders also laid stress on the many problems in American society which they urged their fellow Jews to meet in the spirit of the High Holy Days.

Paul Zuckerman, general chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, observed that this Rosh Hashana “has special meaning to Jews the world over. It begins Israel’s 26th anniversary year,” he said. “It was 26 years ago that the struggle for a Jewish homeland became a reality. Since then more than 1.4 million immigrants have made their way to the land of their people, tenaciously fulfilling an age-old dream of freedom and independence.”

“As it reflects upon these 25 years of freedom, the American Jewish community has a right to feel great and heartwarming sense of accomplishment,” Zuckerman continued. “But we cannot afford to focus on the past and dwell on our achievements,” he warned. “For no Jew can fail to feel deeply a sense of the needs still unmet, a sense of the lives unredeemed, challenges still unfulfilled and promises still unkept.”

Zuckerman noted that more than 70,000 immigrants will arrive in Israel this year, at least half of them from the Soviet Union. “The promise of their future, our promise to them, is the most sacred pact one man can have with another, the promise of life,” he said.


Max M. Fisher, president of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, said that Rosh Hashana was the occasion “to measure our recent deeds against the dimensions of the needs of our fellow Jews.”

“An inventory of the major crises that have engaged our people during the last 12-month period in Israel, the Soviet Union and in Arab lands lines up as familiarly stark,” Fisher said. “Survival is the single, common drama. But heart-warmingly basic too, has been the stirring and widespread reaffirmation–most sharply exemplified in the courage of thousands of Russian Jews, who, at great risk, have served notice that life is less than life if they cannot live as Jews and if they cannot participate and join the pulse of their people.”

Fisher noted that “Here at home, we have shown that we treasure our freedom to participate fully in planning and building stronger, life-giving communities, and that we appreciate our unique role and responsibility as a prime supporter of our fellow Jews elsewhere in the world.”


Melvin Dubinsky, chairman of the United Israel Appeal, Inc., observed that “Simultaneously with the observance of Rosh Hashana, American Jews together with the people of Israel, will begin a year long celebration of Israel’s 25th anniversary,” he said.

“It seems only yesterday,” Dubinsky continued, “that we were engaged in a frantic struggle to save the shattered remnant of our people who survived the Hitler holocaust. Now, after a quarter of a century, we see instead of a beleaguered state of 600,000, a purposeful, free nation of three million. We see a courageous citizenry and great leaders who have not only met crisis after crisis, but have made inspiring progress in economic development, the arts, education, science and social welfare.”

Dubinsky added that “twenty-five years have produced towering achievements. But they have not brought an end to great challenges and responsibilities. These continue … So for all who take pride in Israel’s 25th anniversary year, there is something also we must do. Even as we celebrate we must rededicate ourselves to the work ahead.”


Mrs. Charlotte Jacobson, chairman of the American Section of the World Zionist Organization, stated that “Rosh Hashana takes on an added significance this year for it heralds a New Year that marks a joyous anniversary, an epochal event in the long saga of Judaism–the 25th anniversary of the birth of the State of Israel.”

Mrs. Jacobson noted that “In 25 short years, punctuated by three tragic wars, Israel has established its sovereignty as a going nation, as the only democracy in the Middle East. From a struggling 600,000 people it has grown five-fold to a thriving nation of three million. The 14 living survivors of the 37 men and women who signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948 can look with great pride at the nation they created.” Mrs. Jacobson said.

“But even as we celebrate the New Year with great joy and anticipation, we cannot help but feel sorrow at the fact that a durable peace has not yet been attained in the Middle East,” she said, adding, that “as American Jews, we pledge our continued support to the people and government of Israel. We reaffirm our determination to provide aid both economic and political” and “as American Zionists we look to the future, firm in our belief that Zionist concepts are as valid today as they were when the State of Israel was founded.”


Edward Ginsberg, chairman of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, said that “We can take justifiable pride in our humanitarian services bringing aid and hope to needy and distressed Jews overseas.” But, he continued, “We must acknowledge that much still remains to be done.”

Too often, he stated, “Limited funds enable us to help only the neediest of the needy, the sickest of the sick and the most severely handicapped of the handicapped who have been left behind as their families emigrated, who must now look to the JDC to care for them; deprived men and women and children wait for programs and services that will make their lives more complete and meaningful.”

Ginsberg added: “We earnestly hope that the New Year will witness the fulfillment of forward locking plans for new and expanded JDC services to help all in Israel, not limited to the sick, aged and handicapped newcomers. We look forward in the year ahead to strengthening and advancing our services to those who continue to need our help-in the Middle East, in North Africa and in Eastern and Western Europe.”


Mrs. Max M. Matzkin, president of Hadassah, cited the different origins of Rosh Hashana and other New Year celebrations. “The ancient Jews and Babylonians observed New Year’s Day at the spring equinox,” she said. “The ancient Egyptians and Persians began their New Year at the autumnal equinox, and the Greeks linked theirs to the winter solstice,” she said.

“But Rosh Hashana is not linked with natural occurrences. It comes from the beginning of the civil year in ancient Israel and it is very significant that this is a holiday not grown out of a pagan saturnalia but linked to the conduct of man’s affairs. A solemn occasion wherein man reviews his life over the past 12 months, puts his home, his business and his soul in order before proceeding to new obligations.”

Mrs. Matzkin noted that “despite the over whelming national disasters and human violence to which the world’s people have been subject this past year, there is still more than a glimmer of hope for the New Year. . .If we build on facts-deeds-not allowing ourselves to be overly distracted by theoretical or ideological differences, there is much that we can do to create a better life for all people,” she said.


Meyer Pesin, president of the Jewish National Fund of America, hailed the 70th anniversary of the land reclamation and redemption organization. “Seventy years of existence is the age which the Psalmist regarded as the span of mortal life,” he said.

“But 70 years of the Jewish National Fund. the most beloved institution in Jewish life, is the promising beginning of a new era. First came the dream of Herman Schapira in the words of Leviticus: ‘And you shall give redemption to the land’ and then the fulfillment in the founding of the Keren Kayemeth by Herzl and the implementation by (Menahem) Ussishkin (an early Zionist leader). Now the dream and its realization has integrated a people in its ancient homeland, even as it has unified in spirit and will the Jewish people everywhere,” Pesin said.

Jacob Stein, chairman of the American Committee for Israel’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, said that “The birth of Israel has been a source of inspiration and gratification to American Jewry and has made a great contribution to our lives as American Jews. It has intensified our Jewish commitment, strengthened Jewish educational activities and deepened our spiritual ties.”

Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the American Zionist Federation, called on the AZF’s “hundreds of thousands of adherents, to all Jews, to all humanitarians” on the occasion of Rosh Hashana “to remember the historic experience of the Jewish people and to act on behalf of Israel.”

Its security and growth needs “continue to stagger our imagination,” he said. “Our response to the Call must be commensurate with our dreams. Israel’s 25th year must serve as a clear demonstration of our ability to bridge the gap between the educational, social and health requirements of a flourishing state and their fulfillment. To this goal we dedicate ourselves to the year ahead,” Rabbi Miller said.


Dr. Judah J. Shapiro, president of the Labor Zionist Alliance, stated that “while there must be every application of one’s efforts to this year’s obligation, we must believe in the next 25 years that we shall achieve peace, social and economic equality in Israel and a restoration of Jewish security throughout the world.” Dr. Shapiro said that “In the process of pursuing these goals-peace, social equality-let us hope that we in America will also see a restoration of cooperation among the many minorities in pursuing common goals to make possible America’s earlier promise to all its citizens.”

Dr. Shapiro added: “In this next year, we must rededicate ourselves to the recognition that American and Jewish interests were always best served when people were moved by great ideals and compassion for humanity.”

Mrs. Eleanor Marvin, national president of the National Council of Jewish Women, said that her organization was “concerned over the multitude of unsolved problems and increasing violence” and urged “a reassessment of national as well as individual values and a focusing on the unmet needs of children and youth.”

Philip E. Hoffman, president of the American Jewish Committee, expressed “deep anxiety with the new impediments placed in the path of those who wish to leave the Soviet Union.”

“Although the community of nations recognized some three decades ago in the Charter of the United Nations the right of every human being to freedom and liberty, these hopes unfortunately have yet to be fulfilled. We know that all of us must bend every effort so that the ideals enunciated in that great document can come to fruition,” Hoffman said.

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress, called on American Jews to renew their “historically balanced position between particular Jewish need and the urgent problems of American society.” He noted that “We have every right to pursue our legitimate self-interest and refuse to bear a disproportionate share of the burden of correcting America’s economic and social ills. But we cannot surrender our commitment to social justice, which is right in itself and absolutely necessary if we are to survive.”


Leon H. Keyserling, president of the National Committee for Labor Israel, cited Israel’s forthcoming 25th anniversary to note that despite the lack of peace with her neighbors. “Israel has proceeded along constructive lines, developing its civilian institutions, and fostering humane and reasonable relations with the Arabs in the administered areas.”

Above all, he said, “Israel is welcoming tens of thousands of Jews from the Soviet Union who have at last started to break to freedom. Israeli society, sparked by the labor movement, Histadrut, is dedicating large portions of its resources to absorbing the newcomers,” and is “centering attention upon the unfinished business of lifting a quarter of a million people out of the depths of poverty and into the mainstream of Israel’s economic, cultural and political life.

Morton L. Mandel, president of the National Jewish Welfare Board, said, “The Jewish New Year is an opportune time to reflect on how we can link the experience and wisdom of the past with the ideas of the present and the challenges of the future.” Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, chairman of the JWB’s chaplaincy commission reported on plans for American Jewish servicemen at posts in the US and throughout the world to celebrate the New Year.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund