Goldmann Tells Wjc Plenary Assembly That Dangers Threaten Survival of Jewish Communities in Diaspora
Menu JTA Search

Goldmann Tells Wjc Plenary Assembly That Dangers Threaten Survival of Jewish Communities in Diaspora

Download PDF for this date

Dr. Nahum Goldmann declared here tonight that “the number one problem of Jewish foreign policy is to secure the survival and future of Israel,” In a lengthy address on “The Jewish People Among the Nations,” which opened the Sixth Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress, the WJC president also stressed the dangers threatening the survival of Jewish communities in the diaspora.

He mentioned specifically, the three million Jews in the Soviet Union and the one million in Latin America. He dwelt at length on the fundamental and far-reaching changes that have co-curred in the world during the last 30-40 years, embracing the Nazi Holocaust and the emergence of the Jewish State–the two most important events moulding the external and internal lives of the Jewish people–but also the steady realignment of the world power structure which, he stressed, will have profound effects on the future of Israel and diaspora Jewry.

Addressing the 500 delegates from 65 countries assembled in the Binyanei ha-Ooma, Jerusalem’s convention hall, Dr. Goldmann spoke from the vantage point of 60 years of leadership in the Zionist movement and world Jewish affairs. His speech had the tenor of a valedictory and its content appeared to be a synthesis of the speaker’s wide experience in the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds. Dr. Goldmann reiterated many of the views he has expressed on previous occasions–some of which have made him a figure of bitter controversy in Israel and in some Jewish circles abroad.


He addressed himself to such delicate and potentially decisive issues as activism versus caution in meeting external threats to the Jewish people and Israel; when to resist and when to retreat in the interests of survival; the problem of dual loyalty as it affects diaspora relations with Israel; the need of neutrality by the State of Israel in world affairs; and the dangers inherent in the “unilateral orientation of Jewish world policies…solely with the democratic nations.”

Dr. Goldmann stressed at the outset of his address that “every Jew, in my opinion, is entitled to express his views about Israel’s policies, but when it comes to the final conclusion he has the duty to stand by Israel, even if he is not in accord with its policies.” He noted that the WJC “by its structure, cannot adopt a unified position on any of Israel’s internal or external political problems.”


He formulated three principles, however, which he said should form the basic approach by the Plenary Assembly to the relationship between Israel and the diaspora: “The unity of the whole Jewish people and the equality of all parts of it, the recognition of the sovereignty of Israel by the Jews of the diaspora, leaving the State and its institutions the right and privilege to reach binding decisions on its policies; the recognition by Israel of the autonomy of the diaspora, not trying to dominate its internal policies and allowing it to voice its views on Israel’s policies.”

Dr. Goldmann divided the problems and perils confronting Israel and world Jewry into two categories–external and internal. In the former he listed the diminution of guilt for the Nazi Holocaust on the part of the non-Jewish world; the realignment of the world power structure by the emergence of the Communist bloc of nations and the Third World nations, capable of challenging the democracies in which the Jewish people have traditionally relied.

He suggested: “We have first of all to reconsider and if possible to improve our relations with the Communist bloc and with the Third World, particularly because next to the survival of the State of Israel, the future of the three million more Jews living in the Communist world is a major issue we have to solve.”

The WJC president dealt at some length with the problem of Soviet Jewry (See separate story) which he said was threatened “not so much by potential anti-Semitism, although it certainly exists, but by the danger of erosion and assimilation,” He said that a second large group of Jews “menaced by external factors” are the one million of Latin America, “again not so much threatened by anti-Semitism…but in danger of becoming the victims of a pre-revolutionary situation which –as our experience of diaspora life proves–tends to make us, as the weakest minority, the primary object,”


Among the internal problems, Dr. Goldmann stressed the fragility of a “Jewish nation” in which 80 percent of its members lives outside of its national state. “We must see to it that aliya increases,” he said. “We must induce the important and influential Jewish personalities who are unable or unwilling to join Jewish life in the form of democratic process, to play an active part.” He said it was unrealistic to deny the existence of double loyalty which in normal times “should not constitute a problem” but in times of crisis “is bound to crop up.”

“For us it is a question of life and death. A Jewish State will not survive if the diaspora Jewry will separate itself from it, morally, politically and intellectually. The solution of the problem is first of all to admit its existence and to fight for the recognition of such double loyalties,” he said


On the other hand, Dr. Goldmann said, Israel “has to consider the impact of its policies on Jewish communities in the world whose solidarity it is rightly demanding, and therefore one of the major considerations of Israel’s policies should be to avoid possible conflicts and accusations of double loyalty, to keep out of international disputes as far as possible if they do not vitally affect Israel’s existence, and thus to make it possible for Jews in all parts of the world and under all kind of regimes to remain attached and loyal to Israel.”

He added, “This is one of the reasons why I have often suggested, from the beginning of Israel’s existence, a policy of neutrality for Israel which for a certain time was adopted and formulated as non-identification, but which, primarily because of the conflict with the Arab world, was unfortunately not maintained.”

Dr. Goldmann posed a dilemma for Jewry–when to yield and when to resist–and left its solution unresolved. “We are not threatened by inquisition or pogroms, and therefore our stubbornness, when necessary, has to be less dramatic and our flexibility and readiness to yield can be less outspoken,” he said. “But the problem itself remains, and in many cases of Jewish policies of our generation…overdoing stubbornness, aggressivity and radicalism was harmful, while in others, our readiness to make concessions or to indulge in undignified policies was no less, or even more damaging.”


consuming up, Dr. Goldmann said: “The relatively happy period since the second World War is coming to an end and we are entering a new era in which we will have to fight more strenuously and against greater risks for the survival and security of Israel and for the continued existence of the diaspora, for which israel’s survival is a condition, Nothing is more dangerous for any people–especially for ours, with its innate inclination to be optimistic…than to indulge in illusions, see things better than they are, escape from facts when they are tragic and uncomfortable. We must find the courage and coolness of mind to face realities, both in the diaspora and in Israel, where all Jewish problems become more dramatic and more focussed.”

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