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A Prince Has Fallen in Israel

September 12, 1929
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A Prince has fallen in Israel!

With the passing of Louis Marshall, American Jewry sustained an irreparable loss which will be mourned not only throughout the United States and Canada, but throughout the world, wherever Jewish communities are to be found. With the death of Louis Marshall, American Jewry lost the greatest, the most gifted and the most influential leader it has ever produced, to whom no Jewish cause was alien.

Though seventy-three years of age the late leader of American Jewry was active, full of energy and untiring in his devotion for the cause of Judaism, to the very last day, when he was taken ill in Zurich, Switzerland. He was operated upon only a few days after he had steered to a successful conclusion the Jewish Agency conference, when the dream of his life to bring about a union of all Jews, Zionists and non-Zionists alike, for the rebuilding of Palestine as the Jewish National Home, was realized, and the Jewish Agency Council was created with him as chairman of the Council. He literally fulfilled what appears now to have been a prophesy when he said on the occasion of the unostentatious celebration of his seventieth birthday in 1926: “I hope to continue my work. I want to wear out, not rust away.”


A leader of international fame, one of the leading constitutional lawyers in the United Staes, a champion of justice for the oppressed and downtrodden, a fearless warrior for freedom and liberty, he fought many battles for the protection of the rights of Jews everywhere, and proceeded with particular care and devotion to defend in the courts of the United States the rights of racial and religious minorities, including the Japanese, the Negroes, the Hindus, wherever and whenever they were in danger of being curtailed or infringed upon.

As president of the American Jewish Committee since 1912, the late Mr. Marshall became the center of Jewish thought and activity in the United Staes, spreading his influence and his burning zeal for Jewish causes to almost every part of the globe. As president of the American Jewish Relief Committee, together with Felix M. Warburg, Dr. Cyrus Adler and others, he was the prime force which became instrumental in the creation of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee at the beginning of the World War. The Joint Distribution Committee has since that date, under his guidance and inspiration, raised and expended a sum in the neighborhood of $100,000,000, to bring succor and relief to Jews without regard to group or party affiliation, who suffered economic ruin in the war torn countries. He was the staunchest champion of the American Jewish relief work and of the Jewish colonization work in Soviet Russia in the face of some opposition and of many obstacles.


As the outstanding leader of the group of non-Zionists in the United States, he was the man with whom the president of the Zionist World Organization six years ago started the negotiations for the extension of the Jewish Agency to include non-Zionists as well as Zionists. It was due to the late Mr. Marshall’s statesmanship, patience, unusual skill, leadership and forbearance, that the exceedingly difficult negotiations were brought to a successful conclusion, resulting in unity in Jewish life.

But alas, like the first leader of the Jewish people, he was permitted only a glimpse of the land of Israel from a distance, but never to enter it.

So greatly was he imbued with the importance of the work facing him in connection with the rebuilding of Palestine under the auspices of the Jewish Agency, that when he awoke from the ether, following his first operation, his first question was, as the cable despatches reported, “What is the news from Palestine?” During the entire time of his illness, on the orders of his physicians, the news concerning the tragedy in Palestine was withheld from him. Ever unwilling to cross the ocean, he undertook to go to Europe, at his advanced age, this summer, in order to attend the Zurich conference, for the sake of Jewish unity and the rebuilding of Palestine.

Honored by the people of his state and of his country, admired by the members of his profession, and loved and revered by the Jews of America and Europe, Mr. Marshall’s life of three score and thirteen was one of the highest idealism and usefulness. A speaker of unusual force, a jurist known for his incisive logic, a writer wielding a clear and convincing pen, a commanding personality radiating strength and goodness, the late Mr. Marshall held a unique position of power and influence in American and in American-Jewish life. During the last decade, as the qualities of his leadership became widely known and respected, his word and decision in Jewish matters were final and universally accepted. Though he exercised his leadership with a firm hand and a strong conviction, he was modest and unassuming to an unusual degree. Very often he could be seen at important Jewish gatherings, in which he played the leading part, occupying one of the back seats until he was called upon to preside.

Born in Syracuse, New York, on December 14, 1856, he was the son of Jacob and Cilli (Strauss) Marshall, Jewish immigrants from Germany. Mr. Marshall was educated in Syracuse High School, graduating with high honors in 1874. While at school, he assisted his father in the hide business. For two years he read law in the office of Nathaniel B. Smith, after which he studied at the Law School of Columbia University, taking the two years course in one year. He returned to Syracuse and became a clerk in the office of a law firm headed by William C. Ruger, later chief judge of the Court of Appeals. He was admitted to the bar and became a member of the firm. In 1894 he moved to New York City and became a member of the firm of Guggenheimer, Untermyer and Marshall.


Mr. Marshall was the first citizen of New York State who sat in three consecutive conventions for the revision of the state constitution, being elected a delegate in 1890, 1894 and 1913.


He was appointed by Mayor Seth Low, member of a committee to investigate conditions on New York’s East Side in 1902; he was named by Governor Charles E. Hughes as chairman of a State Immigration Commission in 1908; was counsel for Governor William Sulzer in his impeachment trial in 1913, and for Leo M. Frank before the United States Supreme Court in 1915. He was the mediator who brought about the settlement of the cloak makers’ strike in New York in 1910 when he drew up a protocol which was the basis of a great many subsequent strike settlements, and he was a member of the arbitration committee which settled the New York clothing workers’ strike in 1919. Mr. Marshall has also appeared before numerous committees of the United States Congress in support of a liberal and humane immigration policy.


On difficult and intricate questions involving interpretation of the constitutions of the United States and of the various states. Mr. Marshall’s opinion was sought by legist

President of Temple Emanu-El, New York, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Theological Seminary, founder of the Jewish Protectory and Aid Society, director of the Educational Alliance, member of the board of directors of Dropsie College, Philadelphia, trustee of the University of Syracuse, president of the New York State College of Forestry, chairman of the Committee on the Amendment of Law of the New York Bar Association, member of the New York Historical Society, of the Academy of Sciences, of the American Law Institute, of the American Bar Association, of the Zoological Society, of the Phi Beta Kappa (honorary) and of the American Jewish Committee-these are only some of the activities for which the late Mr. Marshall gave of his time, energy and substance.

Though reluctant to receive honors, several degree of distinction have been conferred upon him. The University of Syracuse, his alma mater, conferred upon him the degree of Ph. LLD. in 1913, and the Hebrew Union College, the institution of Reform Judaism with which he was affiliated, conferred upon him the degree of L.H.D. in 1920.


In two notable cases the late Mr. Marshall demonstrated in a striking manner the qualities of his leadership and ability in defense of Jewish rights.

The first was the fight he conducted as the leader of the movement which brought about in 1911 the abrogation by the United States of the treaty of 1832 with Czaristic Russia, because of that country’s refusal to recognize American passports in the hands of Jews who were American citizens.

The second notable contribution to the defense of Jewish rights and to the world’s new conception of the rights of minorities, was his work in Paris in 1919, when the peace conference was in session following the World War.

Though he was opposed to the idea of a permanent American Jewish Congress, which advocated the enactment of guarantees for the rights of national minorities, he threw himself into the work, proceeded to Europe in 1919 and spent five months in Paris, where as president of the Committee of Jewish Delegations, in conjunction with other Jewish leaders, he drafted the proposals for the protection of national minorities, and succeeded in having these proposals inserted in the text of the treaties between the allied and associated powers and Poland, Roumania, Jugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and other countries, safeguarding the rights of racial, linguistic and religious minorities, which were made under the treaties obligations of international concern and placed under the guarantee of the League of Nations.


Together with Felix M. Warburg, the late Mr. Marshall took an active interest in every major Jewish question which came up for discussion and action during his lifetime. Next to the questions of relief and the upbuilding of Palestine, Mr. Marshall placed foremost the question of Jewish education in the United States and on numerous occasions advocated extensive measures for its furtherance and intensification. He frequently spoke of the necessity of raising at the first opportunity a vast American Jewish fund for Jewish education. Several years ago he declared in a press interview that he had taken the pains to learn Yiddish and expressed his genuine interest and regard for modern Yiddish literature.

On December 14, 1926, when the late Mr. Marshall celebrated his seventieth birthday, he refused to become the object of public praise at a banquet. But a small group of his intimate friends formed a committee, headed by Dr. Cyrus Adler, which presented to him at his home, amidst his family circle, an address which was signed by 7,866 persons, residing in 343 cities in the United States, 425 persons representing 14 institutions of learning and philanthropy with which he was connected, and by 419 representatives of organizations and communities in France, Denmark, Roumania, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Jugoslavia, South America, Canada and Cuba.

The late Mr. Marshall’s office at 120 Broadway, New York City, where he could be found from early in the morning until late in the evening, was a veritable foreign office for Jewish affairs and Ministry of the Interior for American Jewish matters of importance.

On May 6. 1895 Mr. Marshall was married to Florence Lowenstein of New York who died on May 27, 1916. He is survived by three sons, James, a lawyer; Robert, a physician; George, a forestry expert; one daughter, Ruth, who is Mrs. Jacob Billikopf, and four grandchildren.

May his soul rest in peace.

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