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A Year of Zionist Activity

June 30, 1935
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Following is the major portion of the annual report submitted by Morris Rothenberg, president of Zionist Organization of America. The report was to be read Saturday night at a meeting of the national executive committee in Atlantic City.

The year 1934-5 has witnessed an intensification of Zionist effort and Zionist sentiment in the United States. The membership of the Zionist Organization, supplemented by the Roll Call, has continued to grow, though admittedly not commensurate with latent Zionist sentiment. Palestine fund-raising has been stimulated; The New Palestine, the official organ of the Zionist Organization of America, has been expanded and improved; Zionist propaganda has been heightened through lectures, literature and meetings of a variety of character; the Palestine Department has broadened its service. All the existing forces within the Zionist movement have been conserved. New Jewish elements, and Jewish and non-Jewish opinion in support of Palestine upbuilding have been enlisted through the Washington Conference and Palestine Day. We have taken our part in the shaping of World Zionist policy.

For the first time in the history of the Zionist movement in America a campaign for election of delegates to the World Zionist Organization was carried on in a manner to bring home to Zionists and to Jewish public opinion the significance of the Zionist Congress in Jewish life, and a clarification both of the technique of campaign procedure and of the issues agitating the Zionist mind, which have had a highly educational value.

There were many activities which the Zionist Organization wished to undertake but could not, for lack of financial means. This subject goes to the very heart of the future of the Zionist Organization, and should receive the most earnest consideration of this convention.


Three years ago when this Administration assumed office, the membership of the Zionist Organization of America was at a very low ebb, approximately 7,000 in number. Today the official membership roster shows 18,000 members. This figure by no means represents what may, with steady application, be attained, but the maximum figure will only be reached when the way is found for the employment of an adequate field staff. Voluntary effort, though invaluable, will be found inadequate to cope with the problem of organization. There are literally hundreds of small towns in the United States, stagnatthe because of their failure to receive the stimulation of the spoken Zionist word.

An expression of deep appreciation is due to presidents and other officers of regions; presidents, secretaries, treasurers and other officers of local Zionist districts, and to their co-workers throughout the country, for the work that has been performed by them in the several branches of Zionist activity. We know that we have taxed them to an unusual degree. Their patience, their devotion to Zionist ideals, constitutes the greatest asset of our movement.


The Roll Call which was undertaken pursuant to a decision of the last convention did not realize expectations. About 20,000 have enrolled. This activity ran concurrently with preparations for Palestine Day and the Washington Conference. This may in part account for the inadequate results. However, it must be frankly admitted that there was no genuine interest in this special activity, many Zionists in various parts of the country looking upon it as competitive and injurlous to membership enrollment. The one positive result from the Roll Call endeavor was the securing of 20,000 additional Shekolim.

The effort to enlist groups as members in the Zionist Organization has not been tested. Obstacles of a technical and financial character were too many to achieve this aim.


Despite the substantial increase in expenditure in connection with several activities undertaken, the deficit has but slightly changed. It is fixed in the financial report at $59,000 as against $57,300 last year and $125,750 in 1932, when the present Administration took office. Were it not for the additional expenditures entailed by the expansion of The New Palestine, Palestine Day, the Washington Conference, the Congress elections—the deficit would have been materially reduced.

The finance committee, consisting of Messrs. Louis P. Rocker, chairman; Harry P. Fierst, treasurer; Isidore Goldberg, Abraham Krumbein, Abram Liebovitz, Sigmund Thau, Louis Rimsky, and Morris Weinberg, has given close attention to the finances of the organization, and they are entitled to an expression of our appreciation of their efforts. A special word of appreciation is due to Mr. Rocker, the chairman of the finance committee, for his unremitting attention to our financial problems and his unhesitating helpfulness at all times.


Pursuant to authority of the administrative committee, the Zionist Extension Fund was established in November, 1934. It was the aim to secure the sum of $100,000 throughout the country, to enable the Zionist Organization of America to undertake a larger program of activities among which was contemplated a Department of Education; an expansion of The New Palestine, and a wider support of youth activities.

It was found that to lay the proper foundation for the raising of this sum it would be necessary to engage in considerable field work. With this end in view, Mr. Mendel Fisher, one of the outstanding field directors of the United Jewish Appeal, was persuaded to take a leave of absence from his regular work and devote himself to the Zionist Extension Fund. He prepared the ground for a mid-western tour by the president of the Zionist Organization of America, who visited all of the principal Jewish communities between New York and Kansas City.

The work got fairly well under way when the United Jewish Appeal pressed forward with its activities and the Jewish National Fund, departing from its previous policy of small collections, undertook a campaign aiming at a goal of $500,000. Simultaneously the districts were being pressed for results in connection with the Washington Conference, Palestine Day and the Roll Call. Under these circumstances, it was practically impossible for the Zionist Extension Fund, an entirely new undertaking, the purposes of which had first to be made clear to Zionists, to proceed.


The addition of a new fund related to Palestine objectives added to the already existing confusion in the minds of Zionists throughout the country. The United Jewish Appeal began to take exception to the activities of the Extension Fund. Rather than reflect on the good faith of the Zionist Organization of America in connection with its obligations to the United Jewish Appeal, the efforts of the Extension Fund had therefore to be confined to the tour of the president, a short period of activity in New York, and a mail solicitation.

Under these limitations, the sum of $13,500 in cash was secured. We are quite convinced on the basis of the experience had that a very substantial part of the $100,000 goal could have been secured if a persistent effort were continued, regardless of its effect on other Palestine Funds. But it is a matter which should receive the earnest consideration of this convention, whether a method cannot be employed in the raising of the Extension Fund which would not involve competitive effort.

That the Zionist Organization of America must have a special fund for its activities to supplement its present income is clear. Without additional revenue it is idle to speak of a more comprehensive program of activities for the Zionist Organization of America. At every turn the organization is hampered by lack of funds in important tasks it must fulfill. It borders on the absurd that the Zionist Organization, the fundament on which rests all Zionist effort, should give the right of way to every affiliated and subsidiary organization and permit its own program to dry up for lack of nourishment. In any arrangement that may be made for the raising of Funds in the ensuing year, the Zionist Extension Fund must take its proper place.


Pursuant to the action at the last convention, Palestine Day was fixed for January 20, 1935. Palestine Day was intended to symbolize the age-long hope of the Jewish People for the reconstruction of their National Home; to memorialize the great service rendered in the translation of that hope by Jews, by Christian statesmen, and by noble Christian spirits everywhere, and by public opinion in this country and in other lands.

The preparations for Palestine Day were somewhat interfered with by the fact that the National Conference on Palestine was fixed for the same day, January 20, and the concentration of effort was on the Washington Conference, rather than on Palestine Day. Nevertheless, what transpired in connection with this event made it clear that this is a feature which should remain permanent, and that Palestine Day should become a fixed day of celebration in the Jewish calendar.

Palestine Day can be made a source of far-reaching Zionist propaganda as well as to bring considerable revenue to the Zionist Organization. Celebrations were held on Palestine Day in nearly every important Jewish community in the United States. The governors of the states of New York, Connecicut, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, issued special proclamations calling upon the citizens of their states to observe Palestine Day. A special book was issued, entitled “Guide Book for Observance of Palestine Day,” which furnished material to be used by the Zionists throughout the country in connection with Palestine Day.

I would earnestly urge that a longer period of adequate preparation be devoted to Palestine Day in the future, and that a qualified person be placed in charge exclusively of this undertaking on a permanent basis. There are large possibilities both of a propaganda, educational and finanical nature connected with Palestnie Day, which may be utilized to the advantage of the Zionist cause if intelligently planned.


This was unquestionably the most notable gathering of Jews in connection with Palestine upbuilding, since the constituent assembly of the Jewish Agency in Zurich in 1929. It brought together representatives from every section of American Jewry, and it demonstrated the unifying force which Palestine represents in the life of the Jewish people. It gave evidence of a renewed and reinforced united front for a rebuilt Palestine, which made a profound impression on Jewish as well as non-Jewish public opinion throughout the world. Fifty-two national organizations and one hundred and forty-one cities were represented at the conference. It is conservatively estimated that in the aggregate over 1,300,000 Jews voiced their sentiments through the conference. The meeting was distinguished by a message from Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, and by many notable addresses. The stirring address delivered by the Hon. Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, may be said to have carried much political significance

The conference had the practical result of establishing a national committee to bring into being an Economic Planning Commission, the function of which would be to formulate and execute a plan for the ordered economic development of Palestine. The action thus taken by the conference had its repercussions in England, where the English Zionist Federation also adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of an Economic Commission. It is confidently hoped that at the forthcoming Congress this idea projected by the National Conference will be translated into action. The National Conference on Palestine was an eloquent demonstration of the widespread interest which exists in the American Jewish community for the upbuilding of the Jewish National Home, and of the new forces in American Israel willing to be enlisted in Palestine tasks.

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