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Dr. Schulman Criticizes Zionist Ideal, Explains Non-zionist Attitude

August 25, 1930
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Declaring that the Jews have existed for nineteen hundred years by virtue of their religion alone, Rabbi Samuel Schulman, in a sermon delivered Saturday at Temple Emanu-El, characterized the Zionist movement as a spiritual escape impairing the spiritual life and undermining the faith of the Jews, and explained that the support lent it by the non-Zionist members of the Jewish Agency was solely to aid the Jews in Palestine practically.

“I hold that it is the duty of the American Jew to oppose with all his might the philosophy of Jewish nationalism,” Dr. Schulman declared. “He must uncomprisingly oppose the Zionistic ideal. If the Jewish Agency is not to become a mere annex to the Zionist Organization, if it is not merely to become a money collecting agency, then we expect from it new thought, new orientation upon the question of the Jews in Palestine. We give the Zionists the right, of course, to continue their nationalistic talk and propaganda, but we non-Zionists who have entered the Agency have done so because we would help Jews practically in Palestine. We have never for a moment, speaking for myself and for many others, given up our opposition to Jewish nationalism.”


Stating that Palestine “is part of the Jewish problem, but it is not the center of it,” Dr. Schulman continued: “But there is something else involved. Palestine has become for many a sort of spiritual escape. They have not the moral energy to face the Jewish problem in the western world. They do not vividly feel the need of finding an adequate expression for Israel’s religious life in the dispersion. And so many of them take their bit of racialism and give it the tribute of a sentimental indulgence. . . .

“But not only is Israel hurt by the nationalistic talk about Palestine,” he said. “Such talk exposes the Jew to a misunderstanding and brings about bad results, for the Jew not only in Palestine, but in the world. If Palestine is not, and cannot be a home for the whole Jewish people, then such fictitious claims should not be made in words. The Jews have long outgrown the stature of a nation as a political entity. They are a religious community, they are a great historical people, witnessing, in the midst of all nations, to their belief in God. Their binding tie is not a new freedom in Palestine for a limited number of Jews, but the profession: ‘Hear, O world-scattered Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One!’ Israel is a great moral and spiritual international force. Its local patriotisms and nationalisms are of the countries in which Jews, as faithful citizens, dwell. Its vision, as God’s congregation, is of peace, and a union of human hearts that shall transcend national distinctions.


“Thus as an expression of Jewish faith and Jewish idealism, we reject the nationalist philosophy, and as a vision of world salvation we hold that what the world needs today is not more new nations, and more new states, but such a moral and spiritual culture of men that shall enable men of various bloods to live together in harmony and peace within one State. The trend of history is to make peoples of different bloods coalesce into self-governing communities, to be united by political, by economic ideas, so long as freedom is given them to maintain that which is most precious to the human soul, their spiritual individuality, in their distinctive religions and in their visions and ideals.

“And so in Palestine, too, the Jew should talk less of nationalism and more of his religion and his ideals of justice and humanity; and then it may be possible he will be better understood, and a surer and more lasting foundation be laid for the cooperation of Arab and Jew in the building of a new commonwealth,” he concluded.

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