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Jewish Leaders Voice Peace Hope on Rosh Hashonah Eve; Roosevelt Lauds Jews

September 13, 1939
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Embarking on the last year of the 57th century of the Hebrew calendar amid a bloody European conflict, Jews throughout the world will stress the hope for an early and just peace as they repair tomorrow evening to synagogues and temples–and in war-stricken areas to makeshift temporary congregations–for prayers inaugurating Rosh Hashonah.

Messages of most Government officials emphasized appreciation of Jews’ contributions and the hope for abatement of persecution, while Jewish leaders and organizations voiced prayers that peace continue in America and return to Europe, that democracy be strengthened and that races and religions find unity.

Leading the list of public figures extending good wishes to the Jews, President Roosevelt expressed “appreciation of the material and cultural contributions which my fellow citizens of the Jewish faith continue to make toward the development and welfare of the nation.” Governor Lehman said the Jews could best evidence their thanks for “the privileges that have come to us in our beloved land” by “helping those who are less fortunate than we.” Mayor LaGuardia voiced hope that racial agitation would decrease.

Religious and synagogue organizations united in a prayer for peace. The Synagogue Council of America, headed by Rabbi David de Sola Pool and representing the three Jewish denominations, prayed that America “remain in peace.” The United Synagogue of America, whose president is Louis J. Moss, asked prayers on Rosh Hashonah for fulfillment of the hope that differences be solved by peaceful means, “so that further bloodshed and misery may be averted.” Robert P. Goldman, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said: “Let us pray now and throughout the year for a world-wide peace based on justice and respect for human dignity.”

The United Jewish Appeal stressed the duty of American Jews as “messengers of hope to those who would otherwise be completely submerged in the morass of European war.” A statement by Chairmen Rabbi Jonah B. Wise and Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver said the U.J.A. “cannot in any way deviate from the request it has made for $20,000,000 to meet actual distress and human needs arising from the persecution of Jews in Central Europe.” It added that the appeal did not intend “at the present time to alter in any way its previous arrangement with the American community, but it is its intention to continue as vigorously as possible to provide funds which are now more than ever needed.”

The war issue also figured in the messages of other Jewish organizations. Dr. Stephen S. Wise, president of the American Jewish Congress, said the Jews were friends of peace and would respect the American neutrality policy, “but obedience to the law cannot affect the fact of our hope and prayer and faith that humankind shall at last free itself from the grimmest spectre that has oppressed mankind in a millennium.”

The Jewish Labor Committee stated’ “It is our hope that Hitler and his cohorts will soon suffer the fate they so richly deserve and that a just peace will be concluded, a peace which will guarantee the Jews, as well as other nationalities in Europe, those democratic rights which we Americans consider the inalienable heritage of every human being. We ardently hope that America will avoid the catastrophe of war and that it will continue to use its great influence to the end that democracy and racial tolerance shall prevail the world over.”

Dr. Cyrus Adler, president of the American Jewish Committee and of the Jewish Theological Seminary, asserted that the hope of the persecuted Jews “must, in the end, be not in man, but in God.” Henry Monsky, president of B’nai B’rith, expressed the hope that the New Year would “bring about a better understanding of our problems, and closer cooperation and greater unity of action on the part of our people.”

Hadassah, in a message by its president, Mrs. Moses P. Epstein, urged that “Zionists place themselves side by side with those who have faith in the eventual triumph of right and justice.” It announced the launching of a membership drive next week in an effort to double the organization’s present membership of 70,000 during the coming year.

Arrangements were made in the United States to ensure that all Jews would be able to attend Rosh Hashonah services. The military forces issued the usual furloughs for Jewish members and the Jewish Welfare Board provided for services in military, naval and CCC camps and in veterans’ hospitals. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and other groups arranged for services for refugees and other immigrants. The National Jewish Hospital in Denver will hold services for its tubercular patients in its Adolph Lewisohn Chapel. This year, a statement by the hospital pointed out, marks the fortieth anniversary of its founding as the first non-sectarian philanthropy of the Jews in America.

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