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Lipsky Announces Split in Z.o.a.; Reveals Sharp Internal Differences

June 20, 1955
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A split in the Zionist Organization of America was revealed today by Louis Lipsky, noted leader of the American Zionist movement, in a statement in which he announced that he and a number of other active leaders of the ZOA had decided not to participate in the ZOA convention now taking place in Washington. Mr. Lipsky indicated that the present ZOA administration had rejected a number of proposals offered for the purpose of “restoring unity” in the ZOA.

“I regret that I shall not attend the annual convention of the ZOA this year,” Mr. Lipsky said in his statement. “It was not an easy decision to make, for I have attended our conventions for over 50 years. I feel, therefore, that I owe my fellow Zionists an explanation.

“For some time now I have felt that the ZOA was losing its sense of direction, that it was being confused as to its functions, that it was pursuing a purposeless existence; that it was avoiding through fear the courageous tackling of a problem which was being created for the Zionist movement as a whole by historic circumstances over which it had no control. It was taking up fragments of projects, trying to give them a uniqueness they did not possess, and was being lost in a maze of activities which did not add up to a program, but helped to maintain the facelessness of what was once a great creative Zionist organization.

“This conviction was fixed in my mind in July, 1952, when our annual convention, against the strong protest of a substantial minority, adopted a resolution identifying the ZOA with the Israel General Zionist Party. This was an act of escape. Instead of facing its problems, the ZOA sought in this way to lose itself in the political struggle of Israel by taking cover under the wing of one of the political parties in Israel. Since that fateful day in 1952, I have been distressed–as many other ZOA liberals of standing and friends of Zionism–to witness the ZOA leadership keeping faith with only one of its objectives–its identification with the General Zionist Party in Israel–and serving the interests of that party by attacking Israel political personalities with whom its Israel counterpart was not in agreement; and meddling in the internal Israel political affairs which are the legitimate province of the citizens of that state.


“This concentration of zealous partisanship and an itch for controversy has inhibited the ZOA from taking up the causes that are its own immediate concern and acting effectively in areas in the United States that are within its natural competence. Its repetitious resolutions on education and culture have come to be regarded by the general public as the empty utterances of an impotent agency. Its declared allegiance to the promotion of Hebrew has remained a dead letter. As a consequence, the prestige of the ZOA has declined with shocking rapidity. Its membership has fallen disastrously. Its influence in Zionist circles has deteriorated and its influence on American Jewry has never been so feeble as it is today, although the challenges confronting it and the opportunities for historic achievement were never greater.

“Last December, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, as leader of world Zionism, after many preliminary meetings, succeeded in bringing together leaders of the ZOA administration and leaders of the liberal Zionist groups to discuss the problems with a view to the restoration of unity within ZOA ranks and as preliminary to the consideration of a radically revised program, functions and procedures. I personally was given the assurance by Dr. Emanuel Neumann, chairman of the ZOA executive, that there was a fair chance for arriving at a reasonable understanding.

“Pursuant to these preliminary discussions, a meeting of the ZOA executive committee was held recently where it was agreed, to authorize Dr. Neumann to appoint a balanced subcommittee and to report back to the executive committee. This committee was composed of Dr. Neumann (chairman), Abraham Goodman, Harris Levine, Leon Kohn and Jacques Torczyner for the ZOA; and for the liberal group, Ezra Shapiro, of Cleveland, Dewey Stone, of Taunton, Judge Louis Leventhal, of Philadelphia, Dr. Samuel Margoshes and myself. In the course of the general discussion of the first meeting of the committee, our group proposed that the committee report unanimous agreement to a special committee of the convention on these points:

“1. That a high level commission-which might be called a Hoover Commission-be named by the convention which would in the course of about six months make a thorough study of ZOA problems-its organizational forms and funds and functions-and submit definite recommendations on how the ZOA could function, what its program would be, etc in the light of present day circumstances. We asked that the naming of the commission at the convention should be made an occasion for a demonstration of unity and of the determination of the ZOA to face its problems in a comprehensive way.

“2. In order to create the proper atmosphere for the revision of certain matters that are definitely an issue within the ZOA, the ZOA administration should suspend–for the period in which the commission would be in existence–its special propaganda in connection with the General Zionist Party of Israel and that a temporary vacation be granted to its news bulletin ‘ZINS,’ which has been a disruptive factor in Zionist affairs.

“3. To further the general impression of a desire for a united front, the election of Mortimer May as president for a second term would take place as planned, but that the liberal group should be given the privilege of nominating the chairman of the executive committee and name one that would be acceptable to the present ZOA administration.

“Our impression was that these proposals raised a possibility of some agreement, but as the discussion continued over many hours it became evident that the ZOA leadership was disinclined to raise the issues involved at the convention in Washington, that they were adamant about the identification suggestion, and were reluctant to build up the high level commission, feeling that the effect of the appointment of such a commission would be to raise all sorts of questions that would be reflected in the imminent Israel political campaign. I moved to end the discussion at the first meeting and to adjourn sine die without a report. But Dr. Neumann still felt that it would be worthwhile to continue the discussion at a second meeting, which he called to take place on Tuesday, July 14, two days before the opening of the convention.

“At this second and last meeting, the ZOA representatives practically rejected the three points that were made. In other words, after all the assurances that were given that some feasible way would be found to restore unity in the ZOA, and to help raise the prestige of the ZOA, in the last analysis the ZOA administration was unwilling to go further in the direction of revision which had been indicated over a period of about a year.

“Under these circumstances, it is my painful duty to declare on my own behalf, and on behalf of my colleagues, and on behalf of large numbers of Zionists throughout the United States, that participation in the ZOA convention at this time would have been without purpose and that steps would have to be taken after the convention has adjourned to express our views on the frustration of legitimate hopes for peace and revision that had been raised.”

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