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Nation Mourns Brandeis; Roosevelt Extols Him; Funeral Today

October 7, 1941
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Leaders of the nation and of American Jewry today mourned the passing of Louis D. Brandeis, the first Jew to sit on the Supreme Court, while his family announced that private funeral services would be held tomorrow at his home. Attendance at the services will be by invitation only and there will be no floral tributes.

The Supreme Court adjourned shortly after opening its session today out of respect for Justice Brandeis who died last night at his home in Washington after a heart attack on Wednesday. A formal statement on Brandeis’ death was read by the incoming Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone. This was Stone’s first official act in his new office.

President Roosevelt sent a message to Mrs. Brandeis, reading: "My heart goes out to you and yours in the loss of a loved and loving husband and father who was my faithful friend through long years. Mrs. Roosevelt joins me in this assurance of deepest sympathy. The whole nation will bow in reverence to the memory of one whose life in the law – both as advocate and judge – was guided by the finest attributes of mind heart and soul. In his passing American jurisprudence has lost one whose years, whose wisdom, and whose broad spirit of humanism made him a tower of strength."

Justice Brandeis, who would have been 85 years old on Nov. 13th, had been ill for years. The heart trouble from which he suffered prompted him to retire from the Supreme Court on Feb. 13th, 1939. During the two years following his retirement he devoted himself largely to consideration of the sufferings of the Jews in Europe whose plight under Nazi persecutions affected him deeply. While on the court, he considered resigning at one time to head the Zionist movement in which he was passionately interested.


During the 23 years in which he sat on the Supreme Court he had to resign from official leadership in the Zionist movement. He was, however, constantly consulted when major policies concerning Jewish work in Palestine were involved, and made financial contributions for various undertakings there. He visited Palestine in 1919. Two colonies, Kfar Brandeis and En Hashophet were established in his honor in Palestine, while Tel Aviv elected him honorary citizen in recognition of his work for Zionism. Justice Brandeis died with the conviction that Hitler would be defeated and that "out of this war somehow will come a richer day for the people of Europe."

As a member of the highest American judicial tribunal, Justice Brandeis came to be recognized as an American of Lincolnesque stature. By a long line of memorable decisions, he has taken his place in that great company of champions for liberty whose names will remain enduring in the annals of American history. Whatever the legal problem with Justice Brandeis had to deal, underlying all his decisions was a fierce determination to protect and preserve those fundamental principles of democracy, justice and liberty. Often misunderstood, Justice Brandeis together with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, defended Americanism against the threat of attack, guarding the fundamental rights of freedom of speech, press, assembly, and the other basic provisions for the enjoyment of liberty and the pursuit of happiness contained in the Constitution.


The same gift of incisive thinking and courageous advocacy of what he believed to be right that Justice Brandeis demonstrated in his judicial work, he also exhibited in his activity in Jewish life, especially in the Zionist movement. His feelings about Jewish contributions to America are epitomized in his words: "The twentieth century ideals of America have been the ideals of the Jew for twenty centuries."

Justice Brandeis’ contributions to the Zionist cause constitute an impressive record. Joining the Zionist Organization in 1912, he assumed leadership of the Zionist movement in America in 1914 during a crucial period in Zionist affairs. Serving as chairman of the Provisional Committee for General Zionist Affairs from 1914 till 1918 in the years of the world war when the burden of the Zionist movement fell chiefly upon the Zionists in America, he elevated the movement to new levels of influence and accomplishment. He had a leading part in the efforts that led to the recognition of the historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine as given expression in the Balfour Declaration, and in the Mandate of the League of Nations. From 1918 to 1921 he was honorary president of the Zionist Organization of America. He also was honorary president of the World Zionist Organization in 1920-21. In 1919 he visited Palestine and was instrumental in bringing about a change in the British administration there. On his return to England he discussed all phases of the Zionist problem with Lord Balfour and disagreed with Dr. Weizmann on the proposed extension of the Jewish Agency as well as on other policies.


Soon afterward Brandeis withdrew from active participation in Zionist organization affairs. In June, 1921, at the Cleveland Convention of the ZOA, Brandeis resigned his office in the American Zionist Organization and subsequently in the World organization. Immediately after this break he organized the Palestine Cooperative Company, the Palestine Development League and a number of other economic institutions which with their assets were all merged in 1925 in the Palestine Economic Corporation. In February, 1940, Brandeis, for the first time in 21 years, met Dr. Weizmann in Washington and heard from him a report on the situation in Palestine.

Breaking the silence which he had maintained for thirteen years since he ascended the bench of the Supreme Court in October, 1916, Justice Brandeis delivered a stirring address in November, 1929, soon after the riots in Palestine. He spoke at a conference at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, presided over by the late Felix M. Warburg. In his address he declared unshakable faith in the Jewish people and expressed confidence in a Jewish Palestine. There were tears in his eyes when he analyzed "the 2,000 years of Jewish suffering and of effort."

Born in Louisville, Ky., Brandeis did not have a traditional Jewish background. His active participation in Jewish affairs began with a scanty knowledge of Jewish life. But once his interest was aroused, he approached the subject as he would a case, and he thoroughly familiarized himself with the Jewish problem in all its aspects. Justice Brandeis’ analysis of the Jewish question in his treatise entitled, "The Jewish Problem and How to Solve It," remains one of the classic contributions to the literature on the subject.

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