Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

“weizmann Year’ Launched by WZO Executive-american Section Dr. Goldmann, Sapir, Mrs Jacobson, Assess

November 29, 1974
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress and a former president of the World Zionist Organization said here last night that unless Israel adopted Claim Weizmann’s “formulation”–that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a conflict between “two rights.” there will be no solution in the Mideast.

“Weizmann today is more actual than he ever was.” Goldmann declared, adding that Weizmann “the first Jewish statesman in our history,” had been both “right and realistic” when he said that without the acceptance of a Jewish state by the Arab world, and cooperation between Israelis and Arabs. “there can be no future for a Jewish State” surrounded by 100 million Arabs.

Addressing more than 500 people at the New York Hilton who participated in the launching of “Weizmann Year” sponsored by the American Section of the World Zionist Organization Executive in observance of the centenary of the birth of the eminent leader of the Zionist Movement and the first President of the State of Israel, Dr. Goldmann said that Weizmann fought “not just to have a state like other states but for a new Jewish society, to make possible implementation of the basic ideas of Jewish history….He combined Herzl’s political Zionism with Achad Ha’am’s moral and social concept of a spiritual center for the Jewish people in Palestine.”

Evaluating the character of Weizmann, Dr. Goldmann pointed out that he was “a very complex person, full of contradictions. He was both a scientist and an artist: objective and rational when he thought as a scientist, emotional and sentimental and moody when reacting to his artistic temperament. But the strength of his personality enabled him to overcome the contradictions in his character and become the fascinating, many faceted personality he was. In public life he was a poor politician and a great statesman. He did not have the patience and the warmth to deal with internal political matters and suffered many defeats because of his lack of understanding and even contempt for party issues and for the need to adjust himself to parliamentary situations.”


Because Weizmann represented a synthesis of Jewish tradition and the values of modern Western civilization, he was the archetypal modern Jewish leader. The “sovereign Jewish state.” said Dr. Goldmann, “is a typical creation of modern European thinking,” and there is “a tendency to overestimate the form of the Zionist ideas the sovereign state.” Weizmann, however, was always aware of the danger inherent in neglecting the content–realization of the basic ideas of Jewish religion and history.

It was Weizmann, declared Dr. Goldmann, who understood that the conflict between Jews and Arabs “is not one of right against wrong, but between two rights.” And Weizmann maintained that the Jewish “right” is superior “because for us the existence of a Jewish Homeland is the very basis of our survival.” Goldmann called upon Israel and the Jewish people, “facing fateful decisions,” to understand and apply “Weizmann’s methods and his political and ideological concepts–what we may call ‘Weizmannism’–to our contemporary problems.”

Pinhas Sapir, chairman of the WZO and Jewish Agency Executives, recalled the “aura of royalty” which clung to Weizmann long before the idea of a state had emerged from hazy vision to reality. It is strange, he said, that although. Weizmann was president of the Jewish Agency and president of the WZO, and then the first President of the State of Israel, his greatest achievements were produced when he was not in office: the Balfour Declaration came through when Weizmann was not president of the WZO, and he won the support of President Truman and the American government when he was not in office, either.

In fact. Sapir said, while Weizmann was “great as a scientist…superb as a statesman…a giant as a leader,” it was his “sense of Jewishness and of Jewish history (which) was the cement that bound all three together.” Weizmann, Sapir concluded, must be a source of “strength and inspiration” to us today, and “we must teach our children the wonderful story of Chaim Weizmann, the Jew from Motol, the first President of the State of Israel.”


Mrs. Charlotte Jacobson. chairman of the WZO-American Section, who chaired the overflow meeting, pointed out that “no one speaks today on behalf of world Jewry as clearly and lucidly, as authoritatively, as genuinely in the Jewish spirit.” as Weizmann did. What Weizmann “suffered and thought…saw and felt, can in fact, still play a major role in our own thinking and feeling, our own reactions, if we are to rise to the challenges which confront us today.” He was familiar, and dealt with, both violence and political betrayal, Mrs. Jacobson said. Continuing, she declared:

“He would have been appalled at the terrorism which has become so much a part of contemporary life; he would have been shocked by the official United Nations acceptance–and thereby its tacit approval–of Arafat and all his works. But this betrayal of the ideals of common humanity would not have led him to despair because….Betrayal was nothing new to him. He Saw the shameful retreat from the Balfour Declaration a retreat which started before the Ink had even dried properly on Lord Balfour’s signature – and never let up until Britain’s ignoble withdrawal from a war-torn Palestine.”

Mrs. Jacobson spoke of Weizmann’s laying the cornerstone of the Hebrew University “while the British guns were still roaring on the outskirts of Jerusalem,” and suggested the joy and the “sense of fulfillment” he would have today, seeing seven universities in Israel, with over 50,000 students. The aliya of Soviet Jews to Israel “would have brought him Ineffable joy,” too, she said, and he would have understood it very well.

She quoted Weizmann who, in 1917, stated: “We have never based the Zionist Movement on Jewish suffering in Russia or in any other land. These sufferings have never been the mainspring of Zionism. The foundation of Zionism, was, and continues to be to this day. the yearning of the Jewish people for its homeland, for a national center and a national life.”

Mrs. Jacobson summed up the greatness of Chaim Weizmann, pointing out that he “led Israel for forty years through a wilderness of martyrdom and anguish, of savage oppression and frustrated hope, across the sharpest agency which ever beset the life of any people,” The meeting included an illustrated dramatic presentation of Dr. Weizmann’s life and career narrated by Melvyn Douglas, the noted star of screen, stage and television.

Recommended from JTA