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Zionist Council Split on Question of Widening Base of Movement

December 31, 1959
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The Zionist General Council continued today a wide-ranging debate on proposals to amend the constitution of the World Zionist Organization to permit the affiliation of non-Zionist organizations with criticism of the proposals almost equally balancing support.

Speakers representing many Zionist parties welcomed the idea of broadening the base of the Zionist movement but many of them expressed concern that the admission of non-Zionist elements would dilute the Zionist spirit.

Moshe Kol, Progressive party leader and member of the Jewish Agency executive, who supported the proposals, warned however that unless Zionism succeeded in implanting Zionist ideals in the new organizations, there was the danger that the entire Zionist Organization would become “merely friends of Israel.”

Rabbi Israel Goldstein of New York objected to a comparison made by Dr, Nahim Goldmann of American synagogues and churches and urged the council to understand the hesitation of the American Conservative movement in affiliating with the Zionist Organization. He warned that the Zionist movement must open its gates to other organizations but not at the cost of sacrificing Zionist content.

Dr. Emanuel Neumann, General Zionist and member of the Jewish Agency executive told the Council that the prestige and influence of the Zionist movement among American Jewry began to decline after establishment of Israel when, he said, Israeli leaders began a frontal attack on American Zionism. The Zionist Organization, he said, must support Israel, but the relationship must be reciprocal. The Israeli view that establishment of the state united the Jewish people is a distortion of history, he asserted, crediting decades of Zionist education with preparing the ground for unity. He urged caution on admission of non-Zionist organizations.

Zvi Lurie, member of the Jewish Agency executive, who supported the proposals, told the Council that Zionism was Israel’s “only unconditional ally” ever ready to come to the aid of the State. The problem, he said, was to bring in, educate and organize additional bodies within the movement.

Replying to the debate tonight, Dr. Goldmann said that his criticism of American synagogues referred to their invasion of the field of political action. He rejected the suggestion that the effort to enlist new member organizations be given up because of the failure of the first attempts. “My goal,” he told the Council, “is that the movement shall be the main factor in organizing the Jewish people in the Diaspora.”

Referring to fears that non-Zionist elements would dilute the Zionist spirit, he said’ that the non-Zionist organizations should first be brought into the organization and then the Zionists should try to influence them.

In the course of his reply, Dr. Goldmann said that if funds were available, the pioneering movement could immediately be tripled. He rejected the idea that Zionism meant self-realization and asserted that if it did, the movement would have been reduced to 20,000 members.

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