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The Genesis of the American Council for Judaism: A Quest for Identity in World War II.

It all began on the NBC radio airwaves, three months after Hitler's Wehrmacht invaded Poland. On December 2, 1939, speaking via a national hook-up under the auspices of the "Message of Israel Hour," Rabbi Morris S. Lazaron decried the first projected visit of Chaim Weizmann to American shores since the outbreak of World War II. According to Lazaron, while U.S. Jewry was prepared to help send to Palestine as many co-religionist refugees from Europe "as conditions permit," the "most unfortunate" visit of the president of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Jewish Agency for Palestine "is bound to have political implications with which I believe the majority of American Jews do not wish to have any concern."

Rather than becoming involved in the pressure of international politics as Jews, the 51-year-old Reform leader of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation went on to say, we have no political interests save those shared with the rest of our fellow citizens "to safeguard the integrity and freedom of the nation and to maintain the American way." Confronted by the brutalizing Communist and Fascist nationalisms of the time, American Jews were called upon to champion the message of prophetic Judaism, "a universal religion which knows no land or people or race." The future, Lazaron averred, lay with "the invincible dream of man--one humanity on earth as there is one God in heaven."(1)

The Savannah-born clergyman had oscillated considerably regarding his people's renaissance in the biblically covenanted Promised Land, placed under a British mandate by the League of Nations in 1922. Two years after receiving ordination from the Hebrew Union College (HUC) in 1914, Lazaron informed the Federation of American Zionists that he eschewed political Zionism in favor of encouraging settlement in Palestine and furthering Jewish life there. During the next two decades, however, he enthusiastically labored for the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and the WZO's financial arm, Keren Hayesod, accepted election to the ZOA national committee "with pleasure", and even defended Weizmann against criticism from American Zionist tribune Stephen Wise. He strenuously objected, at the same time, to Zionist endorsement in 1935 of a proposed World Jewish Congress, as well as to reducing the number of non-Zionists on the Jewish Agency executive from parity to an 8:2 ratio.

"Pushed by the logic of things," including a conviction that Jewish nationalism made Arab-Jewish agreement difficult, Lazaron opposed the support of his brother-in-law, Abba Hillel Silver, and the Zionist Congress for Great Britain's 1937 offer of partitioning Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. On May 18, 1939, one day after His Majesty's Government (HMG) reneged on its 1917 Balfour Declaration by curtailing Jewish immigration to 75,000 over a five-year period--thereafter with Arab consent--and declaring its objective to establish "an independent Palestine state" within 10 years, Lazaron resigned from the ZOA.(2)

His anxieties about political Zionism mounted in the first months of the war. Reports that the American Jewish Congress under Wise advocated a unified Jewish Agency sparked a warning to philanthropist Paul Baerwald, like-minded chairman of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC): "Those of us who will not be swamped by transplanted Ghettoism must be firm and must carry the educational campaign to their camp." There should be an aggressive campaign for "Americanization" among Jews urged the veteran Jewish spokesman for the National Conference of Jews and Christians. Since Weizmann's visit was probably intended to encourage American Jews to press HMG regarding Palestine, serious worries arose in light of both Washington's "delicately poised neutrality" and the impact on the country's Jews. In addition, his visit was embarrassing to an administration that "again and again" had emphasized its understanding of and "friendly cooperation" regarding European Jewry's tragic situation. While Baerwald proceeded at the JDC's 25th anniversary meeting to praise President Franklin D. Roosevelt ("one high-minded person of great importance") for convening the 1938 Evian Conference on Refugees, Lazaron felt compelled to inform Silver of a personal, deep concern that Weizmann's coming could only have a "harmful" effect.(3)

His radio address a few days later shocked the American Zionist camp, which responded without delay. "An unpardonable breach of the amenities" thundered the New Palestine in an editorial titled "needless provocation"; the ZOA magazine noted American Jewry's clear support of the Balfour Declaration, the United Palestine Appeal (UPA) and the expanded Jewish Agency, and its "unquestioned" special interest in the plight of Europe's Jews. Privately, ZOA president Rabbi Solomon Goldman took Lazaron's daring speech, motivated by the pleas from "other bodies in competition with us," as a sign that the "unexpressed resistance" to Zionism was currently far greater in the United States than ever in memory. Hundreds of protesting telegrams from Zionists and non-Zionists reached Rabbi Jonah B. Wise, director of the "Message of Israel Hour," who had been caught unawares by the broadcast. Having invited Weizmann in August to the one community which had any resources to support the upbuilding of Palestine, UPA chairman Silver found it "quite impossible" to accept his brother-in-law's invitation to speak at the festivities marking the latter's silver anniversary with the Baltimore congregation. Their break was complete.(4)

Delegates to the JDC annual meeting reacted to Lazaron's disparagement of the impending Weizmann visit with "widespread indignation," but the broadcast threatened to cancel the chief Zionist's scheduled participation at the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds assembly the next month. Some within the council's program committee, spearheaded by Solomon Lowenstein and William Shroder, argued that the appearance of "a political and controversial figure" such as Weizmann would precipitate violent controversy. UPA executive director Henry Montor's lengthy rebuttal, backed by B'nai B'rith president Henry Monsky and Isidore Sobeloff, eventually carried the day. Apparently, Montor informed Silver, certain quarters especially in New York had thoroughly discussed the subject of Weizmann's visit, and "a barrage has been let loose." The Zionist movement had to guard against any repetition of that "disgraceful discussion," he concluded, particularly in view of the entire attitude that might be adopted by "a certain fanatic group in the United States" to Weizmann's presence.(5)

These suspicions had merit, for some in the top ranks of the established American Jewish Committee (AJC) rallied to Lazaron's standard. At a luncheon meeting in mid-December instigated by Edward Greenbaum, Joseph Willen and Dick Rothschild particularly embraced an all-out assault on Zionism. Executive secretary Morris Waldman adamantly objected to branding a large part of American Jewry with lack of patriotism, however, and took note of the committee's formal endorsement of the Balfour Declaration and HMG's Palestine mandate, as well as the lead taken by late AJC president Louis Marshall in having non-Zionists join the enlarged Agency in 1929.

Executive chairman Sol Stroock agreed wholeheartedly with Waldman's insistence that official AJC support of the Baltimore rabbi, whose draft public statement Waldman incisively took apart, would create "the most serious cleavage within our community:" With Stroock's blessing Waldman paid a visit to the State Department. There he heard from George Messersmith that Weizmann's visit was not regarded as a problem to an administration that would not lend itself at this time to any pressure on England with respect to Palestine. Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis concurred with this assessment.(6)

The country's more successfully assimilated Jews had long embraced Lazaron's general thesis. Under new owner Adolph Ochs the New York Times sneered in 1897 that Theodor Herzl's proposal to buy Palestine from the Turkish authorities had "the flavor of the Stock Exchange"; Israel's mission, the newspaper editorialized in its review of the Zionist founder's Der Judenstaat, "is no longer political but purely and simply religious." Immediately following the first World Zionist Congress, Ochs's father-in-law, Reform chief Isaac Mayer Wise, was tapped to write a lengthy article entitled "A Jewish State Impossible."

Further, leading financier and philanthropist Jacob Schiff insisted that agitation for a Jewish commonwealth "is apt to retard the Americanization of thousands who, in recent years, have come among us, and whose success and happiness depend upon the readiness with which the newcomers shall be able in their civic condition--as separate from their faith--to become absorbed into the American people." U.S. ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr., agreed: "We Jews of America have found America to be our Zion. Therefore I refuse to allow myself to be called a Zionist. I am an American." Brandeis's appeal that Zionism could be combined with Americanism struck the country's most influential columnist, Walter Lippmann, as "other-worldiness of a peculiarly dangerous sort," resting as it did on the belief that "the extra-Palestinian Jew is to keep his body in one place and to attach his mind somewhere else."(7)

The 1885 Pittsburgh Platform, authored by Kaufmann Kohler, first enunciated such sentiments in unequivocal fashion. Chaired by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the Reform conference in the Steel City formulated a series of principles which, like Reform assemblies in Germany some decades earlier, espoused an anti-Zionist doctrine. Defining Judaism as a "progressive religion" that ever strove to be in accord with "the postulates of reason" and confident that the modern era was approaching "the realization of Israel's great messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice and peace among all men," those present declared: "We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state."

The (Reform) Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) adopted this platform at its founding four years later. Although a few prominent CCAR members like Bernhard Felsenthal, Gustav Gottheil, Max Heller, and Stephen Wise were Zionists, the Pittsburgh Platform remained the major statement of Reform Judaism's fundamental tenets (accepted also by the lay Union of American Hebrew Congregations--UAHC) until its extensive revision a half century later.(8)

Reform's collective posture on Eretz Israel began shifting after the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, but official revision of the Pittsburgh Platform only came with the CCAR conference in 1937. Two years earlier that body had resolved to leave Zionism up to the members' individual choice, even as it pledged to continue to cooperate in Palestine's development "and in the economic, cultural, and particular spiritual tasks confronting the growing and evolving Jewish community there." The Columbus Platform of 1937, drafted by HUC theology professor Samuel S. Cohon, went much further in endorsing the concept of Jewish peoplehood and in stating that it was "the obligation of all Jewry" to aid in Palestine's upbuilding "as a Jewish homeland by endeavoring to make it not only a haven of refuge for the oppressed but also a center of Jewish cultural and spiritual life." Not only were Herzl and Ahad Ha'am, his classic opponent, joined thereby; the universal mission and the particularist strands of Judaism, as Cohon taught to students increasingly stirred by the Nazi menace and concurrent Zionist achievement and as Silver had advocated at the earlier 1935 assembly, were now officially reconciled.(9)

Lazaron joined Reform rabbinical colleagues James Heller and Samuel Gup in proposing a similar resolution to the UAHC biennial council that same year. Expressing satisfaction with the progress made by the Jewish Agency in Palestine's impressive growth, it averred that "the hand of Providence" was manifest in the opening up of that country's gates just when a large part of Jewry "is so desperately in need of a friendly shelter and a home where a spiritual, cultural center may be developed in accordance with Jewish ideals." All Jews were urged to unite in giving their financial and moral support to this endeavor. In unanimous agreement the relevant committee next moved its adoption. Jonah Wise seconded the motion, which carried without discussion or a recorded vote. Shortly thereafter lawyer Robert Goldman of Cincinnati became the first active Zionist to head the UAHC.(10)

Pro-Palestine but antipolitical Zionist, Lazaron ultimately set down his convictions at length in early 1940. Adumbrating the basic argument of his NBC radio address, Homeland or State: The Real Issue charged that a Jewish state or Jewish international political action would aggravate possible antisemitic charges of double loyalty; endanger American neutrality vis-a-vis the war; weaken Great Britain; and disturb the Arabs. His pamphlet proposed a platform on which U.S. Jewry could unite: complete, secured rights wherever Jews may live, either as citizens or as members of autonomous culturo-religious communities; fulfillment of the "moral obligations" undertaken by HMG and the League under the terms of the Balfour Declaration and interpreted in the Churchill memorandum of 1922; an economic reconstruction program for the next 10-20 years permitting the maximum immigration to Palestine on the basis of that country's absorptive capacity, while winning Arab confidence and cooperation; and an eventual "Palestine State" in which Jews there "will individually possess the full rights of citizenship and at the same time have full communal, cultural, and religious autonomy," this position to be permanently guaranteed by the British Government and any future League of Nations. Seeking no sovereign power but only mankind's inalienable rights, Lazaron ended, the "world Jewish religious community" continued to bear "silent yet terrible witness to the eternal truths of justice and human brotherhood which derive from God Himself."(11)

The clarion call began to win acclaim. Instead of transforming their small homeland into "an artificial political expedient," sociologist Bruno Lasker advised that Jews give up "their moorings in a tribal society" and work for a world in which all people might dwell in amity. In "complete sympathy," Rabbi Elmer Berger of Temple Beth El ordered copies of Lazaron's manifesto for his Flint (Michigan) Reform congregation. The Baltimore Morning Sun published a summary of Lazaron's pamphlet, which brought Wallace Murray, the State Department's anti-Zionist Near East Division chief, to forward the "very illuminating article" to his superiors, along with the evaluation that it represented a large section of U.S. Jewry less articulate than the American Zionists "and from whom little is heard."

Willen tried to convince new AJC president Stroock that the committee should mount an open challenge to the UPA and the American Jewish Congress, while non-Zionists Edward Norman and Bernard Flexner privately applauded Lazaron's message. Socialist leader Norman Thomas also praised his "impassioned courage" and "straight thinking." Understanding souls like Baerwald, the AJC's James Rosenberg, Messersmith, Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles, the financier Max Warburg, and New York Times publisher A. H. Sulzberger were all kept informed by the Baltimore clergyman of his activities.(12)

Waldman sharply disagreed, finding Lazaron's thoughts "muddled" and "disturbing" in their misinterpretations of fact. While most of the AJC executive currently opposed the idea of a Jewish commonwealth in principle, he wrote Greenbaum, the non-Zionists who entered the Agency in 1929 implied thereby that they would not combat Zionism's ultimate objective--a state. The AJC did officially object to Jewish nationalism, defined by Waldman as Jewry's organization into an international political entity such as the World Jewish Congress. Yet the AJC, like the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Alliance Israelite, engaged in political activity, while trying to protect the civil and religious rights of Jews without calling its associates' native loyalties into question.

Lazaron's solution for Palestine was more concessionary to the Arabs than even the 1939 White Paper, Waldman observed, although many Christian members of Parliament and the "overwhelming proportion" of Jews worldwide opposed that reversal of British policy. Moreover, the failure of Allied assurances to protect Jewish rights after World War I gave no reason for Lazaron's placing hope in similar guarantees concerning Palestinian Jewry after this global conflict. His stance and that of "like-minded extremists," Waldman suspected, was primarily and chiefly motivated by fear. As a dominating impulse, one that would destroy the AJC if Lazaron served as its spokesman, the latter "neither wins us friends nor defeats our enemies."(13)

What another critic also characterized as Lazaron's "fear psychosis" began to surface as well in Great Britain, whose established Board of Deputies had elected Selig Brodetsky as its first pro-Zionist president in 1939. Speaking on behalf of "a numerous section" of British Jewry, Anthony de Rothschild urged Brodetsky not to publicly characterize assimilation as "a capitulation on the part of the Jewish people." Rothschild and his patrician circle could not allow it to be thought by their fellow citizens of other faiths that they entertained nationalistic aspirations which were the reverse of their conception of British citizenship and "the traditional position" of Britain's Jews. A lengthy reply from Brodetsky did not mollify. Rothschild, who thought it claimed the "wholly repugnant" view that the Anglo-Jewish community should be regarded as some kind of "national unit forming part of another nation." Moreover, concluded the squire of New Court, to create the impression that any considerable proportion of Anglo Jewry shared Brodetsky's position seemed to be "most dangerous for the future of Jews of this country as well as of every other."(14)

By citing the late Claude Montefiore as one leader who fully participated in British life, while maintaining the integrity and functioning of the Jewish religious community, Rothschild brought his own ideological differences with Brodetsky sharply into focus. The founder of a radical Reform Jewish movement in London, Montefiore had touted some aspects of the Christian ethic and the Gospels. The prolific scholar also deemed Zionism "narrow" and a betrayal of Jewish universalism. In May 1917, as president of the Anglo-Jewish Association, Montefiore had joined Board of Deputies president David Alexander in a letter that was published in The Times of London and, a few days later, seconded there by several eminent British Jews. Special privileges accorded to the Jews of Palestine, the pair wrote, would "prove a veritable calamity for the whole Jewish people." The establishment of Jewish nationhood in Palestine, founded upon a theory of Jewish homelessness, would stamp Jews everywhere else as "strangers in their native lands" and undermine "their hard-won position as citizens and nationals of those lands."

The dangers of Zionism, Montefiore later averred in an essay by that title, included the fact that it fit in with antisemitic presumptions and aims. Asked by HMG to comment on a draft of the Balfour Declaration, he unsuccessfully objected to its phrase "a national home": this assumed that Jews constituted a nationality, an implication he found "extremely prejudicial to Jewish interests, as it is intensely obnoxious to an enormous number of Jews." Rothschild's posture, like that of Lazaron, signaled the debut of old wine in new bottles.(15)

Across the Atlantic the sentiments underlying Lazaron's message almost torpedoed the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) for 1941. A joint JDC-UPA campaign in 1934 and 1935, by which all funds collected were split at a 60:40 ratio, respectively, had unraveled after three years because the bulk of the money came from opponents of the Jewish Agency. Reconstituted as the UJA in 1939, with the newly formed National Refugee Service (NRS) an offspring of the JDC, the unified campaign resumed for two years until UPA leaders sought an initial allocation of $2,500,000 from those it termed "self-selected" non- and anti-Zionist philanthropists who, nevertheless, were taking steps that affected the future of Eretz Israel and of all Jews.

Lazaron pressed Baerwald, Jacob Blaustein, Sidney Lansburgh, and others in the JDC-NRS camp that the Palestine budget must necessarily be limited by the possibility of immigration there, not granting Zionists "one dollar for their propaganda of a philosophy of life which the major givers of the community believe would be undermining the position of the American Jew." For NRS advocate and soon JDC head Edward Warburg, keeping refugees from becoming a public charge in the U.S. and adjusting as quickly as possible to the domestic scene seemed of far greater importance that either of the other two programs. A mutually satisfactory agreement for 1941 was finally reached, but for a very restricted purpose and a very limited time. Suspicion and acrimony lingered.(16)

Zionism's adversaries had ample cause for anxiety that spring. The UAHC chose Edward Israel, a strong Reform rabbinical voice for liberalism and Zionism, as its executive secretary, and fervent Zionist James Heller assumed the presidency of the CCAR. Stephen Wise, chairing the umbrella-group Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs (ECZA), sent a telegram to American rabbis urging their support for the creation of "a Jewish army under [its] own insignia and allied command defending [its] homeland as [al self respecting people." Concomitantly, the ECZA-sponsored American Palestine Committee began to garner significant support with congressmen, writers, and Christian clergy across the United States. The time had come, Lazaron wrote Sulzberger, for organizing a "Society of American Israelites" whose philosophy should be the religious and social ideals of prophetic Judaism, whose program should be "integration in American life!" The field should not be left "to them whose fanatic concepts of Jewishness misrepresent us and our children"; when the antisemites are yelling "alien Jew" would be too late, he added.(17)

Especially worrisome was Weizmann's quiet effort, just when German forces poised for a great offensive in North Africa against the Suez Canal, to harness leading American non-Zionists to his cause. At a special conference in New York's St. Regis Hotel, his expressed hope for an independent Jewish entity within an Arab federation under the wing of the democracies sparked Governor Herbert Lehman's statement that he did not wish to become part of anything that might embarrass London. At a follow-up meeting, former Jewish Agency non-Zionist member Maurice Hexter pointed out his doubts that British or American bayonets could force an Arab-Jewish peace.

Lowenstein, Edward Warburg, and Henry Ittleson rebuffed the Zionist archspokesman's hope to work towards reorganizing the Agency lest they give "rubber-stamp approval" to Weizmann's policy. Privately, Max Warburg rebuked Stroock for agreeing to pursue talks with this "unreliable partner" and sought Norman's advice on how to further Jewish non nationalist objectives in the postwar world. At the end of July Sulzberger's newspaper enthusiastically featured the credo of Hebrew University president Judah Magnes, who insisted that only a state shared between Arab and Jew could solve the Palestine quagmire and live up to Jewish ideals.(18)

Choosing a more aggressive path, Lazaron brought his case directly to Anthony Eden that autumn. Britain's foreign secretary, consistent opponent of a Palestinian Jewish fighting force and public supporter of Arab federation, heard from this visitor another side to Jewry's stand on Zionism. Influential American Jews and upper-crust British coreligionists such as Rothschild, Otto Schiff, and Robert Waley-Cohen, he was now informed, markedly differed with Weizmann's political agenda.

Lazaron's emphasis on the economic development of Palestine to satisfy both Jew and Arab, with the Agency reconstituted (including non-Zionists) to achieve this "sound and practical" end, sounded promising. Eden could hardly object to the cleric's assertion that the Balfour Declaration reflected HMG's desire to promote a Jewish homeland--not a state. "Very helpful," too, appeared Lazaron's concurrent focus on the right of Jews, a "vast majority" estimated by the American rabbi at 1314 millions, to enjoy full rights worldwide, rather than be drawn into what he termed an "international political program" that might subject them to the charge of dual loyalty, jeopardize their security, and weaken their power to help stricken fellow Jews everywhere after the war.(19)

Buoyed by this welcome reception and his first discussions with the New Court crowd, Lazaron made arrangements upon his return home for a small anti-Zionist group, including Strauss and FDR speech writer-advisor Samuel Rosenman, to meet at Sulzberger's home in mid-December 1941. The agenda would consider a statement favoring Palestine's economic and cultural development, while rejecting Jewish sovereignty there. These plans he discussed with Welles, who studiously avoided Palestine when addressing an Inter-American conference sponsored by the American Jewish Congress about postwar resettlement. Lazaron also gave the undersecretary a copy of Rothschild's letter to Weizmann (also supplied to Eden), opposing Jewish statehood in Palestine as "wholly inconsistent" with the Atlantic Charter and likely to raise charges of dual allegiance against the majority of Jews living outside the Holy Land. Applying the Charter after the war would enable Jews to be absorbed into the life of each country concerned, Rothschild had asserted, and London could make the necessary arrangements with the Arabs to facilitate Jewish immigration into Palestine "and the highest development of which the country is capable."(20)

Jerome Frank's attack on ardent political Zionists as unrepresentative "Jewish sojourners in America," which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on December 6, Lazaron also recommended to Welles as "completely right." Ex-New Deal activist and one-time member of the isolationist America First Committee, this U.S. Court of Appeals judge's embrace of American assimilationist values against the intolerant "tribalism" of any group hinted broadly that American Zionists, like native Communists and Fascists, should be regarded as aliens and hyphenates. AJC executive board member Joseph Proskauer, quoting Montefiore as prooftext, hailed the author's exposition, as did former Nation publisher Oscar Garrison Villard, but New York's Yiddish press took him to task. Stephen Wise pontificated that Frank's self-hatred as a Jew required that he be excommunicated from that community; Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter cautioned his friend Frank that because "among all the sorrow-laden peoples of the world none has been and is undergoing more agony than the Jews," he should have taken the precaution of talking with someone knowledgeable about the "mischievous potentialities of misinterpretation" of what he wrote before "even unwittingly adding a straw to that burden."(21)

The country's entry immediately thereafter into World War II gave Lazaron et al. additional cause to corroborate Frank's observation that Zionism represented a minority movement among America's divided Jews. Responding to the formation of the Committee for a Jewish Army, an Irgun-inspired group under Hillel Kook's direction which demanded Jewry's right to take its proper place in "the ranks of free peoples of the earth" by joining the Allies in a 200,000-strong army, a New York Times editorial trumpeted British concerns about Arab antagonism to a Zionist state. The editorial concluded that the full hopes of Jews could only be achieved by "the winning of a new world in which Jews along with other religious and national minorities may live peacefully and happily in every nation, enjoying the full rights of other citizens." Lazaron spurred anti-Zionists on the AJC executive to consider some public response, while his synagogue bulletin (echoing the Times's editorial stance) was dispatched to prominent citizens and printed in the Congressional Record. He also contacted individuals, as did Sulzberger and his wife Iphigene nee Ochs, to drop their association with the new committee. Yet the anti-Zionist rabbi remained, to his increasing frustration, "a leader without followers," no organization standing behind him.(22)

Matters changed dramatically on the afternoon of February 27, 1942, when the Jewish Army issue came before the annual convention of the CCAR. Thirty-three rabbis submitted a resolution demanding that the Jewish Yishuv of Palestine "be given the privilege of establishing a military force which will fight under its own banner on the side of the democracies, under allied command, to defend its own land and the Near East to the end that the victory of democracy may be hastened everywhere." The committee on resolutions recommended a much milder substitute which sympathized with Palestinian Jews being given the "opportunity to fight in defense of their homeland."

Opponents of the original resolution, such as Louis Wolsey, Norman Gerstenfeld and Samuel Goldenson, wished the CCAR not to endorse militant Zionism thereby, a step which would also alienate many congregants and "lead to other mischief." Supporters like Balfour Brickner and Maurice Eisendrath, however, believed that the Yishuv merited the same recognition as other peoples, with Philip Bernstein insisting that the Jewish National Home in Palestine would be more necessary than ever when the war and "the current tragedy of Israel" ended. Vice president Solomon Freehof attempted mediation by proposing that the whole debate and both resolutions be expunged from the record, a motion that failed by a vote of 45-51. Ultimately, with Heller as presiding officer deciding on his own to put the initial resolution before the floor, it carried that Friday by 64-38.(23)

The CCAR's rescinding of the neutrality agreement of 1935 galvanized the anti-Zionists into action. Goldenson, egged on by congregant Strauss of his Temple Emanu-El and especially by Silver's public assertion while in London that American Jewry solidly approved of a Jewish fighting force, obtained 70-odd signatures of fellow Reform clergy to a public statement opposing a Jewish army and favoring a postwar world governed by the universalist principles of Isaiah and the American Declaration of Independence. Meetings of March 30 and April 2 in Philadelphia's Hotel Warwick, presided over by Louis Wolsey of that city, resulted in a decision to call a conference of "non-Zionist Reform rabbis" on June 1-2 in Atlantic City to combat what William Fineshriber termed "reactionary" Jewish nationalism and to rally around Judaism as solely a religious identity. Over the names of 23 CCAR members, invitations were mailed to 160 of their colleagues on April 15.

Lazaron gave regular updates (including letters from Rothschild) to Welles and Eden and authored Is This the Way?, which circulated amidst an approving State Department postwar territorial committee. He also tried assiduously to persuade Maurice Wertheim, Stroock's successor, that the AJC should halt all negotiations with Agency executive chairman David Ben-Gurion over a pro-Zionist program for Jewry after the war.(24)

Realizing that the anticipated gathering in Atlantic City might well trigger a schism in the Reform movement, Heller sought a modus vivendi with the anti-Zionist coterie. Writing a personal letter to the CCAR membership, he appealed for unity and a democratic adherence to majority opinion, and asked the coalition to withdraw its invitation. At the same time, with the sympathetic Freehof in attendance, he offered a settlement to Wolsey and Goldenson: if the dissenters cancelled the June meeting and thus abandoned any organized opposition, he would propose a bylaw at the next convention making neutrality on Zionism a permanent CCAR rule and even admit that the 1942. Vote on the Jewish Army had been a mistake. Upon polling their associates, only two (Berger and Clifton Levy) of 19 opposing any delay in the scheduled conference, Wolsey and Goldenson agreed to the compromise provided that Heller also expunge the resolution from the official minutes of the conference. He refused; his adversaries' special gathering inevitably went forward.(25)

"Under the grandiloquent titles of papers and discussions" being prepared for Atlantic City, the CCAR president aptly observed to Freehof, "a lot of dynamite lies concealed." "Battling for religion," Wolsey felt that a fighting stand had to be taken against "the unholy totalitarianism and aggression" of Zionism, which secularized the Jew and even developed into "a certain amount of moral degeneracy." David Philipson, lone survivor of the Pittsburgh Platform signatories whose 1918 letter to the New York Times had judged Zionism "a distinct menace" to the best interest of world Jewry, expressed his great joy that Wolsey and company "are doing a deed of great loyalty to the high significance of our universalistic Judaism."

In like vein Hyman Schachtel suggested that the group be called "the party for prophetic Judaism," stressing the Reform movement's original ideals. "For too many years we have been playing the piper while the Zionists have been calling the tune," opined Irving Reichert. The Zionists' unparalleled campaign of "villification and abuse" against this faction raised other latent resentments, including the tendency, Abraham Cronbach observed, to revive in the Reform congregation long-abandoned Orthodox modes such as more Hebrew and more rituals, some colleagues "even proposing a restoration of the Talith and the Yarmulke." Our larger challenge, Gerstenfeld concluded, is "to evaluate the danger of racial-national-Zionistic concepts to the Reform religionist position and its leadership of the unaffiliated masses of American Jewry, who today realize keenly the bankruptcy of nationalism and are eager to create an `all-out' liberal Judaism that will sweep into its orbit the entire next generation" of U.S. Jews.(26)

"You must understand how profoundly grateful I am, after these many years of fighting the battle alone," wrote Lazaron to Rothschild, "to see the gathering strength of what I am convinced is the only sane and practical approach." From Welles, he had learned confidentially that the American and British general staffs deemed a Jewish Army per se neither helpful nor desirable from the standpoint of increasing the military efficiency of the Allied forces in the Middle East, particularly since adding another national unit to the many such units already employed there would only make "a bad situation worse." Welles found Is This the Way? "an admirable, deeply moving, and truly statesmanlike presentation," which would hopefully have a very wide circulation and thus do much to "help people see clearly during these increasingly critical days." The latter included Rommel's stunning advance in the Libyan desert, as well as American Zionist endorsement in May at New York's Biltmore Hotel of a Jewish military force, unlimited Jewish immigration, and Jewish sovereignty in Palestine after the war.

Lazaron was particularly vexed that 350 rabbis, including Heller and his Conservative and Orthodox Jewish counterparts, signed their names to a pro-Jewish Army advertisement by what was now called the American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs (AECZA). The Baltimorean and comrades-in-arms found comfort, therefore, in 34-year-old Elmer Berger's crusade in Flint against "corrosive" Jewish nationalism and in the Wolsey disciple's pamphlet Why I Am a Non-Zionist, published in May to cheers from Proskauer and HUC president Julian Morgenstern. The hour had struck to organize these kindred spirits.(27)

The 36 CCAR dissidents, self-styled "rabbis in American Israel," who convened on June 1-2, 1942 in Atlantic City came to champion "complete universalism" as rooted in prophetic Judaism and the democratic way of life. Philipson lectured on the incompatibility of Reform Judaism with Zionism, while Lazaron's address seconded British opposition to a Jewish Army and branded Zionism's ultimate goal as wholly inconsistent with the Atlantic Charter. Wolsey and others spent much time criticizing the HUC student body and some of its faculty for shifting to Zionism; Morgenstern placed primary blame on the CCAR's becoming dominated by graduates of Stephen Wise's Jewish Institute of Religion, almost all of whom had fallen under that New Yorker's formidable influence.

The group's final statement, which would gain 96 signatories (some 20 percent of the CCAR), declared a readiness to labor unstintingly for the Yishuv's economic, cultural and spiritual endeavors and to endorse Jewry's right, as that of people of every faith and race, to live securely anywhere in a postwar world established upon justice and righteousness. Support could not be given to political Zionism, however, these endorsers concluded, "which tends to confuse our fellowmen about our place and function in society and also diverts our own attention from our historic role to live as a religious community wherever we may dwell." Wolsey appointed Fineshriber, Goldenson, Berger, and Schachtel to explore the possibility of forming a lay-rabbinical organization, with Lazaron as chair, to advance the cause.(28)

Hopes for quick success dissipated, however, during the coming months. New Palestine, in a tone typical for the American Jewish press, blasted those who mouthed "slogans of a bygone day," sought to appease antisemites, and made Judaism play "a minimal part in their personal lives." Most of the Yiddish newspapers followed The Day editor Samuel Margoshes in pillorying these rabbis' "pale and innocuous, bloodless and helpless Judaism," as opposed to Zionism's creating "a renaissance in all forms of Jewish life and letters." With moderates Goldenson and Jonah Wise pitted against Lazaron, Berger, and Wolsey, the dissidents could only agree upon a revised statement by the end of August. Through the initiative of Bernstein, Silver, Heller, Brickner, and some others, 757 Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform clergymen countered impressively with Zionism: An Affirmation of Judaism, attacking the final revision as "a cruel blow" and declaring that "there can be little hope of opening the doors of Palestine for Jewish immigration after the war without effective political action." By a vote of 42-9, students at HUC approved these sentiments as well.(29)

Lazaron valiantly took up the cudgels for anti-Zionism. He urged Wertheim not to sacrifice principle for unity and become "tied to the Zionist kite" by backing Ben-Gurion's proposal to accept Jewish statehood in exchange for Zionists' renouncing WJC-type "Diaspora nationalism." Rather than endorse this "Cos Cob formula," he pointed out to the AJC president that the "fresh air of Dr. Magnes's suggestions" reflected Zionist party divisions in the Promised Land which should be avoided by American Jews.

In consultation with Strauss and using information secretly provided by the British Embassy, Lazaron also prepared an advertisement criticizing a distinct Jewish fighting force and publicizing the Atlantic City platform. The disastrous fall of Tobruk to Rommel's Afrika Korps on June 21, coupled with full-page Committee for a Jewish Army newspaper advertisements, spurred Lazaron to press for publishing his rejoinder. Many in the Wolsey group preferred not to become embroiled in this regard, however, just when the Yishuv was menaced and the Western media publicized the first news about the systematic slaughter of Europe's Jews. With Welles arranging an appointment at the White House, Lazaron next found an understanding audience in Eleanor Roosevelt when he made the distinction between understandable sympathy for Jewish achievements in Palestine (as FDR had recently conveyed to the American Palestine Committee) and support of Zionist political ambitions there. The zealot pressed ahead.(30)

Sulzberger expressed private encouragement but pursued his own path. On June 14 the New York Times again aired Magnes's position in a substantial report. Informed by Lazaron of Wertheim's possible union with the Zionists, the publisher warned that "in any such combination, those who think as we do are bound to play the part of the lady in the well-known drama The Lady and the Tiger." While in London that summer, he met with Rothschild, whose memorandum to Eden was "quite in line" with Sulzberger's own thinking. Speaking to Eden and to Colonial Secretary Lord Cranborne, Sulzberger suggested that the sanctity of the Holy Land might be kept inviolate through a large state composed of Palestine, Transjordan, Syria, and Iraq, envisaging an Arab population of at least nine million and allowing for considerable Jewish immigration but not sovereignty. The terms of the Atlantic Charter must apply to Jews as to everyone else, giving them the right to live anywhere they chose, but the new state would insure them a haven should they choose. Only political Zionists would object, he informed the two cabinet ministers, but they certainly did not represent united "Jewish opinion." Sulzberger extended congratulations to Lazaron on the "excellent" revised statement of the Atlantic City insurgents, printed in his newspaper on August 30. Yet his long-standing practice of not assisting any publication other than the New York Times mandated that he refuse a request to contribute money to the group's projected magazine. A departure from this rule, Sulzberger explained, "even for a cause as worthy of support as this, would complicate my life unnecessarily."(31)

Still, the anti-Zionist clique had reason for some optimism. Working with three fellow Baltimoreans, Reform Rabbis William Rosenau, Abraham Shaw, and Abraham Shusterman, Lazaron projected a biweekly magazine called The Jewish Challenge that would be distributed for several months gratis to all congressmen, governors, and a large list of Jews and Christian ministers. The first financial pledges, via Lazaron and Berger contacts, came in September. The Flint Plan, a pamphlet describing how the Michigan circle countered Zionist campaigns, was distributed, along with postcards first prepared by Berger which sought support across the country. Soliciting Magnes's reaction to the August statement of principles, which elicited in turn the Jerusalem resident's critique of current Jewish nationalism as "unhappily chauvinistic and narrow and terroristic in the best style of East European nations," Lazaron circulated Magnes's response and then published it without authorization.

In early October James Rosenberg, who informed Lazaron of the opposition crystallizing in the AJC to the "Cos Cob formula," inquired if he would consider permitting friends to advance the clergyman's name as Wertheim's successor. This did not come to pass, but a meeting of key anti-Zionists three weeks later agreed to engage former AJC public relations specialist Sidney Wallach should enough funds be raised to spread the group's message.(32)

The cause received an unexpected boost from Sulzberger, who accepted Lazaron's invitation to talk before his temple brotherhood on November 5. The address, featured in the New York Times, "stirred up a hornet's nest," as the delighted publisher informed Jerome Frank. The continued demand by "Zionist extremists" for a Jewish fighting force, posited the speaker, would embarrass the Allies and could be distorted by the Axis in the Arab world; considerable Jewish immigration to Palestine without statehood (exactly his suggestion to Eden and Cranborne) could be achieved by joining that much contested land with a few neighboring countries. Sulzberger turned down Lazaron's subsequent idea to lead the assault on the Zionists, however, arguing that if he were to become too involved, "people would think the Times prejudiced in its reporting." We have to speak individually about these matters, he added; to speak collectively against nationalist aspirations would "only make the same mistake" as the Zionists, who "band together" to speak for them.(33)

Lazaron also answered a request from Welles for comments on the undersecretary's proposed reply to an eloquent proclamation of the Committee for a Jewish Army by the celebrated author Pierre Van Paassen. In the rabbi's opinion (as he advocated to the First Lady), Washington and London needed to distinguish officially between sympathy for suffering Jewry and Palestine's development as a Jewish homeland, on the one hand, and Zionist political objectives, "to which no chancellory in the world has either pledged itself or would at this juncture pledge itself," on the other. On November 13, a thankful Welles, who also received from Sulzberger a copy of Magnes's views, suggested that Lazaron write Rothschild to communicate with Eden on this matter; he would discuss it with HMG's ambassador, Lord Halifax. Lazaron promptly did so, asking the Anglo Jew to share his letter with others of similar views like Otto Schiff, Lionel Cohen, Neville Laski, Basil Henriques, and Louis Gluckstein, M.P.(34)

Another promising turn came on November 16, when Goldenson and Jonah Wise received a warm reception at a meeting with several influential Jewish laymen in New York. Sulzberger, Edward Warburg, Baerwald, Ittleson and Hexter, along with NRS president and UJA chairman William Rosenwald and five others, "heartily commended the rabbinical group for its initiative and good sense." The one hope for self-respect on the American scene for the Jews, in the view of the gentlemen present that afternoon, lay in a religious organization. The rebuke from the over 700 rabbis was taken as an evidence of progress and seen as an acceptable public notice that not all American Jews were Zionists. The meeting resulted in the determination of the attendees to carry on, with Hexter instructed to report as soon as possible on a program of procedure.(35)

One week later the eastern contingent of anti-Zionist rabbis convened in Wolsey's Rodeph Shalom congregation for decisive action. Fineshriber revealed that the AJC executive would assemble on December 6 to select Wertheim's successor. Should the anti-Zionist element gain control, his source had indicated, the $25,000 needed urgently by the rabbinical group would be provided; if it failed, those individuals might secede, with their funds then at the group's disposal. Coming on the heels of Sulzberger's Baltimore address and the New York meeting with lay leaders, Fineshriber's information proved encouraging news indeed. Considerable discussion which followed resulted in Berger's being chosen executive director contingent upon raising the necessary funds. Wolsey telephoned the news to Berger, who accepted enthusiastically.

The time had arrived to choose a name for the new organization. Gerstenfeld's proposed "Council of American Jewry" appeared not religious in sentiment, while Goldenson's suggestions (World--Jewish Welfare Association, Jewish Religious Association, or Jewish Fellowship Association) were judged too general. "The Council for American Judaism," advanced by Lazaron that day, received unanimous approval. It met the desires of the group's financial backers; it satisfied the request of UAHC president Adolph Rosenberg, as conveyed by Philipson at a previous gathering, "that Americanism be stressed"; and it aptly defined the movement.

Formal announcement of the Council's formation, along with adopting a constitution, reporting on funds and a lecture bureau, and inducting Berger into office, was to take place in New York on December 7, 1942. That date was purposely chosen for the historic association with America's entry into the war one year previously, as well as to mark a significant statement coming one day after both the ZOA-Revisionist Zionist convention in New York and the meeting of the AJC executive board. Key laymen were to be invited, Morgenstern and two other members scheduled to deliver brief papers, and Lazaron selected to present the facts in a brief against the Zionists.(36)

Elated, the individual most instrumental in this denouement spread the word to his highest contacts in Washington. Informing Mrs. Roosevelt of the new Council, Lazaron suggested that Harold Ickes be advised to temper his views for a principal speech to the ZOA two weeks hence. As secretary of the interior, his presence would give weight to "extremist" demands embarrassing to the administration and running counter to the views of "another very powerful group" within American Jewry.

Separately, Welles was asked to have a letter addressed to Lazaron by the undersecretary, his superior Cordell Hull, or Roosevelt--not so formal as the Balfour Declaration but having "the same profound effect"--for the Council's inauguration. An appreciation of the work achieved in Palestine should be coupled, "Morris" advised "dear Sumner," with an emphasis that no pledges as to its future political status could be made, since that had to be determined by a Palestinian Jewish-Christian-Moslem consensus, and that the Holy Land symbolized a center "for three great religious influences of our western world." The communication, together with a similar letter from Eden, Lazaron stressed, would be welcomed by anti-Zionists in the U.S. and England and by the vast majority of the American Jewish Committee, would strengthen the hands of moderates everywhere, and would tend to stop "reckless Zionist agitation."(37)

The devastating news on November 24 about State Department confirmation of rumors since August regarding the true dimensions of the Holocaust, which it authorized Stephen Wise to publicize, immediately threw Lazaron's plans into disarray. Half of the estimated four million Jews under the swastika had been slain in an "extermination campaign," the AECZA chairman reported to the press that evening, with Hitler ordering the murder of the entire number by the end of the year. "Of course we knew all this, but it is a frightful and appalling situation," Lazaron wrote to Wolsey. He proposed that the December 7th date should be reconsidered, since the Council's inaugural declaration might strike "a false note" just when Jews all over the world gathered publicly to mourn for their murdered families in Europe: one had to be "awfully careful about these things and not give those whom we oppose any ground to attack us."

Of course anything that could be done to prevent "wholesale massacre" would be done, Lazaron dashed off on a postcard to Welles a few days later. "But what can be done in territory occupied by the Nazis? Is this yet another futile stirring up of excitement?" My broadcast on the "Message of Israel" program, he closed, would offer "a plea for calm, for sorrow borne with dignity, for faith in friends in justice and in God."(38)

Wolsey vigorously opposed any additional postponement, however. Goldenson had counseled caution at the Atlantic City meeting in light of a shocking newspaper account about the mass killing of European Jews, and Rabbi Ely Pilchik had pressed Lazaron one month later to halt "the widening breach" in American Jewish ranks at a time when the press reported that over one million Jews had been massacred in Europe and more were "doomed to be slaughtered." But the elder mutineer from Philadelphia insisted to Lazaron that there was always a reason why their band should not do anything: "Rommel is making his way into Egypt, or Rommel is getting into Palestine, or a holocaust (sic) is taking place in Poland." He was not worried by any attackers but about "their committing Jewish suicide. We must save them from themselves."

From a hospital sickbed, Wolsey added two days later: "If American Jewry is sabotaged by Zionist trickery and politics, as the German situation was sabotaged by the Madison Square meetings for boycott of Germany in the early days of the Nazi regime, then nothing whatsoever can be done for the Polish Jews. The salvation and protection of our persecuted brethren abroad depends exclusively on the morale, the unity, the wisdom, and the generosity of the Jews in America." With Zionism "sabotaging the effectiveness of American Judaism," he insisted, "the psychological time for our meeting" was now.(39)

Unbeknowst to the secessionists, Lazaron's appeal to Welles for some official letter quickly struck a responsive chord in the corridors of State. Given the department's concern about growing pro-Zionist sentiment, including the endorsements by eminent Americans of the Committee for a Jewish Army and the American Palestine Committee, Secretary Hull had used the 25th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration to urge a wider objective: "We must have a world in which Jews, like every other race, are free to abide in peace and honor." Seeking further to mute the Zionist publicity that was causing the Palestine cauldron to boil, Near East Division chief Murray urged Welles to follow up Lazaron's suggestion as "an act of far-seeing statesmanship," enhancing U.S. prestige in the Arab and Muslim world, while stopping "reckless Zionist agitation." Particularly worrisome to the division was the declaration in early December by 63 senators and 182 members of Congress that "millions of homeless Jews" should be entitled in the postwar period to reconstruct their lives in Palestine. Shortly thereafter, thanks to AECZA-sponsored efforts by Bernstein and his cousin Rabbi Milton Steinberg, the Christian Council on Palestine arose, committed to "the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine in relation to an over-all settlement in the postwar era."(40)

On December 7, 1942 at 10:30 a.m. Wolsey called the inaugural meeting of the new anti-Zionist rabbinical body to order. The 26 men present at the Hotel New Yorker that day settled on the American Council for Judaism as their movement's new name. As for the AJC, Goldenson explained that since its executive proceedings would not be made public until the committee's general meeting the following month, no financial help could be expected before then from sympathizers in that quarter. The group ratified the appointment of Berger, who later that afternoon asked Baerwald, Rosenberg, and other laymen present for participation and immediate action. Lazaron's revision of the Statement of Principles met with a varied critique, and the Council agreed a condensed version should be issued without delay. Wolsey's report on the misuse of UPA funds by the AECZA was referred to a special investigating committee and prospects for a lecture bureau received brief mention. At 6 p.m., Schachtel rose to thank Wolsey for presiding and the meeting adjourned.(41)

Thus came to pass the first anti-Zionist organization in American history. Its genesis lay in the anxiety felt by a small minority within the CCAR regarding the impact of political Zionism on Jewish existence. In their view, as Lazaron put it, Zionism's "philosophy of despair, which assumes that our present status is hopeless and that democracy is a failure," delayed the Jew's integration into American life, made impossible a peaceful resolution of the thorny Palestine question, and challenged the universalist values of prophetic Judaism.(42)

These fears, first articulated by Lazaron after the commencement of World War II, were aggravated by the upsurge of enthusiasm for a Jewish Army. The army issue ultimately served as the percussion cap that set off an explosion which threatened the Reform movement itself. It also enabled London and Washington to claim that American Jewry was divided over Zionism despite the May 1942 Biltmore Program, the broad rabbinic endorsement reflected in Zionism: An Affirmation of Judaism, and mounting Jewish lay support for pro-Zionist causes.

The American Council for Judaism, however, never remotely approached realizing the hopes of its original founders. The final preference of Morgenstern and others to work within the CCAR forestalled permanent schism. The increasing stress by Lazaron, Wolsey, and especially Berger on a program more in the direction of "anti-Zionism than of pro-Reform" sparked the departure of Shaw and Shusterman by the end of December 1942. That shift in emphasis, which led to a second veto the next month of Heller's repeated offer at reconciliation, became especially pronounced in mid-1943. An internecine struggle erupted in the Council between a virulently anti-Zionist faction and others devoted to their concept of the religious dimension of American Jewish life. (By then, with chairman Lessing Rosenwald and public-relations consultant Wallach uninterested in formal religion, only 26 rabbis still retained membership.) This tension within Council ranks surfaced in the extreme when the leaders of Hebrew Congregation Beth Israel of Houston insisted, at the end of that year, that new members sign a declaration committing themselves to the principles embodied in the Pittsburgh Platform.(43)

Freehof, now president of the CCAR, failed to persuade the Houston defectors that they misunderstood the nature of Reform Judaism. Earlier, he astutely observed that none of the CCAR Zionist majority would embrace the extremist position that American Jews were in exile, that the battle against antisemitism was hopeless, and that nationhood meant that if a Jewish state were created in Palestine they would become citizens of the new commonwealth. On the other hand, Freehof appeared close to the mark in thinking that the anti-Zionist rabbis did not fully believe that Jews were only a "church," that they had no bond of historic brotherhood--call it "people," "nationality," or any other term.

Yet the Reform Zionists persisted in characterizing their anti-Zionist CCAR colleagues as assimilationists, while the latter continued to portray the Zionists as secular Diaspora nationalists. Both descriptions, Freehof rightly concluded, were unfair. Still, Stephen Wise lost no time in branding the new Council's spokesmen "irreconcilable, superannuated, odious individuals"; Silver soon followed with "false prophets of Ersatz Judaism." The Council's intensely felt sentiments were temperate by contrast, with complaints that the Zionists "dominated" American life, exercised authority in "tyrannical" fashion, and were rapidly becoming "power mad."(44)

In short order the anti-Zionist rabbis were not merely beleaguered but reviled, castigated as traitors in their people's most anguished hour. Wrote a U.S. Army private to Lazaron: You consider Zionism "embarrassing" to the British and the Allies. "Well, the Gentile world has embarrassed us for 2,000 years, and is embarrassing us right now to the tune of about five million people about to be wiped out. We will live or die AS A PEOPLE!" The Council's lobbying against Zionist aspirations, Rabbi Israel Levinthal exhorted fellow Brooklynite Rabbi Isaac Landman, turned the issue from a question of free speech to "a question of war that you have begun to wage against the millions of Jews ... who see in Zionism the only hope for the oppressed Jews throughout the world.... You are going to meet the resentment of every right-thinking and self-respecting Jew."

On June 22, 1943 the CCAR convention declared that "it discerns no essential incompatibility between Reform Judaism and Zionism." Two months later American Jews united behind the Biltmore Program at the American Jewish Conference, swept along by Silver's eloquent appeal that "the immemorial problem of our national homelessness, which is the principle source of our millennial tragedy, remains as stark and as menacing today as it ever was." When the Council protested in a statement that saw print in the New York Times, B'nai B'rith president Henry Monsky and four rabbis (including Heller) roundly denounced the move as a calculated and treacherous attempt to sabotage the conference's expression of American Jewry's collective will.(45)

Like the grandees of Anglo-Jewry and Magnes, the founders of the American Council for Judaism failed to appreciate that their abstract principles did not keep pace with the remorseless realities of Jewish life. These stalwarts of classical Reform Judaism hailed from the older members of the CCAR. An anti-Zionist statement which circulated among Hebrew Union College graduates in the early stages of the Council was signed by 70 percent of the members of the classes from 1883 to 1893 and 50 percent of the graduates from 1894 to 1903, but only 28 percent from 1904 to 1914, 23 percent from 1915 to 1924, 18 percent from 1925 to 1934, and 17 percent from 1935 to 1942.(46)

The fires of the Holocaust seared the young Reform rabbinical wing, as it did their fellow American Jews, converting them to a visceral understanding of the indissoluble link that existed between Jewish catastrophe and Jewish sovereignty. Accordingly, they would rally to the Zionist standard after V-E Day and well beyond, seeing the reborn State of Israel as a bridge against their people's apocalyptic despair. Those few who did not were overwhelmed by the force of history.

(1.) Excerpt of Lazaron radio address, Dec. 2, 1939, file 112, Robert Szold Manuscripts, Zionist Archives and Library, New York City (hereafter ZA), now at the Central Zionist Archives (CZA), Jerusalem, Israel.

(2.) David Polish, "The Changing and the Constant in the Reform Rabbinate," American Jewish Archives 35 (1983): 298-300; Lazaron to Silver, Oct. 4, 1937, and Silver to Lazaron, Feb. 4, 1938, both in file 5, drawer 2, Abba Hillel Silver Manuscripts, The Temple, Cleveland, Ohio.

(3.) Lazaron to Baerwald, Oct. 5, 1939, Box 64, Lewis Strauss Manuscripts, American Jewish Historical Society, Waltham, Mass.; Lazaron to Skall, Nov. 14, 1939; and Lazaron to Baerwald, Nov. 24, 1939; both in Box 3046, Morris Lazaron Manuscripts, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio; "Dialogue of a Protestant, a Catholic, and a Jew," Mar. 27, 1934, Chronos file, American Jewish Committee (hereafter AJC) Archives (now at YIVO), New York City; Baerwald draft to Lazaron, Nov. 29, 1939, Box 2, Lazaron Manuscripts; Lazaron to Silver, Nov. 30, 1939, Box 3046, Lazaron Manuscripts. For the vacuity of the Evian Conference, see A. J. Sherman, Island Refuge: Britain and Refugees from the Third Reich, 1933-1939 (London, 1973). The Balfour Declaration pledged HMG to facilitate the creation of "a Jewish national home" in Palestine.

(4.) New Palestine, December 6, 1939; ZOA administrative commitee, Dec. 3, 1939; ZOA executive committee, Dec. 13, 1939, both in ZA; Silver to Lazaron, Dec. 5, and 14, 1939, Box 3046, Lazaron Manuscripts.

(5.) Montor to Silver, Dec. 4, 1939, Lipsky--Keren Hayesod file, ZA.

(6.) Waldman to Adler, Dec. 18, 1939; Landau to Waldman, Dec. 18, 1939; Waldman memo on State Dept. visit, Dec. 18, 1939; Lazaron draft, "Why Dr. Weizmann Should Not Come," Dec. 12, 1939, and Waldman memo attached, n.d.; all in Jewish Agency 1939-40 file, AJC Archives. Brandeis was apprehensive lest Weizmann raise with Roosevelt a proposal currently popular in Europe regarding the transfer of minorities. Goldman to Szold, Dec. 15, 1939, Box 30, Szold Manuscripts.

(7.) Edward B. Glick, The Triangular Connection: America, Israel, and American Jews (London, 1982), 41-4, 48; Ronald Steel, Walter Lippmann and the American Century (Boston, 1980), 189-90.

(8.) Polish, "Changing and Constant," 268-84; Michael A. Meyer, "Yahadut Reformit v'Ziyonut B'America: HaNisyonot HaRishonot L'Hitkarvut Ra'ayonit," HaZiyonut 9 (1984): 95-110.

(9.) CCAR 46th Annual Convention, Chicago, 45 (1935); CCAR 48th Annual Convention, Colombus, 47 (1937); Michael A. Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (New York, 1988), 317-29.

(10.) Atkinson to Wolsey, Nov. 3, 1942, Box 1445, Louis Wolsey Manuscripts, American Jewish Archives; Meyer, Response to Modernity, 330.

(11.) Morris L. Lazaron, Homeland or State: The Real Issue (Baltimore, n.d.), Box 4, Lazaron Manuscripts. The 1922 Churchill White Paper assured the Arabs that HMG did not intend to create a wholly Jewish Palestine and that Palestine's economic absorptive capacity would henceforth determine Jewish immigration. Concurrently, it declared that the Balfour Declaration "was not susceptible to change" and that the Jewish community "is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance."

(12.) Berger to Lazaron, Mar. 7, 1940, Box 4, Lazaron Manuscripts; Baltimore Morning Sun, March 7, 1940; Murray to Berle and Long, Mar. 7, 1940, 867N.01/1699, RG 59, State Department Manuscripts, National Archives, Wash., D.C. (hereafter SD); Willen to Stroock, Mar. 9, 1940, Zionists--non-Zionists 1937-40 file, AJC Archives; Norman to Lazaron, Dec. 14, 1939, Box 3046, Lazaron Manuscripts; Flexner to Lazaron, Mar. 13, 1940; Thomas to Lazaron; both in Box 4, Lazaron Manuscripts; Lazaron to Rosenberg, Apr. 26, 1940, Box 2, Lazaron Manuscripts.

(13.) Waldman to Greenbaum, Mar. 7, 1940, Zionist--non-Zionist--Lazaron file; Waldman to Wallach, Mar. 8, 1940, Zionism 1941-42 file; Waldman to Stroock, Mar. 12, 1940, Zionism 1936-43 file; Waldman to Willen, Mar. 12, 1940, Zionists--non-Zionists 1937-40 file; Waldman to Stroock, Mar. 18, 1940, Chronos file; all in AJC Manuscripts.

(14.) Carl Alpert, "Rabbi Lazaron `Explains'," The Reconstructionist, March 29, 1940; Rothschild to Brodetsky, Dec. 16, 1940, file 3/90; Brodetsky to Rothschild, Jan. 16, 1941, file 3/92; Rothschild to Brodetsky, Feb. 12, 1941, file 3/100; all in Brodetsky Manuscripts, Anglo-Jewish Association Archives, Mocatta Library, University College, London, England. For the paternalistic circle of which Rothschild was a part, see Chaim Bermant, The Counsinhood: The Anglo-Jewish Gentry (London, 1971).

(15.) Rothschild to Brodetsky, Feb. 12, 1941, file 3/100, Brodetsky Manuscripts; An English Jew: The Life and Writings of Claude Montefiore, ed. Eduard Kessler (London, 1989); The Times, May 14, 1971; Leonard Stein, The Balfour Declaration (London, 1961), 525.

(16.) Norman to Murray, Mar. 1, 1941, 840.48 Refugees/2478, RG 59, SD; Lazaron to Baerwald, Dec. 30, 1940, Box 2, Lazaron Manuscripts; Warburg to Schewel, Feb. 19, 1941, MRD-1, file 4/1, United Jewish Appeal Archives, New York City.

(17.) Polish, "Changing and Constant," 287; Monty Noam Penkower, The Holocaust and Israel Reborn: From Catastrophe to Sovereignty (Urbana, 1994), 116; Lazaron to Sulzberger, Apr. 28, 1941, Box 3045, Lazaron MSS.

(18.) Warburg memo, July 24, 1941, Jewish Agency 1934-42 file, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Archives, New York City; Warburg to Stroock, June 28, 1941, and July 7, 1941, Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Norman to Warburg, Aug. 4, 1941, Zionism 1936-43 files, AJC Archives; New York Times, July 20, 1941.

(19.) Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), June 1, 1941; Eden to Stonehewer-Bird, Aug. 15, 1941, PREM, 4/5 2/5, Public Record Office (PRO), Kew, England; Diaries, Sept. 1941, Box 7, Lazaron Manuscripts; Lazaron to Eden, Oct. 3, 1941; and Lazaron memo to Eden, n.d. (Oct. 3, 1941); both in Box 121, Lewis Strauss-II Manuscripts, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, Iowa.

(20.) Lazaron to Strauss, Nov. 7, 1941, Box 121, Strauss-II Manuscripts.; Welles to Lazaron, Nov. 14, 1941; Lazaron to Welles, Nov. 17, 1941; Lazaron to Baerwald, Nov. 17, 1941; all in Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Welles address, Nov. 23, 1941, file U-134, World Jewish Congress Archives, New York City (now at the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio); Eden to Moyne, Nov. 1941, FO 371/27129, PRO; Rothschild to Weizmann, Dec. 3, 1941, Chaim Weizmann Archives (WA), Rechovot, Israel. For the New Court--Zionist talks, as well as Weizmann's reply, see note of meeting, Sept. 9, 1941, and Weizmann to Rothschild, Dec. 31, 1941, WA. The war objectives of the Atlantic Charter, a joint statement in August 1941 by Churchill and Roosevelt, included Anglo-American respect for "the right of all peoples to choose the form of Government under which they will live." Foreign Relations of the United States, 1941 (Washington, D.C., 1958), 1: 367-9.

(21.) Jerome N. Frank, "Red-White-and-Blue Herring," Saturday Evening Post, December 6, 1941; Lazaron to Welles, Dec. 1, 1941, Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Proskauer to Frank, Dec. 8, 1941, and Frank reply, Dec. 9, 1941; Villard to Frank, Dec. 18, 1941; Frank to Kaufman, Dec. 19, 1941; all in Box 66, Jerome Frank Manuscripts, Sterling Library, Yale University; New Palestine, December 12, 1941; reviews of Frank article, Box 156, Frank Manuscripts; Frankfurter-Frank correspondence, Dec. 1941, Box 53, Frank Manuscripts. For Frank's extreme sensitivity to his Jewish origins, see Jerold S. Auerbach, Rabbis and Lawyers, The Journey from Torah to Constitution (Bloomington, 1990), 159-60, 166.

(22.) Penkower, The Holocaust and Israel Reborn, 64-5; New York Times, January 22. 1942; Lazaron to Radcliffe, Jan. 23, 1942; Lazaron to Hutchinson, Feb. 2, 1942; Lazaron to Tydings, Feb. 26, 1942; A. H. Sulzberger to Church, Nov. 17, 1941; I. Sulzberger to Lazaron, Feb. 18, 1942; Lazaron to Baerwald, Jan. 9, 1942; all in Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts.

(23.) CCAR 53rd Annual Convention, Cincinnati, 52 (1942), 169-82; Marcuson to Wolsey, May 20, 1942; Ettelson to Heller, May 20, 1942; both in Box 1446, Wolsey Manuscripts; Freehof to Gleuck, Mar. 27, 1942, Box 1121, Freehof Manuscripts, AJA; Howard R. Greenstein, Turning Point: Zionism and Reform Judaism (Chico, 1981), 37-8.

(24.) Goldenson to colleagues, Mar. 13, 1942; Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Lazaron letter to the editor, New York Times, March 23, 1942; meeting, Mar. 30, 1942, Box 1452, Wolsey MSS.; meeting, Apr. 6, 1942, Box 3044, Lazaron MSS.; Fineshriber to Kahn, Apr. 27, 1942, Box 1446, Wolsey Manuscripts; Schiff to Warburg, Apr. 9, 1942; Lazaron to Rothschild, Apr. 23, 1942; Lazaron to Welles, Mar. 13, 1942, and Apr. 29, 1942; Rothschild to Lazaron, Mar. 19 and 23, 1942; all in Box 3045, Lazaron MSS.; Apr. 25, 1942, Territorial committee notes files, Isaiah Bowman Manuscripts, Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins University; Lazaron to Wertheim, Mar. 29, 1942, Israel--Palestine Immigration 1939-56 files, AJC Manuscripts.

(25.) Heller to members of the CCAR, Apr. 30, 1942; Freehof to Wolsey, May 1, 1942; Freehof to Heller, May 4, 1942; Freehof to Marcuson, May 11, 1942; all in Box 1121, Freehof Manuscripts.; Cohon to Heller, May 3, 1942, file 2/3, Samuel Cohon Manuscripts, American Jewish Archives; Heller to Wolsey, May 15, 1942; Wolsey to colleagues, May 15, 1942; both in Box 1453, Wolsey Manuscripts; Gerstenfeld to Wolsey, May 19, 1942, Box 1446, Wolsey Manuscripts.

(26.) Heller to Freehof, May 27, 1942, Box 1121, Freehof Manuscripts; Wolsey to Brown, May 25, 1942., Box 1452, Wolsey Manuscripts; Wolsey to Kahn, Box 1453, Wolsey Manuscripts; Philipson to Wolsey, Apr. 13, 1942, Box 1448, Wolsey Manuscripts; Glick, Triangular Connection, 47-8; Schachtel to Shusterman, Mar. 5, 1942., Box 1452, Wolsey Manuscripts; Reichert to Wolsey, Apr. 1, 1942, Box 1448, Wolsey Manuscripts; Cronbach to Heller, May 4, 1942; Gerstenfeld to Wolsey, May 5, 1942; both in Box 1446, Wolsey Manuscripts. For examples of villification, see Marcuson to Heller, May 4, 1942, Box 1121, Freehof Manuscripts.

(27.) Lazaron to Rothschild, Apr. 23, 1942; Welles to Lazaron, March 31, 1942; both in Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Welles to Lazaron Apr. 17, 1942, Box 80, Sumner Welles MSS., Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York; Penkower, The Holocaust and Israel Reborn, 33-4; ZOA Executive Minutes, Apr. 26, 1942, ZA; Berger, Memoirs of an Anti-Zionist Jew (Beirut, 1978), 5; Proskauer to Berger, May 27, 1941, Box 45, American Council for Judaism (ACJ) Archives, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin; Morgenstern to Berger, May 21, 1942, Box 19, ACJ Archives.

(28.) June 1-2, 1942 conference minutes, Box 1454, Wolsey Manuscripts; Rabbis' statement, June 1-2, 1942, ACJ files, ZA; Jewish Review and Observer, July 3, 1942.

(29.) Thomas A. Kolsky, Jews Against Zionism: The American Council for Judaism, 1942-1948 (Philadelphia, 1990), 53-5; Samuel Margoshes, "News and Views," The Day, August 15, 1942; New York Times, August 30, 1942; Philip Bernstein et al., Zionism: An Affirmation of Judaism (New York, 1942).

(30.) Lazaron to Wertheim, June 18, 1942, Zionist--non-Zionist conference Jan.-June 1942 file, AJC; Wertheim telephone conversation, June 18, 1942; Lazaron to Schachtel, June 25, 1942; Lazaron to Sulzberger, June 26, 1942; all in Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Lazaron to E. Roosevelt, July 17, 1942, Box 80, Welles Manuscripts.

(31.) New York Times, June 14, 1942; Sulzberger to Lazaron, June 25, 1942, Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Sulzberger to Lazaron, Sept. 17, 1942, Box 3046, Lazaron Manuscripts.

(32.) Lazaron to Strauss, Aug. 26, 1942, Box 121, Strauss-II Manuscripts; Berger postcards, Sept. 9, 1942, Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Lazaron to Magnes, Sept. 7, 1942, and reply, Oct. 6, 1942, file 234, Judah Magnes Manuscripts, Hebrew University; Lazaron letter to Baltimore Jewish Times, December 4, 1942; Lazaron to Rosenberg, Oct. 8, 1942, Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Nov. 2, 1942 meeting, Box 1452, Wolsey Manuscripts.

(33.) New York Times, November 6, 1942; Sulzberger to Frank, Nov. 18, 1942, Frank Manuscripts; Sulzberger to Lazaron, Nov. 12, 1942, Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts.

(34.) Lazaron to Welles, Nov. 9, 1942, Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Lazaron to Welles, Nov. 10, 1942, Box 80, Welles Manuscripts; Sulzberger to Welles, Nov. 11, 1942, Box 84, Welles Manuscripts; Welles to Lazaron, Nov. 13, 1942; Lazaron to Rothschild, Nov. 19 and 20, 1942; all in Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts. For Gluckstein's views, see his correspondence with Bakstansky, June 1942, Palestine Committee minutes, Board of Deputies of British Jews' Archives, London, England.

(35.) J. Wise to Wolsey, Nov. 18, 1942, Box 3046, Lazaron Manuscripts.

(36.) Copy of minutes of Nov. 23, 1942 meeting, Z5/733, CZA. (This document indicates that the American Zionists were privy to the proceedings.)

(37.) Lazaron to Thompson (for E. Roosevelt), Nov. 24, 1942; Lazaron to Welles, Nov. 23, 1942; both in Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts.

(38.) Penkower, The Jews Were Expendable, chap. 3; Lazaron to Wolsey, Nov. 27, 1942, Box 3044, Lazaron Manuscripts; Lazaron to Welles, Nov. 30, 1942, Box 80, Welles Manuscripts.

(39.) Kolsky, Jews Against Zionism, 52; Pilchik to Lazaron, July 15, 1942, Box 1448, Wolsey Manuscripts; Wolsey to Lazaron, Nov. 30, 1942; Wolsey to Lazaron, Dec. 2, 1942; both in Box 3044, Lazaron Manuscripts.

(40.) FRUS, 1942, 4: 548; Murray to Welles, Nov. 27, 1942, 867N.01/11-2342; RG 59, SD; FRUS, 1942, 4: 549-50; Penkower, The Holocaust and Israel Reborn, 119-20. Nothing came of Lazaron's proposed Anglo-American declaration. While State expressed support, the Foreign Office disapproved of its very limited reference to Arabs and its implication of continued Jewish immigration. By May, 1943 Lazaron echoed the State Department--Foreign Office line. Penkower, The Holocaust and Israel Reborn, 170n17.

(41.) Meeting of Dec. 7, 1942, Box 2/1, ACJ collection, AJA.

(42.) Lazaron statement, JTA, January 29, 1943.

(43.) Morgenstern to Wolsey, Jan. 8, 1943, Box 1448, Wolsey Manuscripts; Shaw to Wolsey, Dec. 1, 1942, Box 3044, Lazaron Manuscripts; Shusterman to Wolsey, Dec. 6 and 24, 1942, Box 1449, Wolsey Manuscripts; Wolsey--Holtzberg memo, Jan. 25, 1943, Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Greenstein, Turning Point, 45 and chap. 3. While the anti-Zionist clique on the American Jewish Committee executive board triumphed with Proskauer's election as president, they and their colleagues agreed upon a declaration which pointedly asserted that Palestine would not furnish "the solution of the problem of post-war Jewish rehabilitation" and called for the country to be placed under an international trusteeship, ultimately becoming "a self-governing Commonwealth." "Statement of Principles," Dec. 6, 1942, AJC Archives (adopted Jan. 31, 1943, at the AJC's annual meeting).

(44.) Freehof to Baron, Nov. 2, 1942, Box 1121, Freehof Manuscripts; Rosenbloom to Lazaron, Dec. 28, 1942; Berger to Lazaron, Jan. 2, 1943; both in Box 6044, Lazaron Manuscripts; Greenstein, Turning Point, 46.

(45.) Guttman to Lazaron, Jan. 28, 1943, Box 3045, Lazaron Manuscripts; Levinthal to Landman, Apr. 9, 1943, Box 1447, Wolsey Manuscripts; Polish, "The Changing and the Constant," 296, 302; Penkower, The Holocaust and Israel Reborn, 44-6. A sympathetic portrayal of ACJ activities after its formation is offered in Kolsky, Jews Against Zionism, chaps. 4-7.

(46.) Polish, "The Changing and the Constant," 297. For similar developments in the British Jewish community during these same years, see Gideon Shimoni, "Selig Brodetsky and the Ascendancy of Zionism in Anglo-Jewry (1939-1945)," The Jewish Journal of Sociology, 22 (1980): 125-61.

Monty Noam Penkower is Victor J. Selmanowitz Professor of Modern Jewish History at Touro College. His publications include The Jews Were Expendable, The Emergence of Zionist Thought, and The Holocaust and Israel Reborn.
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Date:Jun 1, 1998
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