‘Where Do You Stand?’: A 1943 Yom Kippur sermon challenged the American Jewish community on Zionism

Seventy years ago this Yom Kippur, one of the most prominent and outspoken American rabbis of his generation gave what may have been the most poignant and far-seeing High Holy Day sermons to speak directly to what some authors have called “the Jewish century.”  Irving Reichert (1895 – 1968), the rabbi of Temple Emanu-El of San Francisco from 1930 to 1947 and a leading personality of the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, prophetically warned that answering the fundamental question posed by Zionism – “what shall be the status of the Jew in the postwar world?” – would indeed have grave consequences for his audience and their children and their children’s children.

The sermon was a direct response to the “American Jewish Conference” held in late August 1943, convened by the American Zionist Emergency Council, direct ancestor of AIPAC.  This momentous conference represented nothing less than the birth of what Peter Beinart labeled “the American Jewish establishment” and often less precisely and expansively referred to as the Israel lobby.  In other words, it was the dawning of a self-appointed leadership of American Jewry constitutionally committed to the first principles of Zionism, and to shaping American Jewish identity toward that end.  

Indeed, this sermon warning against the dangers posed by such an establishment could not be more timely as the Israel lobby finds itself agitating for an American war in Syria plainly and overwhelmingly opposed by the American public -an ominous conjuring of the classical anti-Semitic image of Jewish power confirming the worst fears of Zionism’s critics.  Here, then, for reflection this Yom Kippur, is the Kol Nidre sermon pleading across the generations to reject that establishment.

Where Do You Stand?

Kol Nidre Sermon of Irving Reichert – October 8, 1943

Yom Kippur is the most solemn day in Israel’s religious calendar.  This year especially, in a world at war, it brings home to us with fearful hardship and heavy sacrifice, the penalty we must pay for personal and national transgression.  We have been guilty of violating God’s moral law and must suffer the consequences in suffering and sorrow.  That is how the law of compensation works in society.  No amount of praying and fasting can save us from the penalty of our stupidity, our willfulness, and our selfishness.  Any Jew who thinks otherwise on this Yom Kippur is pathetically ill-advised.  He will be disillusioned in the still more terrible days that lie before us.  Let us be realistic about this.  Sin is rebellion against God, and never goes unpunished.  Nations as well as individuals are subject to this universal law.

Rabbi Irving Reichert of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco. (Photo: Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco, Archives)

Rabbi Irving Reichert of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco. (Photo: Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco, Archives)

Personal responsibility is sharply emphasized in the ritual for this Atonement Day.  God does not judge us collectively.  Before His tribunal, every man is lifted out of the protective anonymity of the group, and held to strict accountability for his decisions and actions.  This holy day reminds us that we are responsible as individuals, not only for our personal behavior, but for the conduct of the group of which we are a part.

Now in any year, a rabbi faces a very grave responsibility in deciding what message he shall bring his people on a night like this.  He is haunted by the realization that at no other time will he face so large and so representative a gathering of his congregation, in so earnest a mood.  And this year that decision has been much more difficult than ordinarily.  In such a world as we confront, in such an age when the cumulative iniquity of many decades is being expiated on global battlefields, when the problems facing Israel abroad and at home were never before so urgent and complex, so bewildering and crucial, it has been necessary to choose a subject for discussion tonight with critical and prayerful discrimination from a list of important priorities.

In the all too inadequate time at our disposal, let me invite you to consider with me a theme which – next to the winning of the war – I hold to be of transcendent and paramount importance to American and world Jewry: a subject in the determination of which every one of us bears an immediate and deep personal responsibility: What shall be the status of the Jew in the postwar world?  Let none of us admit to indifference on that question.  Depend upon it, no more serious issue will face us as Jews during our lifetime and the lives of our children.

I suspect that it is not necessary for me to remind you that this question has been the most prominent single issue before the American Jewish community during the past year.  It has headed the agenda of every important Jewish meeting in our land.  It has filled the columns of the English-Jewish press and overflowed into the news and advertising sections of the daily newspapers.  It has been discussed guardedly in Pullman smokers, argued vigorously in drawing rooms, shouted violently in metropolitan auditoriums, and thundered imperiously into continental microphones.  It is the rock upon which American Jewry has been cleft into two distinct and determined groups.  Let us try, without heat or animus, and above all, without recourse to the intemperate and abusive language which most unfortunately constituted the major vocabulary of this debate, to present the opposing views of the two schools of thought on this question.

We begin with the Jewish nationalists.  They are organized in a society known as the Zionist Organization of America.  It has been in existence for forty-six years, has local chapters throughout the country, and is extremely active, articulate and militant.  At the annual Zionist convention held in Columbus, Ohio, last month, the official membership was announced as 67,000.  In addition, there is a Zionist Youth Group and the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, known as Hadassah, both of them auxiliaries of the parent organization.

The program of the Jewish nationalists for the Jews in the postwar world is simply stated.  It was summarized at the recent American Jewish Conference in New York by their most brilliant orator, the very able co-chairman of the American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.  Said Rabbi Silver, “There is but one solution to our national homelessness, which is the source of our millennial tragedy, and that is a national home.”  Palestine, of course, is to be the Jewish State.  It is to be autonomous, with its own Jewish army, navy, and all the implementation of a modern sovereign national state.

But since there are presently over a million Arabs in Palestine as against less than half a million Jews, how is this to be accomplished?  The Zionists propose that Great Britain turn over to the Jewish Agency the sole control and direction of immigration into Palestine.

At this point it is highly important to bear in mind that the program for the re-establishment of the Jewish State is no longer to be regarded as a philanthropic or humanitarian enterprise.  This may be startling to many American Jews who have hitherto cooperated with the project through powerful humanitarian motives: the eager desire to provide a place of refuge for bitterly persecuted and harassed European Jews.

Rabbi Silver was very emphatic on this new orientation of Zionist principles.  In his closing address, which was described by many as the climax of the Conference, and a masterpiece of oratory, he made this declaration, underscoring it as the only point he wished to make.  I quote: “If we rely solely on the refugee-philanthropic appeal,” he said, “we shall lose our case as well as do violence to the historic hopes of our people.  On the basis of sheer philanthropy, of satisfying pressing immigration needs, Palestine has already done its full share for Jewish refugees.  It is because Palestine is the Jewish homeland that we have the right to insist upon unrestricted immigration.”  Nothing could be plainer or more frankly unequivocal.  American Jewry is now asked to support the Zionist aims, not on the basis of providing an asylum for refugees from persecution, but definitely and unqualifiedly upon political grounds.

Moreover, the Zionist claims regarding the solidarity of American Jewry behind this political program are formidable and serious.  Rabbi Israel Goldstein, who has just been elected president of the Zionist Organization of America, summarized in his inaugural address last month, the articles of faith which Zionists hold in common.  “No Jew,” he declared, “is a normal Jew who is not a Zionist.”  Furthermore, “Judaism as a religion,” he continued, “is colorless and without personality unless it is informed by Zionist content.”  And Judge Louis E. Levinthal, the retiring president of the Zionist organization, in the annual message which he delivered to the Columbus convention, made this very grave and dogmatic declaration.  I quote: “We have claimed that Zionist ideals and aspirations are shared by nearly all American Jews.  That claim has now been substantiated.”

To be sure, Judge Levinthal did not presume to base such a sweeping and categorical statement upon the figures to the convention, which disclosed that the total Zionist membership in America is 67,000 out of more than five million Jews.  What he was referring to was the resolution on Jewish nationalism, recently passed at the American Jewish Conference in New York, which claimed to be a democratically elected legislative body empowered to speak authoritatively for the entire Jewish community of the United States.

The temptation is great to challenge that claim.  I shall only do so now to the extent of saying that from start to finish that New York Conference was deliberately organized and set up in a way to guarantee complete Zionist control at every point.  At no time throughout the entire proceedings was discussion permitted from the floor.  The resolution on Jewish nationalism was never even submitted to the most important committee of the Conference, the General Committee, which contained a number of prominent non-Zionists.  And if further commentary on the democratic and representative character of this assembly is required, an assembly which claims to have honestly and authoritatively represented the Jews of the United States of America, it is only necessary to point out that more than half of the thirty-nine addresses delivered from the platform were spoken in Yiddish, and that about ninety percent of the speeches urged the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

Revealing too, of the tactics that were employed, is this singular incident which is of special interest to this congregation and community.  One of the San Francisco delegates, a past president of this congregation and a non-Zionist, was unable, at the last moment, to attend the convention and never appeared.  He had volunteered his services to the United States Army and had already reported for duty.  During the Conference, an innocent comment by another member of the San Francisco delegation developed the astonishing information that Mr. Dinkelspiel was registered as being present, and that his credentials, including his vote, had been turned over to someone, who, to this day, remains anonymous.  Yet it is on the basis of such a vote, taken at such a Zionist-planned and Zionist-dominated conference that we, and the entire American public, are asked to believe that “now all American Jews share the ideals and aspirations of the Zionist Organization of America.”

Such is the position, which I have tried to state in the identical language of its authorized spokesmen, of Jewish nationalism.  Let us now examine the position of those who dissent from these views.

Their attitude is represented by an organization known as the American Council for Judaism.  It was organized a few months ago at the suggestion of about ninety Reform rabbis who, for a long time, had as individuals rejected the philosophy and opposed the program of Jewish nationalism.  In recent weeks, the organization has established headquarters in Philadelphia and announced a national committee, under the presidency of Mr. Lessing Rosenwald.  Despite the terrific abuse and misrepresentation to which it has been subjected (including a ban of excommunication), the American Council for Judaism is growing with astonishing rapidity as American Jews are learning of its existence, and becoming acquainted with its principles.

The central conviction of the American Council is that the basis of unity among Jews is not political nationalism, but religion.  The Council contends that Jews should and do consider themselves nationals of those countries in which they live, and those lands their homelands.  It sees the Jewish problem, tragic and appalling as it is, in the last analysis a part of the world problem.  Eventually it will have to be settled in those countries where Jews reside.  The creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, the Council maintains, will not solve the problem of Jews living in other countries.  On the contrary, it may well aggravate them.

It will not even solve the problems of the Jews in Palestine.  Certainly it will not contribute to an amicable or just or democratic settlement of the friction between Arabs and Jews.  In this connection the Council calls attention to the fact that the serious restrictions against Jewish immigration into Palestine resulted from a long series of riots, assassinations and bloody clashes between an intensified Jewish nationalism and a defensive Arab nationalism.

What is the attitude of the American Council toward Palestine?  This has been so grossly misrepresented that clarification is urgently needed.  The American Council supports whole-heartedly the cultural, economic, industrial, agricultural and religious development of the Holy Land.  It regards as discriminatory and unfair the British White Paper which proposes to freeze the Jewish population of Palestine at its present level.  But it believes that it is not alone unjust, but injurious to the best interests of Jews generally and the best interests of Palestine Jews especially, to demand that regardless of their minority status, they be given control of the country and established as a political Jewish state.

It believes that Jews and Arabs working harmoniously together in Palestine, under a democratic form of government, democratically arrived at, which shall afford equal protection and opportunity to all men regardless of race, nationality or creed, represents an equitable solution of the problem in harmony with the ideals of the Four Freedoms for which we are fighting.  The Council maintains that Palestine is one of the countries to which Jews ought to be permitted to immigrate if they desire.  But at the same time, it calls upon the United Nations to liberalize the opportunities for all persecuted and uprooted peoples of Europe to re-establish themselves in their former homes if that is what they want, or to find homes after the war in other lands if they wish to emigrate.

This differs very significantly from the Zionist position.  Speaking at the American Jewish Conference in New York, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, one of the most influential Zionist leaders, revealed the official Zionist mind on this question.  “Whatever else we demand of the world tomorrow,” he said, “equality of rights, protection of minorities, punishment of criminals – is not specifically Jewish.  It is the application of the elementary principles of democracy to the Jewish people.  There is one specific demand we have to make today – and that is the demand to end the anomalous position of the Jewish people and to allow us to live as a normal people.”  Now the American Council is not asking for such exceptional privileges and favors for Jews.  It will be content, quite content, with, in Mr. Goldmann’s own language, “the elementary principles of democracy” to protect the civil, economic, and religious freedoms of all men, Jews as well as non-Jews, in the postwar world.

Moreover, the American Council does not subscribe to the principle, so fundamental in Zionist thinking, of the “homelessness” of the Jewish community.  Even if it were true, which it is not, that we all regard ourselves as being in “galut” – in exile – certainly a Jewish state would not solve the problem.  According to the Zionists’ own estimates, after the war the probable total Jewish population in the world will be about fourteen million.  Five million of them are in America.  Do we consider ourselves homeless?  Do we wish to be reconstituted in Palestine as a nation?  Another five million are in Russia. Are they homeless?  Do they wish to be reconstituted in Palestine as a nation?  Do the Jews of Great Britain, Canada, Mexico, Holland, Belgium, France, Turkey, the South American nations, South Africa, consider themselves homeless?  Do they want to be reconstituted in Palestine as a nation?

Now it may be that the Zionists are correct in their sweeping assertion that political nationalism represents the goal and ideal of practically all the Jews in the world.  It is possible that the American Council for Judaism is deluding itself when it denies that claim, particularly as far as American Jewry is concerned.  But in any case, the problem is not as simple as the expertly facile pen of Maurice Samuel slants it in the September American Mercury.  The article opens with consternation at “the bewildering spectacle of Jews banded together to prevent other Jews from acquiring a national homeland in Palestine.”  Might one suggest that a little more historical perspective and a little less hysterical invective would bring the really “bewildering spectacle” in this situation into proper focus?

For here is an astonishing paradox with no parallel in history – ninety-six percent of a people who are all nationals of other countries demanding a separate state for themselves, when practically none of the ninety-six percent remotely intends or desires to live in it!

One might think that the Zionist claims of homelessness would surely apply, of all people, to the persecuted and tortured Jews of Poland.  The savagery and brutality of the Nazi slaughter of Polish Jewry, where probably more than one million people were exterminated, is of all the black pages in the record of this war the foulest.  By the same token, when the history of this struggle is written, one of its noblest paragraphs will be devoted to the gallant resistance of the Warsaw Jewish ghetto against the German troops.  William Zukerman, who for twenty years was the Chief European Correspondent of the New York Jewish Morning Journal, tells that story in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine.  By April 19th of this year, the more than six hundred thousand Jews crowded into the unspeakably vile ghetto of Warsaw, had been reduced by famine, epidemics and mass murder to 35,000.  Those remaining Jews obtained arms secretly through underground channels.  At a prearranged signal they offered open resistance to the Nazis.  For one long month the struggle raged until nearly every house in the district had been razed to rubble, and from twenty to twenty-five thousand Jews had been slain.

Now, surely one might think that if there were Jews anywhere in the world who considered themselves homeless, and passionately desired a Jewish state of their own, they could be found among this heroic remnant. Listen to William Zukerman on this point:

The heroic men and women who died on the barricades of Warsaw belonged to a section of Jews who held that their home was in the countries where they had been born, had worked, and had contributed to wealth and culture.  They passionately resented the claim of Hitler and other anti-Semites that the Jews were aliens everywhere and that the solution of the Jewish problem lay in the removal of the Jews from their present homes to a national home or state of their own.  To them the future of the European Jews after the war lay in Europe, in the homes which they had loved and fought for.  They always opposed the various plans made by their charitable brothers overseas for their evacuation after the war.

There you have it.  Nothing could be more completely devastating to the Zionist contention of Jewish homelessness.

I said at the outset of my address that this holy day charges us with the obligation to assume personal responsibility for our conduct and decisions.  The postwar status of the Jews is a concern that affects deeply and intimately and permanently the lives of every one of you here tonight, and of your children and children’s children.  You cannot be silent and indifferent on this issue!

I do not plead with you tonight on behalf of either of these two important movements by which American Jews are identifying their loyalties.  Let me confine my appeal to the moral obligation that rests upon every one of you to make a decision in this matter and to take your place on one side or the other.  If you believe in the homelessness of the Jewish people, that nationality and race are the determining and unique features of Judaism, that the Jews ought to have their own state and army, and that such a political arrangement will solve the Jewish problem, then I urge you by all means to register your convictions where they will be effective, and join the Zionist Organization of America and the Hadassah.

But if, on the other hand, you believe that the Jews ought to be and are nationals of those countries in which they dwell, that we are essentially and uniquely united by a common historic faith and a deathless allegiance to religious values, that the Jewish problem is part of the world problem and can only be solved by the just application of democratic principles which shall give to all men civic and religious freedom, regardless of race or creed, and that the Jewish community in Palestine ought to be encouraged and aided to work out its relationship to the Arab and Christian Palestinians on the basis of these democratic principles, then you should join the American Council for Judaism and make your opinion effective through that organization.

I do not believe that the sixty-seven thousand members of the Zionist organization are qualified to declare that they represent the settled and responsible convictions of the five million Jews of America.  I challenge the claim that the American Jewish Conference, which displayed the Zionist flag at equal size and prominence as the American flag, which conducted much of its proceedings in Yiddish, with hardly a word of prayer or a religious reference, and very little concern for any of the problems besetting world Jewry other than a Jewish political state in Palestine, mirrored the true sentiments of the five million Jews of America.  I protest as a misleading and dangerous distortion of truth the implication that American Jews are fighting and dying, not so much to secure a just and lasting peace under the Four Freedoms for all men everywhere, not so much for love of America and devotion to it as their homeland, as for special rights and favors and privileges for Jews that go beyond “the elementary principles of democracy.”

Posted in American Jewish Community

{ 38 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. just says:

    “For here is an astonishing paradox with no parallel in history – ninety-six percent of a people who are all nationals of other countries demanding a separate state for themselves, when practically none of the ninety-six percent remotely intends or desires to live in it!”

    Sad that this sermon was ignored– the ‘ears’ are even more willfully deaf today than they were in 1943. Clearly, there has been no atonement for the ongoing sins of the Zionists or their government.

    RIP, Rabbi Irving Reichert.

  2. Chu says:

    1943 American Zionist Emergency Council

    2010 Emergency Committee for Israel

    It’s always an emergency with Zionists. Keep
    the clan stressed out about destruction and
    they’ll agree the plans.

    I’m sure AIPAC operates in the same manner
    with elected officials. Lay the guilt trip that if
    they don’t act, they may help to destroy the
    ever expanding Jewish state.

  3. bilal a says:

    “which displayed the Zionist flag at equal size and prominence as the American flag, which conducted much of its proceedings in Yiddish, with hardly a word of prayer or a religious reference [universal ethical foundation]”

    Here the Rabbi early on identifies American Zionism as not a light unto the world, but secretive and foreign, a nationalism of narcissism with symbols of mixed loalties, and containing a secularism profoundly indifferent to the religion of Judaism itself; anti-moral anti-Judaism :

    Rabbi Moshe Kaplan: ““When they stole the term Jew from those who practice Judaism, they were not satisfied,” …. “Their latest decree to conscript all our precious rabbinical students into their military institutions, which are rife with immorality and profligacy, is their latest attempt to exterminate the remnants of genuine Judaism.” ”
    link to midhudsonnews.com

    Isnt the NPR-ish cultural system as a whole, zionist nationalism being merely the tip of the sword, Assimilating us all into profligacy and anti-theism? That seems to be its raison d’etre.

  4. dimadok says:

    Speaking on behalf of dying Jews in Europe and Russia, making claims for their non-Zionist affections presents a clear example of Jewish American ignorance and arrogance during WWII, explaining the shock and awe of the post-war revelations. Mr. Weiss should learn that lesson in present righteousness and arrogance of this site and his followers.
    ! בברכת גמר חתימה טובה

    • Steve C says:

      Reichert had good information about horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto, and there is no reason to doubt his suggestion that they “passionately resented the claim of Hitler and other anti-Semites that the Jews were aliens everywhere”.
      Reichert’s prescience is well proven throughout this sermon. Jews now live in every western democracy, where they are there protected “by the just application of democratic principles which shall give to all men civic and religious freedom, regardless of race or creed”. Just as accurate was his prediction that the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine “will not even solve the problems of the Jews in Palestine. Certainly it will not contribute to an amicable or just or democratic settlement of the friction between Arabs and Jews.” After 65 years of bloodshed and war, Israel can’t reasonably be considered to be much of a safe haven.

    • Elliot says:

      @Dimdaok – “Speaking on behalf of dying Jews in Europe and Russia, making claims for their non-Zionist affections presents a clear example of Jewish American ignorance and arrogance”
      Speaking on behalf of dying Jews in Europe and Russia, making claims for their non-Zionist affections presents a clear example of Israeli Jewish American ignorance and arrogance.

    • American says:

      dimadok says:
      September 13, 2013 at 11:07 am

      Speaking on behalf of dying Jews in Europe and Russia””>>>

      What are Jews dying of today in Europe and Russia other than natural causes or old age?

  5. pabelmont says:

    Thanks for uncovering and re-printing this amazing sermon. Speaking as one of the present members of the 99.9% (and 96% who do not intend to visit Israel), I say that the world is in trouble — as we all know — when tiny minorities rule and huge majorities are railroaded. Amen.

  6. Woody Tanaka says:

    “present righteousness and arrogance”

    Nonsense. What you are referencing is this site’s character and principles, which recognizes the wrongs done to the Palestinians by the zionists, a sin which you continue to excuse and commit.

  7. MHughes976 says:

    The phrases that most caught my eye were from Goldmann: ‘nothing specifically Jewish’; ‘application of the elementary principles of democracy to the Jewish people’. These words surely imply that the same principles should be applied to the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. How could anyone imagine that Zionism could achieve this?
    There again, the principles of democracy do not apply to ‘peoples’ but to people: they call for a certain kind of equality among the citizens of a state, or subjects of a sovereign power, absolutely not for the partitioning of the citizen body along lines of religion or ancestry.

  8. seafoid says:

    link to digicoll.library.wisc.edu

    Page 628
    The minister in Iraq (Henderson) to the Secretary of State
    Baghdad November 1 1944

    “They find it difficult to reconcile themselves to the belief that the the US merely for the sake of internal political experiency is favoring a course in Palestine which in their opinion not only would be unjust but would undoubtedly lead to bloodshed and misery for all concerned. They can perceive no reason for the recent pronouncements and promises of American government and political leaders who should have a complete understanding of the Palestine situation other than a desire to obtain the support of the american Zionists. They are asking whether it is possible that American foreign policy in the future is to be shaped in such a manner as to meet the demands of private pressure groups possessed of ample funds and exercising control over American channels of information. “

  9. Eurosabra says:

    I think, in reply to this, that you should read Abba Kovner’s “Letter to the Jewish Partisans” and understand why an Eretz Israeli solution to the Jewish Question became necessary in the eyes of those who fought in the ghettos, so glibly cited by the clueless American Jews above. Further evidence, for our German readers, is available in the form of this link:
    link to blog.zeit.de

    There was no Jewish future in Eastern Europe, and since these particular American Jews could not promise to open the gates Jewish for refugees, had not done it, and (in the period 1945-56, when it was most crucial) did not do it except for a few anti-Communist escapees, and certainly did not do it for the Jews of the Arab world, except for the “too little, too late” 1992 Syrian-brokered deal, they were talking piffle and are best left on the scrap heap of history.

    • RoHa says:

      “There was no Jewish future in Eastern Europe”

      This was unfortunate, but does not justify the Zionist intention to set up a Jewish-supremacy state in Palestine.

      “and certainly did not do it for the Jews of the Arab world”

      Were it not for Zionism, the Arab Jews would have been able to carry on living comfortably in their homelands.

      • yrn says:

        “Were it not for Zionism, the Arab Jews would have been able to carry on living comfortably in their homelands.”
        I am sure Syria would be their favorite or religious tolerant Egypt.

        • RoHa says:

          The current position includes Zionism as a factor.

          Of course Jews in the Arab world face the possible – and from time to time real – danger of social instability. So do Christians and Muslims. Why should Jews get special security arrangements?

        • Citizen says:

          @ Rolla
          HS gives 98% of its HS federal grants to Jewish organizations to protect America’s Jewish communities (2% of US demography, at best) from terrorism. The other 98% of Americans are just chopped liver.

      • Eurosabra says:

        I thank the Morocco and Iraq of 1951 for giving me the IDF of 1967. History happened. Indeed, the best effort to sabotage Zionism might have been a concerted Arab effort to retain the Jewish population as a part of society, despite the obvious unpopularity of what would inevitably have been seen as privileging some Jews over the Arab masses.

    • Elliot says:

      American Jews could not promise to open the gates Jewish for refugees, had not done it
      Britain alone took in 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi countries – not counting adults – in the nine months before WWII broke out in Europe (December 1938 – August 1939). OTOH, Jewish immigration to Palestine was restricted to 10,000 per year during the war years.
      If you add all the countries that did take in Jewish refugees in the Americas, it is clear that considerably more European Jews found sanctuary outside Palestine than inside it.
      There is no proof that in the hypothetical case that a Jewish state had existed in Palestine, that more Jews would have survived. Other hypotheticals undermine that assertion. The State of Israel has yet to prove itself on its principal mission of being a safe haven for Jews. On the contrary, the Israeli Jewish community is the most precarious major Jewish community in the world today. Perhaps that is why the majority of Jews, before, during and after the Holocaust preferred to stay outside Israel, including, as Rabbi Reichert pointed out, American Jewish Zionists.

      • Eurosabra says:

        As Palestine was under the control of the British, every Jew who made it in was a failure of the British system of control and plans for the Jews, post-White Paper. It is irrelevant to speak of a failure of Zionist immigration policy before the state to implement that policy existed.

        The State of Israel arose as a result of mass immigration of Jews as a result of the necessity of the Jewish condition and it was consolidated by the flight of Jews and other nations’ decisions to send it their Jews and it continues to draw Jews from distressed communities around the globe.

        Perhaps the part of the American Jewish community you represent should dissolve the Jewish people and elect another.

        • Elliot says:

          Perhaps the part of the American Jewish community you represent should dissolve the Jewish people and elect another.
          ‘Dissolving’ was the Zionists solution to their own internalized anti -Semitism. To undo Jewish civilization and create a new people, proud, strong and sunburnt. Not like their pale, fearful, parents and grandparents.
          I like Jews and Judaism just the way they are. I am happy to see it begin to take back what Zionism took away.

        • andrew r says:

          The way you phrase your arguments is somewhat interesting — they’re not based on factual merit so much as the views of certain people in an ascribed position of moral authority. Nevermind the logistical feasibility of Palestine as a refuge during the late 19th/early 20th centuries, “those who fought in the ghettos” knew better than “these particular American Jews” that Eretz Israel was the solution.

          There’s just one problem — The complete lack of any rational basis for assuming Palestine could accommodate more than a few hundred thousand additional people. During the 1850′s, Palestine was an exporter of wheat; starting in the 20′s, it had to import, and now Israel imports most of its cereals, fish and beef.[1] As you probably know, an Israel of 1 million people circa 1950′s adopted an austerity program.

          Anyone who really does their homework on Zionism would understand the major bodies responsible for settling Palestine never intended to physically transplant the European Jewish communities and wanted to create a new Jewish body from the best elements of the old. The Palestine Office, founded by Ruppin, had a selective policy of placing Jews in the settlements and aiding their departure from Europe, and even sent back those who turned out to be unfit. [2] The idea that Zionism was a rescue mission foiled by the Arabs is propaganda.

          [1] link to haaretz.com

          [2] link to tau.ac.il (p. 260, 304)

          All immigrants who became ill or were injured irreversibly during their stay in Palestine were forced by the PO and, later, by the Jewish Agency, to return to their ports of origin and for this purpose the authorities even agreed to pay for the ticket and other necessary expenses. From the beginning of the 1920s, those who were forced to leave included the chronically sick, who had already been ill in their countries of origin, victims of work accidents who could no longer support themselves, and also large families whose provider had died or become crippled and
          who were left with no means of support. By this method, among others, the PO and the Jewish Agency fostered the healthy “elements” and weeded out the weak and the ill, in the spirit of Ruppin’s eugenic planning.

    • Steve C says:

      I’m sure there were many European Jews during the war who accepted the logic of Antisemitism; that Jews could never live peaceably within other nations. The racist horrors of that conflict were incredibly traumatic. But the point is that by either staying in place or emigrating to other Western nations, European Jews generally did not accept that a Jewish State was their only hope for a safe haven. The evidence of Western Zionist groups in the US and elsewhere blocking Jewish refugees from being resettled outside of Israel also shows that even after the War, Jews did not uniformly see Israel as their best option.
      Almost 70 years after the War, more Jews continue to live outside of Israel than within it. A sizable population has even chosen to remain in Iran. The ability of Jews to survive and thrive as a minority population is not substantially different from that of any other ethnic group. Consequently, there is no ‘need’ for a Jewish Homeland/Jewish ethnocracy.

      • yrn says:

        Typical logic of Jewish American Generation, that lived comfortable in 1920 and on in the US.

        • tree says:

          yrn,

          The majority of the Jewish inhabitants of the Displaced Persons Camps chose not to go to Palestine/Israel. This was despite the fact that Zionist organizations who were in charge of the camps punished those Jews who refused to volunteer for the Haganah, and denigrated those Jews who expressed no interest in going to Palestine/Israel.

          link to zcommunications.org

          You might want to read Yosef Grodzinsky’s book, “In the Shadow of the Holocaust: The Struggle Between Jews and Zionists in the Aftermath of World War II”.

          And these days there are estimates as high as 1 million Israeli Jews who are living outside the country. That’s one sixth of the country’s Jewish population.

        • Elliot says:

          @yrn – the attitude you take wrt American Jews is not unusual in Israel. I had to come to the U.S. myself to understand that part of the Israeli mind. Your sneer strikes me as an adolescent rebellion: “give us your money, your love and support while we go off and do whatever the hell we want, because you don’t understand anything anyway.”

        • Eurosabra says:

          65 years after the partition resolution, all Palestinians live outside a Palestinian state. Therefore it is not necessary?

        • ziusudra says:

          …..typical logic of J.A. Generation that lived comfortable in 1920 & on in the US……
          yrn, is that so?
          90% of all Euro living Americans have Grannies having been born there.
          We & the confessors to Judaism all enjoy a better life.
          Pssst, me thinks, there was a Judaist on one of the first ships to Mass. in the 17thC. Mankind take his opportunities where he finds them.
          The majority of Judaists in the US are salaried just like other ethnicities & they struggle like us all.
          ziusudra

  10. American says:

    Rabbi Reichert- visionary or common sense born of experience or of religious conviction?–some of all likely.

    Geo Washington- visionary or born of his experience–I’d say both.

    Washington’s Farewell Address 1796
    ”All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
    However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

    So why dont people listen? Stupidity, ego, what? Maybe the Rabbi nailed it here:…
    “reminds us that we are responsible as individuals, not only for our personal behavior, but for the conduct of the group of which we are a part.”
    People shirk their responsibility for things they think dont affect them personally—-but then it eventually ends up affecting them and everyone.

    Constant, constant vigilance is how we have to live..we should know that by now.

    • jon s says:

      I don’t know whether Rabbi Reichert, speaking in San Francisco in Oct. 43, was misinformed, or was deliberately misleading the congregation. In any case he was wrong in his generalization that the ghetto fighters were not Zionists.
      There were two Jewish resistance organizations in the Warsaw Ghetto: the main group was the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), which was basically a coalition of all Jewish youth movements in the ghetto with the exception of the Revisionists. They chose Mordecai Anielewicz , a member of Hashomer Hatzair (left-wing Zionist) as commander.
      The Revisionist youth movement , Beitar, (right-wing Zionists) maintained an independent organization, the Jewish Military Union (ZZW). The commander was Pawel Frenkel.

      In the uprising all the fighters fought heroically, shoulder to shoulder, Zionists and non-Zionists (Bundists, Communists, Orthodox…), but both commanders, and a sizable proportion of the fighters were Zionists. Indeed, some of those who survived the uprising came to Israel and established the Lohamei Hagetaot (Ghetto Fighters) Kibbutz.

      • Elliot says:

        Jon S – “a sizable proportion of the fighters were Zionists.” If you grew up on standard Zionist education as I did, you would believe that all the ghetto fighters were Zionists, or at least all the ones that mattered. And, unlike Rabbi Reichert who was working with news reports out of occupied Europe, I got my information many years after the events. Dr. Marek Adelman was asked once why Mordechai Anielwicz, the Zionist, was made commander of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. He answered: “he really wanted it, so we gave it to him.”
        Reichert’s quote of Zuckerman’s analysis is sound. European anti-Semites and Zionists agreed that Jews did not belong in Europe. The fact that there were some Zionists in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising is not the point. Just like the fact that there were indeed some Zionists in America in 1943.
        Rabbi Reichert was making the case that a small Zionist minority lied, manipulated and tricked American Jews into identifying with Zionism. And that they did so by distorting the news from Europe.
        That critique stands.

  11. Elliot says:

    Jack, Thank you for finding this sermon and posting it today. This sheds new light on how American Jews got caught up in Zionism. So many important observations here, such as, the contrast between Rabbi Reichert’s religious vision and the secular nationalism of the Zionists and the machinations of the unelected minority that falsely claims to speak for the majority. Great stuff.

  12. Naftush says:

    Cheerleaders, go home. In his speech, Rabbi Reichert represented, or perhaps parroted, the last gasp of classical Reform repudiation of Jewishness as a nationality. Within his own movement even then, voices were rising against his doctrinaire blindness and the lives that it may have been costing. Elsewhere, the Jews’ enemies had no difficulty pinpointing the Jews’ national fundamental and citing it as grounds for their actions. Within a few years of the speech, the mainstream Reform shifted toward Zionism and today numbers among its staunch supports and demands its share in the enterprise.

    • Elliot says:

      @Naftush
      “the lives that it may have been costing”.
      If you know how Classical Reform opposition to Zionism cost lives, then let us know. When? How many? Who? Where?
      Classical Reform’s opposition to Zionism was in line with the foundations of Reform Judaism going back to the 19th century. After 1948, all the other Jewish options to political Zionism, in America and Israel, faded. Ben Gurion won. In the State of Israel, Martin Buber’s cultural Zionist bi-nationalim also became irrelevant. (For that matter, anything except Labor Zionism became irrelevant; revisionist Zionism too, went into the wilderness for the next three decades.)
      But as these visionary thinkers saw 70 years ago and more, if you leave the Palestinians out of the Jewish political plan, you end up with endless conflict.
      That’s why Reichert and other detractors of Ben Gurion and Goldmann are still so relevant today. They were there when all this got started and, as we now know, saw things much more clearly than Ben Gurion did.
      They were right. Morally,for sure, and as we see today, politically too.

    • RoHa says:

      “repudiation of Jewishness as a nationality”

      Since even the most ardent apologists for Zionism on this site have not been able to make clear what they mean by claiming that Jews are a nation, repudiating the concept seems a reasonable option.

  13. jon s says:

    RoHa, my trusty Webster dictionary defines “nation” thus:

    “1.a stable community of people with a territory, history, culture and language in common. 2.people united under a single goverment; country.”

    The Zionists saw the Jewish people as a community that pretty much fit the definition , at least #1.

    • Shmuel says:

      “1.a stable community of people with a territory, history, culture and language in common.” … The Zionists saw the Jewish people as a community that pretty much fit the definition , at least #1.

      Really? Are we talking about the same Jewish people? We didn’t live together, have a common history, culture or language.

      I doubt that nice Mr. Webster meant a territory hardly any of the “community” actually lived in, a partial ancient mytho-history, a somewhat varied religious culture and a (mostly) common liturgical language. What he obviously meant was people who live in the same place, speak the same language, eat the same foods, wear the same kinds of clothes, play the same music — you know, a community, a nation. The Zionists had to work hard to create such things as Jewish “folk” music and dance and other characteristics of “nations”.

    • RoHa says:

      “trusty Webster dictionary”

      The Oxford English Dictionary is the only one that counts.

      “The Zionists saw the Jewish people as a community that pretty much fit the definition”

      Compare them with the Finns.
      The Finns were a group with a common first language and shared customs and traditions.
      The vast majority of them inhabited a single, specific, coherent, territory in the Russian Empire. (The Grand Duchy of Finland)
      Finns made up the vast majority of the population of that territory, and had done for centuries.

      Now look at the Jews when Zionism was cooked up.
      No single, specific, coherent, territory where the vast majority of them lived.
      No single, specific, coherent, territory where the vast majority of the population were Jews.
      The History of European Jews was different form that of (e.g.) Arabic Jews.
      They had varied customs and traditions.
      They had no common language. Jews conducted their daily business in a variety of languages. (Hebrew as a liturgical language does not make Jews a nation any more than Latin as a liturgical language makes Catholics a nation.)

      So on the Webster definition, total fail.

      • seafoid says:

        Just look at the Hasidic Jews with their 17th century Polish winter outfits in the heat of the Middle East. Yes, they always lived there.

        link to ynetnews.com

        And they ate the same food and sang the same songs as the Bukharian Jews. Of course they did.