Jews against Zionism: The American Council for Judaism, 1942-1948

By Thomas A. Kolsky | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The Rebellion of the Dissident Reform Rabbis

The Growth of Zionist Militancy in the United States

The extraordinary intensification of Zionist activities in the United States after the outbreak of the war in Europe in 1939 provoked an American Jewish anti-Zionist reaction. Its most serious manifestation was the emergence in 1942 of a Reform rabbinical resistance movement against Zionism, in reaction to passage by the CCAR of a resolution favoring creation of a Jewish army in Palestine. The rebellious rabbis were not wild-eyed radicals, but respectable defenders of American classical Reform Judaism.

Although, at its peak, no more than thirty-six rabbis participated actively in the dissident movement, these few formed two main schools of thought: One wanted to uphold Reform Judaism by concentrating on revitalizing it; the other, by openly fighting Zionism. Moreover, all these men were plagued by fears of splitting the CCAR, polarizing their congregations, and appearing insensitive to the great peril confronting European Jewry. Indecisive, they argued endlessly among themselves. Only Rabbi Louis Wolsey's strong leadership prevented the early demise of the rebellion. After more than eight months of endless wavering and delays, the dissidents finally decided to form an organization to promote their views.

The growth of Zionist militancy in the United States was closely related to events in Europe. As Nazism cast its shadow across Europe in the late 1930s, the condition of European Jewry steadily deteriorated. Between 1933 and 1938 the Nazis concentrated on evicting the Jews from Germany. From 1938 to 1941 they were interested in ridding themselves of Jews in the areas that had come under their control, but apparently they had no plans for mass murder. Their decision to commit mass killings, culminating in the death of about a million people by December 1941, was made sometime in March of that year. 1

By the late 1930s most areas of refuge for Jews were closed. In the United States, despite expressions of sympathy for the victims of Nazi

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