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

By Thomas A. Kolsky | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
The Formation of the American Council for Judaism

The Dissidents Form an Organization

Thirteen rabbis assembled at Wolsey's Temple Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia on 2 November 1942 to explore plans for creating a formal organization. Rabbi Goldenson came accompanied by Sidney Wallach, a public-relations expert and former employee of the AJC, who brought along a proposal for immediate action. Describing their movement as the last stand against the rapid progress of Zionism, Wallach warned the rabbis of the dire consequences of its failure. Since Zionists were organized, the opposition also had to organize. Wallach recommended a public-relations program for fighting Zionism that called for a campaign to educate the Jewish community about the predominantly political nature of Zionism and offered to direct the group's public-relations work for an annual fee of $7,200 to $7,500. 1

When they began to deliberate, the rabbis, in a now-familiar pattern, quickly split into two factions, one stressing a pro-Reform position, the other emphasizing anti-Zionism. But after a long discussion, the group agreed to raise $25,000 within a month; to engage Wallach, on a contingent basis, to prepare a program; and to appoint a special committee under Lazaron's chairmanship to formulate the objectives of the proposed organization as well as to decide on a name for it. 2

Reactions to the meeting within the larger circle of the dissidents were mixed. Some were quite happy. Lazaron, for example, satisfied with developments, came to think of Wolsey's group as a "band of prophets." But serious reservations arose about engaging Wallach. Insisting on pure methods of operation, Rabbi Ephraim Frisch objected to the very notion of forming permanent ties with a public-relations man. He preferred a rabbi to serve as the group's executive secretary and even suggested Elmer Berger for such a position. A majority of the rabbis soon reached similiar conclusions. The Wallach controversy, however, revealed the difficulties the dissidents were

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