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

By Thomas A. Kolsky | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
The Council's Wartime Anti-Zionist Campaign

The Opening Battles

By the end of August 1943, both sides were mobilized. The publication of the Council's platform during the American Jewish Conference sparked open political warfare between anti-Zionists and Zionists. With their objectives clearly defined, both sides embarked on campaigns to win support for their respective causes as well as to discredit their opponents. Several acrimonious encounters between protagonists of the opposing sides late in 1943 and early in 1944 reflected the bitterness of the conflict.

Rabbi Reichert's Yom Kippur eve sermon in San Francisco on 8 October 1943, asking his congregation to choose between the ZOA and the ACJ, evoked a harsh Zionist response. On 18 November 1943, in a speech delivered at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, Rabbi Heller defended the American Jewish Conference, rejected Reichert's arguments against the Zionist movement, and sharply attacked the Council. Heller said it was morally irresponsible for the ACJ to question the Zionists' loyalty to America. "Should there ever be a Commonwealth in Palestine," he asserted, "we should owe it no political allegiance. Zionists want it for those who are now there, and for those who will go there, God willing, after the war." Evoking the memory of Brandeis, he argued that Zionism and loyalty to America were compatible. He warned that the attempt to organize the ACJ in San Francisco was "a tragic error" that would hurt the Jewish community in Palestine. 1

On 26 November 1943, in Richmond, Virginia, Elmer Berger and Maurice Samuel hotly debated the Zionist issue. Samuel, who in the September issue of the American Mercury -- in a rejoinder to Rosenwald's June 1943 article in Life -- had dismissed the Council president's arguments as identical to those of the Jewish anti-Zionists of 1917, presented the standard Zionist arguments. In his reply to Samuel, Berger not only rejected the notions of Jewish nationality and homelessness but also argued that the

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