Sunday, June 03, 2012

How Wise of Peter Beinart

No, that is not Peter Beinart.  But it is one of his heroes.

Rabbi Stephen Wise.

He was

"cautious and ineffective" in his response to news of the Holocaust

Even a HUC head, a Reform Rabbi himself, had this to say about Reform Rabbi Wise:

Rabbi Stephen Wise, the most prominent US Jewish leader during World War II, failed miserably in his response to the Holocaust, according to the president of Reform Judaism's Hebrew Union College in Manhattan. Rabbi David Ellenson was the latest of several prominent American Jewish leaders who have censured the Jewish leadership of the 1940s, but his remarks were especially significant in that they took aim at Wise, who founded the Jewish Institute of Religion to train rabbis in Reform Judaism. It was merged into the Hebrew Union College a year after his death in 1949. "In the 1930s, it was Wise who led the rallies against Hitler, so why did he fail so horribly in the 1940s?" Ellenson asked at a Holocaust conference organized by the Washington-based David S. Wyman Institute at Fordham University Law School in Manhattan on Sunday. He said part of the explanation lies in Wise's "absolute and complete love" for president Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as his antipathy toward the Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky, and toward the Bergson Group, whose leaders were followers of Jabotinsky, something that "helped blind him" to the need for more activism. Ellenson said concerns of provoking an anti-Semitic backlash should not have thwarted the American Jewish leadership from actively working to prevent the extermination of six million Jews.

Another Wise approach we don't need.  Especially Beinart's antipathy to Jabotinsky and his ideological heirs.

In fact, I think it is about time that another book be written and its theme is the Crisis of American Jewish Liberals.  They reject Zionism, Israel and Judaism as they are and seek to create a new reality fashioned from their non-Jewish, non-Zionist, non-Israeli upbringing from within their Diaspora experience.  And then they blame the authentic nationalists, whether right-wing or left-of-center, as not Jewish enough for them or their children.

Wise seemed to have had an ambivalent relationship with Zionism, always moderate, always afraid of being too passionate, too demanding.  That's Wise with Louis Brandeis to his right and Nathan Straus, the philanthropist, at the far left (who was really ticked off about the Balfour Declaration, actually) in 1920 (more here). It seems that Wise was upset with his friends and came to the boat to try and stop their participation in a Zionist Congress. 

And while we're on Zionist leaders and ships, here's another, from 1921:

They are, left to right, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Nahum Sokolow, Otto Warburg, and Alexander Goldstein (he seems to have had poor luck on a future boat trip) who came to North America on a Keren haYesod mission.


1 comment:

Alan said...

There is one correct response to this non-zionist outlook that a large fraction of American Jews have.... delete their privileges under the Law of Return. Why should the children of clowns automatically have more rights than those of Druzim and Cherkassim who put their lives on the line to defend the State?We don't need a Jewish State; we need a Hebrew Republic. All Hebrew-speakers who pledge loyalty, will be entitled to enter and receive citizenship. Those who self-define as "Arab" (which is a language, not a peoplehood) can have their citizenship on the other side of the river; if convenient for the Hebrew Republic, they can have residency permits in our territory. Like any normal country!!!