Brandeis -  Dreams may be made into realities

June, 1915

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Louis Brandeis - Dreams may be made into realities


Louis Dembitz Brandeis was a prominent American lawyer and later associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The outbreak of World War I made it impossible for the Zionist movement to continue its activities from Europe, that were centered in the German capital of Berlin, and cut off British Zionists from their associates in Berlin and Palestine.

Brandeis's speeches and articles on Zionism were edited and published by the Zionist Organization of America in 1942, following his death, in a volume entitled "Brandeis on Zionism," by Solomon Goldman. These are not pristine primary sources and may not include materials that were considered "inconvenient." His early speeches tended to emphasize over and over the basic characteristics of his Zionist credo:

American minorities show true patriotism by enriching America with their own heritage and remaining loyal to that heritage.

Zionism is progressive.

Every Jew should be a Zionist.

American Zionism was a largely apolitical creed and did not require Jews to be part of a larger international Zionist political organization or to learn Hebrew or anything else about Judaism.

The Jewish national home in Palestine would be a shelter to Eastern European Jews and an example and moral inspiration to their more fortunate brothers in the United States.

Zionist work in the United States was to consist of  joining organizations,, organization, recruiting and charitable fundraising for immigrants to Palestine.

This least common denominator Zionism was designed to overcome specific controversies within the American Jewish community and to ensure that the audience did not feel threatened or challenged by Zionism to give up their American way of life. Brandeis saw himself as a unifier, and avoided divisive subjects and discussions of tactics and ideological polemics, unlike Eastern European and Russian Zionists. Very often they were "fitting words for the occasion," almost like the fictional speeches of ancient history, save for the fact that the addresses were actually delivered. Whatever one may think of some this high flown rhetoric and patriotic platitudes, it did the job of bringing Zionism into the mainstream of American Jewish respectability.

A Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs was formed in the United States, and Louis Dembitz Brandeis was elected as chairman of the committee in August 30, 1914. As chairman, Brandeis was able to bridge the chasm between the impoverished Eastern European Jewish constituency of Manhattan's Lower East Side and the affluent college educated Jews of the older generations of immigrants, who included many of Brandeis's friends and associates. In this way, Brandeis helped make Zionism fashionable and respectable among leaders of Jewish society. What he said or wrote in a speech or article was less important than the fact that he said it, which was sensational enough, and which ensured support for Zionism by "the right" people. 

This speech in Chelsea to a meeting of the American Federation of Zionists (predecessor to the Zionist Organization of America)  contains the famous Brandeis exhortation to enroll every American Jews, even children, as Zionists.

Ami Isseroff

June 13, 2009   


The introduction above is copyright 2009 by Ami Isseroff. The document below is in the public domain.


Dreams May Be Made Into Realities

This great assembly manifests the essential unity of the Jewish people. Those who are in this crowded hall, together with those who have failed to gain admittance, constitute a large part of the Jews of Massachusetts. You testify by your presence to your great interest in the movement which is destined to lead to the solution of the Jewish problem. Zionism points the way to a solution, because it will enable the Jewish people to help themselves and thus be also of greatest service to the world; Zionism will make it possible for Jews to put an end to wholesale misery and not merely alleviate it.

I interpret your presence here as an expression of your faith; as testimony to your interest; as a promise to aid in carrying forward the Jewish ideals; as a determination to realize the Jewish hope of the twentieth century. Realization demands of you, of course, much more than expressions of sympathy. It demands action, and since you are Americans, we expect from you that you bind yourselves together by organizations into an effective body. By so doing you will not only manifest indomitable will; you will fashion the indispensable instrument for achievement. Stand up, each and everyone of you, and be counted. Join the Zionist Organization and shoulder your part in this great movement. Only by bearing your part can you be true to the Jewish people, just as you can be true to the American Government only by doing your share. No American, man or woman, may shirk when a great cause is to be striven for and won.

Such is our duty as Jews and as Americans. By battling for the Zionist cause, the American ideal of democracy, of social justice and of liberty will be given wider expression. By such action the manhood and womanhood of American Jews will be made manifest to the world. By concrete action, the prayer of twenty centuries will be made to come true. The great Herzl was right when he said in his Altneuland, "If you wish it, it is no fable." Dreams may be made into realities.

American Aid

It is fitting that I should preface the report of the Provisional Committee with this statement: What has been accomplished is due primarily to the great cause which we represent, and next to the constant aid and support given us at home and abroad by the officials of the United States Government. Without the aid given by officials of the Department of State and of the Navy Department, it would have been impossible to render the assistance which has preserved the Palestinian colonies and saved our brethren from distress. In recounting the aid nobly given us by this great Republic, it would be invidious to name individuals. For help has been given, generously and graciously, by every official of the United States, highest or lowest, whenever help was possible. But it may be proper to mention Ambassador Morgenthau, because he is a Jew. With signal devotion, and with the efficiency and ability which is his own, he has watched over our interests. Supported by a great and sympathetic government he has done all that man could do to aid our efforts to preserve and protect Zionist institutions and the Jews of Palestine.

The path of the Zionist in America, during this year of trial, has been relatively clear solely because the Zionist ideals, the highest Jewish ideals, are essentially the American ideals. Democracy is also a Zionist concept. Social justice is also a Zionist aim. Full and complete liberty is an essential of triumphant Zionism as it is the American ideal of the twentieth century. As Americans, and as Jews battling for American ideals, we may look forward to the support of a great majority of the Jews of the United States.

The detail of the work of the Provisional Committee will be stated at later meetings of Convention week. But this I should say on behalf of the committee. We believe as must each of you, that the day for which Rabbi Berlin prayed is near, the day when we Zionists will speak only of Jews, for practically all Jews will be Zionists.

The Zionist Movement is Democratic

All of you will agree with me that we have had a wonderfully successful convention or series of conventions, and that the plan of bringing together all the various organizations that we might each learn what the other is doing has proved a wise one. Now the question is one of the future. The Success that we have attained, the interest that we have awakened by means of the convention throughout the country gives us hope that there is opportunity to accomplish much. We must make it our task to increase greatly the number of those who become directly affiliated with our organization, who are willing to stand up and be counted, and having been counted, are willing to lend support in various ways. The Zionist movement is essentially democratic and, being that, it must rest upon the activity of the many and their appreciation of what we are attempting. To develop our Palestine institutions we must also have large resources, and we should not get it from the affluent few but from the people, from our own members, taxing themselves voluntarily each one to the limit of his means. We ought to begin right now with a resolve to extend to the utmost of our ability the opportunities and activity of the organization in each and very community.

Every Jew a Zionist

We have come to Chelsea. We have transferred our meeting to another city. In doing so, we have made an exception to a rule hitherto adhered to vigorously by the Zionist conventions. We have not done this because the invitation extended was uncommonly gracious. We have come because in Chelsea Jews constitute a larger percentage of the population than in any other city of the United States; because the Jews of Chelsea have, by their conduct, given to the Jewish name a good reputation here and throughout the Commonwealth; because one of our great leaders has told us that nowhere in the wide world had he been given more sympathetic and intelligent attention than by your city. These are the reasons why we accepted the Chelsea invitation.

We did so, not, however, as a compliment. We have come in order to achieve for our movement something both definite and practical. We want not merely Zionist sympathy, we want definite Zionist action. That is essential to the development of our movement. It is indispensable to acquiring the influence which w expect to exercise among the nations of the world. The Jews of America must manifest their interest by overt acts. They must stand up and be counted. They must show by sacrifices their readiness to support the cause which we espouse.

Chelsea, we believe, is the place where the plan which we have formulated should be inaugurated; our purpose is to make every adult Jew in this city a member of a Zionist society. We say every Jew, women as well as men, for in the Zionist organization there prevails equal suffrage, equal rights. Equal rights spell equal obligations. Indeed no part of the Zionist membership has shown a more definite determination to bear its obligations than Hadassah, the women's organization. I may add that measures and projects evidencing the highest statesmanship manifested in the conduct of our Palestinian colonies have originated in the minds of the women. And they have been carried out largely through their determination, persistence and devotion. So in asking for the enrollment of the Jews in Chelsea, we are making no distinction; men and women, both, are equally welcome.

We shall not be satisfied merely with the enrollment of the twenty-five hundred adult Jews of Chelsea. We ask that in the appropriate manner every child also should be enrolled. Boys and girls should be enrolled as members of Young Judaea. There they will be trained in Zionism. There they will learn to know their ancestors' great past. There they will be taught to live in a way becoming that past; and when they grow up, the, too, shall be equipped for the harder task of Palestine building even better than their parents. Therefore, we propose that not only shall the twenty-five hundred adult Jews become members of some local Chelsea Zionist organization; their children shall become members of Young Judaea. And as shekel payers all should be formally associated with the Zionist Organization.

More than two years ago it was my great privilege to come to Chelsea on the occasion of a banquet given by the Young Men's Hebrew Association. The young men whom I then met were full of determination. They made me believe more strongly than ever in the possibilities of the American Jew. Their membership, as I recall, is about three hundred; I propose to them this task: Let these three hundred men enlist as volunteers, under a committee to be formed by your Chairman, Mr. Lourie, and undertake the task of enrolling the Jews of Chelsea, both parents and children, in the Zionist organization. In this way they may prove that they are prepared to make sacrifices for the cause.

When Chelsea has performed this task, we propose, with your example as our slogan, to attempt the same work in other cities of the Commonwealth. The other cities are less favorably situated in this respect than yours. But with your good example and the lesson learned through your experience, we shall be encouraged to attempt the enrollment of the Jews of Massachusetts. With Massachusetts won, we shall proceed to other New England States, and finally to other parts of the country. By steady pursuit of these means we may hope to secure formal recognition of the demands of the Jewish people. Such action will be compelling evidence to the world of Jewish unity. It will make manifest the Jewish determination to secure for the Jews everywhere full liberty. And in that is included the right to a publicly recognized, legally secured home in Palestine.


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