Brandeis -  Numbers Count

December, 1915

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Louis Brandeis - Numbers Count

Introduction

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.

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. 

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.

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.

This message was sent to the Zionist Council of Greater New York on the occasion of its tenth anniversary in December,  1915. Brandeis's internal organizational speeches and messages focused on a number of themes. One of them was his understanding that the end of the war might bring an opportunity to demand a Jewish national home, and that in order to back that demand, it was essential that American Jews should be united behind Zionism. The other one, especially in the early days of the war, was focused on collecting money for relief work in Palestine, as emergency aid to the beleaguered Zionist community there.

A favorite theme that was emphasized in many Brandeis speeches was that Zionism was important for American patriotism. This speech was no exception: 

Zionism has not sprung out of the war; it was vital and active before. The Zionist movement will not pass out with the ending of the war. But the war has made the necessity for the movement obvious. For Zionism aims at the fundamentals of Jewish life, the self-respect, rehabilitation and restoration of the Jewish people. Hence, he who would be counted as a loyal Jew and American, self respecting and conscious, trusting in his people, in their ability and character, will join in aiding the Zionist cause.

 

Ami Isseroff

June 13, 2009   

Copyright

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


 

Not by Charity Alone

It is to be hoped that your Council will be able to report a substantial increase in the number of those who have agreed in this time of trial to stand up and be counted. Such action is demanded of all Zionists in this great crisis. Zionists have met the first onset of the war in a practical, earnest and hopeful spirit. They have brought succor to all the Jews of Palestine; they have supported the movement that inspires hope in all the sorely stricken Jews of Europe.

The Provisional Committee has accomplished much. To continue our work we must make heavy demands upon every Zionist individually; and all Jews and Jewesses in New York should be moved to stand resolutely together with that group of Jews who are laboring unafraid and undismayed to heal the wounds of our afflicted people.

There may be a thousand difficulties ahead of Zionist accomplishment. We readily admit the obstacles to be overcome. But in New York City alone there should be a hundred thousand factors in favor of its success. Let but a hundred thousand of our own people bring to the movement their enthusiasm, determination, ability and means, and all obstacles will yield and success will be assured.

Zionism has not sprung out of the war; it was vital and active before. The Zionist movement will not pass out with the ending of the war. But the war has made the necessity for the movement obvious. For Zionism aims at the fundamentals of Jewish life, the self-respect, rehabilitation and restoration of the Jewish people. Hence, he who would be counted as a loyal Jew and American, self respecting and conscious, trusting in his people, in their ability and character, will join in aiding the Zionist cause.

Of the members of your organization I say confidently that they will understand and respond with American readiness and heartiness:

1. The Provisional Committee is pledged to make good all intentional and particularly Palestinian obligations. We rely upon you to help us make good, both to the letter and the spirit of those pledges. We must raise this year $200,000 for our Emergency Fund; and of this amount we rely upon New York's raising at least $50,000.

2. Double or triple this year the number of organized Zionists, for we shall shortly need the support and cooperation of every affiliated member of our organization. Numbers count, will be counted.

This document is at Zionism and Israel Information Center - Historical Documents and References

General History of Zionism - Zionism and the Creation of Israel


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