Brandeis -  Realization will not come as a gift

June 24 1923

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Louis Brandeis - Realization will not come as a gift

Introduction

Louis Dembitz Brandeis was a prominent American lawyer and later associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who became associated with the Zionist cause in 1910. 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." It is not clear, in many cases, whether he provided the titles of these speeches when published.

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. Brandeis was active in organizing Zionism in the United States during the war, though he removed himself from official positions in 1916, following is appointment as associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. He was instrumental in getting United States support for the Balfour Declaration, issued by Great Britain on November 2, 1917.

Most of the funding could not come from the impoverished Jews of Eastern Europe, who might supply the immigrants. The largest Jewish community in Europe, however, the Jews of Russia, were cut off by the communist regime there, and the Zionist organizations in Russia found it increasingly difficult to operate. The money would have to come primarily from the Jews of the United States and Great Britain.

Though Brandeis and his followers had been unseated from the Zionist organization, he did not abandon the Zionist project. He and his group formed several organizations to collect the money needed to settle Palestine. These worked in parallel with the mainstream Zionist funding organizations. The Palestine Land Development Council and its associated Leagues were the first such organizations, followed by the Palestine Economic Corporation, which also assumed the Palestine activities of Joint Distribution Committee. He delivered this address to New England members of the Palestine Land Development League in Boston on June 24, 1923. Brandeis was continuing his unflagging efforts to raise money for development in Palestine. There was never enough, because the British considered that the entire burden of developing the Jewish national home, should fall on the Jews. Once it was developed by Jewish labor and money, they were quite happy to turn it over to the Arabs.

Undeniably, the work in Palestine proceeded slowly. There were achievements, as Brandeis notes, but objectively the situation was bleak. The war had devastated Palestine and there was a deep economic recession as the country was flooded with immigrants. Despite all the good efforts of Brandeis and others, Jews were reluctant to donate money to a project that seemed impossible in a remote part of the world. This was especially true following the Arab riots of 1920 and 1921.

The Rutenberg project mentioned is the electrification of Palestine, using hydroelectric power from the plant being built in Naharayim, on the Jordan River, in the north of Israel. This plant built by Pinhas Rutenberg served Palestine for many years but was eventually outgrown and in 1948 it was lost to the Jordanians and put out of commission. Today it is a park that is under Jordanian sovereignty but is open to Israeli visitors.

Ami Isseroff

June 25, 2009   

Copyright

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


 

Realization Will Not Come as a Gift

I am glad that, besides some older Zionists, we have sitting here many others, men and women who are far younger. For it is through these younger folk, aided by the older, that we shall find the full realization of our plans. To some of you it may seem that our progress has not been rapid, but when you compare where we are today, and where we stood ten years ago, when I first spoke to Boston Jews about Palestine, you will see how long a way we have traveled. Ten years ago the Homeland was a dream, a dream for which realization seemed so far. Then, we could do little more than hope and prepare ourselves for realization. Five years ago, with the Balfour Declaration, that dream began to take on the shape of opportunity. Now, for over four years the opportunity has been ours. The question is merely whether we shall take hold in that earnest, effective, and intelligent way which will make out of that opportunity the realization of our fondest dream. We know that much has not been done, but we know very much that has. What has been accomplished is not merely providing opportunity. The first steps toward the achievement of realization have been taken. We have found in Palestine not merely an open door, but a country in which all is possible which we had pictured to ourselves as desirable.

It is now four years since de Haas and I went together to Palestine. I had read much about it, heard much about it from those who had been there, and reasoned much about it. But it was only by going there that I could convince myself in fullness how much was open to us and why we should endeavor to work out the problem, not as a dream, but as a beautiful reality. I found difficulties, but the difficulties were inviting because in respect to every one of them solution seemed to be possible. To my mind, there is nothing about the Palestinian problem which the Jews cannot solve, if they will to solve it. To solve it, we do not require the superhuman effort of extraordinary individuals. We need only the everyday earnest effort which Jews are making, and by which they are achieving successes in other fields of activity all over the world. If the persistence, devotion and ingenuity, readiness of self-sacrifice and self-control which have given Jews high station individually in every branch of human activity and in every country on earth is practiced by those who go to Palestine, and is manifested by those who have an interest in it, there is nothing worthy which cannot be realized there.

None of the pictures which have been painted exhaust the possibilities that actually exist. But realization will not come as a gift; and it will not result from the mere giving of money. It must be earned, earned by effort, earned by a persistent, active desire to have and to hold that which lies before us. Some are making that effort on the fighting lines and are taking part there happily and effectively in the up-building of Palestine. Some who have gone from America have played a most creditable, as well as interesting part in that effort. Many of you know what the Hadassah Medical Unit has been doing. It undertook to make health possible in Palestine. And it really was not a difficult problem. For the lack of health was largely due to malaria. Happily, science enables us to grapple with this disease which had devastated many countries of the world for thousands of years. We know how to rid a land of it. It is a perfectly simple thing, a thing almost as simple as the removal of typhoid which once was a curse in so many of our cities. The Medical Unit, in connection with others, undertook to eliminate malaria.

It did so not only because malaria interfered with the joy of life, but because it is the disease which interfered most with self-support and the building up of the country. There remains some malaria in parts of the country. But that problem is being' grappled with and in a very few years Palestine will be one of the healthiest countries in the world. For otherwise all the conditions in Palestine are conducive to a healthy life in body as well as soul. Men may go to Palestine now and settle there with the assurance that they will be able to work there as well as in any part of the world.

To have assured, within four years, the elimination of malaria is a great achievement. For hard work is the stuff out of which Palestine must be built. Not Hanukkah, not gifts, whatever their nature, but the ability to make men self-supporting is the prime requisite. They must develop themselves and their families in the course of the development of their country. For immigrants into Palestine to become self-supporting is, in some ways, more difficult than it was for those coming to America, or going to Canada, or Australia, or South America. It is more difficult for this reason. America and Canada, South America and Australia were new countries with virgin soil. Palestine is a new-old country, old in having suffered for centuries from abuse. Its wonderful trees had been destroyed. Its water-courses had suffered from the destruction of trees. Its fertile land, no longer protected by the trees, had been washed away by the flow of the waters. Thus Palestine presents anew situation. I mean new to us, whose minds are accustomed to such things as the frontiersman, going out to build his hut with his own hand, with the expectation that next year, or the year after, it will be superseded by something better. Palestine is not like that. You must build homes for people and they must be built substantially, of stone, or cement, at a considerable cost. The slight structure which frontiers men built in other countries is not feasible. So we have in Palestine the housing problem.

We have had in Palestine another problem which was very serious. The cost of living is very high; higher there in many ways than here. The war made it so, with its great influx of gold through Egypt. Jews coming there from different parts of the world, largely impoverished, came thus into a country in which the cost of the bare necessities of life was great. We were, therefore, confronted with this problem. How can we make it possible for these people coming to this sparsely settled land, to supply themselves with homes and get a living from farms which they must first make ready for cultivation? In many places in Palestine you must make the land as well as raise the crops upon it. Moreover, it will be seven years from the time you plant your orange trees before you get a return. Just as water is necessary for irrigation, credit is necessary thereto enable people to conduct their business operations, to become self-supporting. We turned our minds, therefore, to devising instruments through which credits might be extended to deserving men and women, not as gifts, not as charity, but to enable them to make a living. The Palestine Cooperative Company undertook to deal with that question in two ways. To provide loans to cooperative societies of producers or consumers and to provide building loans for those who undertake construction.

These are examples of the kind of things the Palestine Development Council wishes to promote. It wishes also to aid in the development of the Rutenberg project 3 so-called hydro-electric plan for harnessing the Jordan to provide the country with power and irrigation. Everything that we have undertaken to do has been directly in the line of production, in the effort to make men and women effective, to give opportunity to the individual just as the Mandate has given an opportunity to the Jews of the world to make Palestine a Homeland. Our prime endeavor is to encourage initiative. It is not our brains, but the brains of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who are to go to Palestine, that will build up that country. What we are endeavoring to encourage is not anything new. It is exactly the thing which Jews are doing throughout the world: Those of us who do not wish to go, or cannot, may also have a vital part in the building of Palestine. But it cannot be done merely by giving or in., investing money. To have a vital part we must add to investment a willingness to take the trouble to learn what the needs of Palestine are and how they are being, or should be, met. To achieve for Palestine what the American Jew can do for it and for the American Jew what Palestine can do for him, we must make the development of the Homeland a part of the daily thought of the Jew. There are ample means of acquiring knowledge about it, and the happenings in that new-old land can be followed with the absorbing interest with which we follow the growth of a child.

We are not asking you to give. We expect you to get a return on your investment, a return, in money. But the greatest return which you will get is in the joy you will have in watching the development of the country. And when good fortune leads you to Palestine, and you see what Jews are doing there, what Jewish life really is what it makes of men and women and children in a Jewish country, then you will get satisfactions which with make you regard your cash dividends as negligible. Make it your business to know what is going on there; know j what has been achieved there. Confirm and enrich your; knowledge, if it lies within your power, by visiting the country and seeing things for yourselves. If you do that you will enjoy the greatest experience of your life.

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