Brandeis -  The Jewish people should be preserved

August 30, 1914

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Louis Brandeis - The Jewish People Should be Preserved


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.

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. This speech, given August 30, 1914, was his acceptance speech, given in New York City.

Ami Isseroff

June 13, 2009   


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


The Jewish People Should Be Preserved

I feel with all of you the gravity of the present situation. I feel, perhaps more than most of you, the difficulties which confront us, because I realize my own inability to contribute much to the removal of those difficulties. But I hold it to be my duty and my privilege to aid, and so far as it is in my power to do so, I will join you in this great work. I thank you for your confidence in my ability to help the cause.

I feel my disqualification for this task. Throughout long years which represent my own life, I have been to a great extent separated from Jews. I am very ignorant in things Jewish. But recent experiences, public and professional, have taught me this: I find Jews possessed of those very qualities which we of the twentieth century seek to develop in our struggle for justice and democracy; a deep moral feeling which makes them capable of noble acts; a deep sense of the brotherhood of man; and a high intelligence, the fruit of three thousand years of civilization.

These experiences have made me feel that the Jewish People have something which should be saved for the world; that the Jewish People should be preserved; and that it is our duty to pursue that method of saving which most promises success. While I feel unable to bring to this task the knowledge, the experience, and the ability which it requires, I am glad to work to that end with you and the other Zionists of this and other countries.

By a sudden catastrophe, the movement has been deprived of leadership by those who for many years have successfully advanced it. In the last few weeks, since the need of American aid became probable, I have endeavored to acquaint myself with what had been accomplished. I am greatly impressed with the progress made; with the wisdom manifested; with the energy applied in overcoming difficulties.

And I may add that I am greatly encouraged, as I am sure every one of you is, by what Dr. Levin [Shmaryahu Levin, a close associate of Chaim Weizmann] has told us today. The spirit with which he has approached the questions under discussion, the unusual intelligence with which he has dealt with them, intensify my admiration for the work of the past.

To achieve our purpose we need the cooperation of everyone here and of the tens of thousands whom those here can influence. Let us work together! Carry forward what others have, in the past, borne so well! Carry it forward to the goal for which we all long!


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