web analytics
September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Divided Loyalty, Again?

Rabbi Stephen Wise

Rabbi Stephen Wise

Eighty years ago, in January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. Barely a month later Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated president of the United States. For the next twelve years, until their deaths eighteen days apart in April 1945, they personified the horrors of dictatorship and the blessings of democracy.

Hitler remains the incarnation of evil. But it is no small irony that Roosevelt, renowned for the humane vision expressed in his “Four Freedoms” address to Congress, has come under increasing scrutiny – and criticism – for his abandonment of those chosen by Hitler for annihilation.

The ghastly horrors of the “Final Solution” have been extensively documented. Its six million Jewish victims are widely memorialized in death as their fate was everywhere ignored while they were alive.

We know, for example, that news of the Holocaust was “Buried by The Times,” (the title of Laurel Leff’s piercing account of the determination of New York Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger to exclude the systematic slaughter of Jews from news that was “fit to print” in his newspaper).

There is continuing, often acrimonious, debate among historians over the acquiescence of State Department officials, Roosevelt’s Jewish advisers, and the president himself in obstructing the rescue of desperate Jewish refugees. Among the more disturbing questions that still requires exploration, as painful as it might be, is the acquiescence of American Jews in Roosevelt’s indifference to the plight of millions of persecuted, imperiled, then relentlessly slaughtered, Jews in Europe.

The two great waves of Jewish immigration to the United States – from Germany in the mid-19th century and Eastern Europe around the turn of the 20th century – accounted for nearly five million American Jews by 1940. They hardly comprised a single unified bloc – religious, social, or cultural. But despite their internal differences and disagreements they shared the fierce determination to demonstrate their loyalty as Americans to the United States and to its elected leaders. That would determine their response, or failure to respond, to what historian David Wyman aptly labeled “the abandonment of the Jews” by the president and his government between 1933 and 1945.

The formative proclamation of American Jewish loyalty came from Louis D. Brandeis, long revered as the American Isaiah. Too Jewish for the Boston Brahmins among whom he practiced law, he was viewed by the respected banker and philanthropist Jacob Schiff as insufficiently Jewish for a position in Woodrow Wilson’s Cabinet. Brandeis acknowledged he had been “to a great extent separated from Jews. I am very ignorant in things Jewish.” It was his stature as a liberal reformer that qualified him for Jewish leadership. His opportunity came when World War I severely impeded the work of the European Zionist movement.

In his memorable definition of Zionism as Americanism, Brandeis proclaimed: “To be good Americans, we must be better Jews, and to be better Jews, we must become Zionists.” Bridging the gap between Jewish and American loyalties, his non sequitur enabled Brandeis to become the revered leader of American Zionism. He unerringly identified, and instantly obliterated, the conflict of divided loyalty that tormented American Jews then and has continued to do so ever since.

* * * * *

Among those who were inspired by Brandeis’s synthesis was the Budapest-born Reform rabbi and progressive reformer Stephen S. Wise, who eventually became tortured by competing claims on his loyalty. Like Brandeis, he was determined to fuse Zionism and Americanism. He embraced Zionism as the modern national affirmation of the striving for social justice proclaimed by the ancient Hebrew prophets and as the Jewish expression of American liberal values. In time, however, Wise came to personify the American Jewish dilemma of divided loyalty.

Wise was instantly attentive to the menace of Nazism. Urging a Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany in 1933, he declared: “The time for prudence and caution is past. We must speak up like men.” But he had his doubts about the new president. After Roosevelt’s nomination Wise had complained to Felix Frankfurter: “There are no deep-seated convictions…. He is all clay and no granite.” The more concerned that Wise became over the Nazi danger to German Jews, the more he despaired over Roosevelt’s failure to respond to it.

About the Author: Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of “Jewish State/Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy,” to be published next month by Quid Pro Books.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Divided Loyalty, Again?”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Jewish blood libel cartoon posted on Facebook sometime in 2014 by an UNRWA teacher in Jordan.
UNRWA Teacher in Jordan Promotes Hatred of Jews on Facebook
Latest Indepth Stories

So it is critical that readers in the districts indicated come out to vote.

We urge readers to seek out upcoming rallies scheduled for times and places that work for them.

To be sure, the worst of what was directed at Mr. Nadler by some random hotheads with no real power or influence (calling him a “kapo,” for example) was over the top.

We can readily understand that it would be an embarrassment to the president were Congress to reject the deal he struck, even if that rejection would be vetoed and go nowhere.

As the First Zionist Congress was indisputably one of the seminal events in modern Jewish history, it is not surprising that it became the subject of some of the most beloved, beautiful, and rare Rosh Hashanah cards ever created.

Many in the media impart bias in place of truth; convey personal prejudice over objective facts.

Nahal Haredi is the ultimate solution, according to Branski, serving haredim from a wide variety of backgrounds – chassidish and yeshivish, Sephardi and Askenazi.

A recent study found that 54% of Jewish college students experienced/witnessed anti-Semitism in 2014

The purpose of an attack on Joseph’s Tomb is to murder Jews at prayer and destroy a Jewish holy site

A nuclear Khomenist Tehran will be a threat to Western democracies and to Jerusalem in particular

The MONSTERS of Nebi Saleh know well the damning, visceral impact of powerful, deceitful imagery.

Jewish Voice for Peace openly supports BDS movement against ALL of Israel & ending the Jewish State.

In recent years, there has been a big push to grow and develop American Football here in Israel.

Unlike Judaism & Christianity which honors “truth,” Islam pursues “Taqiyya,” strategic lying

More Articles from Jerold S. Auerbach
Knesset

For nearly sixty-five years national self-definition has been the skeleton in the closet of Israeli politics and culture.

Front-Page-081514

Times reporter Anne Barnard reported (7/15) that Israel was to blame (so her Palestinian sources asserted) for its continued “occupation” of Gaza – which, Barnard failed to note, ended nearly a decade ago.

During much of the 20th century, elite American colleges and universities carefully policed their admission gates to restrict the entry of Jews. Like its Big Brothers – Harvard, Yale and Princeton – Wellesley College, where I taught history between 1971 and 2010, designed admission policy to perpetuate a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite.

Yossi Klein Halevi’s Like Dreamers (Harper) explores the lives of seven Israeli paratroopers in the Six-Day War who, his subtitle suggests, “Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation.” It offers a fascinating variation on the theme of Israel at a fateful crossroads, in search of itself, following the wondrously unifying moment at the Western Wall in June 1967 when Jewish national sovereignty in Jerusalem was restored for the first time in nineteen centuries.

In death as in life, Menachem Begin remained who he had always been: a proud yet humble Jew.

Eighty years ago, in January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. Barely a month later Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated president of the United States. For the next twelve years, until their deaths eighteen days apart in April 1945, they personified the horrors of dictatorship and the blessings of democracy.

One of my searing early memories from Israel is a visit nearly four decades ago to the Ghetto Fighters Museum in the Beit Lohamei Hagetaot kibbutz. The world’s first Holocaust museum, it was built soon after the Independence War by survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

Nearly sixty-five years ago Israel declared its independence and won the war that secured a Jewish state. But its narrow and permeable postwar armistice lines permitted incessant cross-border terrorist raids. For Egypt, Syria and Jordan, the mere existence of a Jewish state remained an unbearable intrusion into the Arab Middle East. As Egyptian President Nasser declared, “The danger of Israel lies in the very existence of Israel.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/divided-loyalty-again/2013/07/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: