web analytics
March 30, 2015 / 10 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Divided Loyalty, Again?

Rabbi Stephen Wise

Rabbi Stephen Wise

Wise realized that Roosevelt’s Jewish advisers could be “safely trust[ed] not to trouble him with any Jewish problems.” He also knew, by the mid-1930s, that the president – “immovable, incurable and even inaccessible” to those who pressed him to respond to the increasing plight of Jews – “has not lifted a finger on behalf of the Jews of Germany.”

On the advice of Brandeis and Frankfurter, he hesitated to add to Roosevelt’s “terrible cares” by troubling the president “with our, in a sense, lesser problems.” But Wise knew that despite stringently restrictive immigration quotas that had been in place since the 1920s, German Jews were purposely excluded by the Roosevelt administration even when their admission was still permitted under law.

The conflict between Jewish identity and American loyalty tormented Wise. But his deference to Roosevelt, whom he came to identify as the “All Highest,” deepened as he became Roosevelt’s most devoted Jewish enabler. His flattery of the president was unrestrained. Attempting in vain to secure Roosevelt’s opposition to the British White Paper that excluded desperately fleeing Jewish refugees from Palestine, he told the president that rarely in history had Jews “turned to the head of a great government with the confidence with which you have given us fullest reason to turn to you.” The president did nothing.

Wise continued to believe that American Jews loved Roosevelt “as an exemplar of that truly just and American spirit which abhors intolerance and feels that Jews have their rightful place of service and honor within the American polity.” He compared their attachment to “a feeling of Jewish homage before a sovereign and liberating spirit.” Yet by 1943 he lamented: “If only he [FDR] would do something for my people.”

“I wonder how much we have gained,” Wise finally asked, “by walking warily, by being afraid to be ourselves, by constantly looking over our shoulders to see what impression we make upon others.” He predicted: “If we are done in the end, it will not merely be because of the effectiveness of our foes but because of the timidity and cowardice of ourselves.”

But Wise would not go public with his concerns. Indeed, even with reliable information about the slaughter of European Jews, he kept it secret. He finally realized that “silence is acquiescence. We must speak out.” Apologizing to Roosevelt for his disclosure, he claimed that “I do not wish to add an atom to the awful burden which you are bearing with magic.” Wise pleaded for “a word which may bring solace…to millions of Jews who mourn.” But he asked for nothing to try to rescue those whose lives might still be saved.

In a belated moment of anguished self-insight (in a letter to Justice Frankfurter late in the war), Wise wondered “whether I am getting to be a Hofjude” [court Jew]. By then, however, the leader and public voice of American Zionism had long since become Roosevelt’s devoted enabler. Wise would relegate Jewish issues to the sideline to protect the president, his own access to the White House, and his leadership role in the American Jewish community.

Historian Henry Feingold, author of The Politics of Rescue, has claimed that any indictment of Wise or American Jews for their failure to exert pressure on Roosevelt to help beleaguered European Jews “cannot produce authentic history.” To be sure, American Jews were powerless to save Jews in Europe. But why was it unreasonable to expect American Jewish leaders to speak out rather than remain silent, to urge action by the president and to protest his silence? They were too cowed into silence even to support the tiny handful of right-wing activists from Palestine, led by Peter Bergson, who organized rallies across the United States and a protest march to the White House by four hundred rabbis.

* * * * *

Such was, and remains, the American Jewish dilemma. The core bargain of acculturation – the repeatedly asserted compatibility of Judaism, Zionism and Americanism – paralyzed American Jews before and during World War II and the Holocaust, and arguably still does. During the worst catastrophe in Jewish history since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE and the loss of national sovereignty that ensued, American Jewish leaders and their followers, to their everlasting shame, remained silent.

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
One-third of polled Republicans see President Obama as the biggest imminent threat to the USA.
One-Third of GOP Voters See Obama Worse for US than Assad and Putin
Latest Indepth Stories
jabotinsky with sword

Jabotinsky said “Go To Hell” was a good retort to opponents of the Jewish people; fitting for Obama.

Obama Racine

Obama pulled off one of US history’s greatest cons,twice fooling a gullible electorate and most Jews

Auschwitz Entrance

While in Auschwitz I felt a tangible intensity. I could sense that I was in a place of sheer evil.

Bibi and Obama: Head to Head

Obama needs to wake up. The real enemy is not Netanyahu but Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad,IS

My beliefs & actions have led to numerous death threats against me; my excommunication by my church

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

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: