“You see it again and again throughout American Jewish history,” Weintraub said. “Ordinary Jews have good instincts. They just need leadership. But too many Jewish leaders, like Rabbi Stephen Wise, head of the American Jewish Congress, preferred to trust empty promises from Roosevelt and Truman instead of campaigning forcefully for Jewish rights. Some Jewish leaders were unhappy about our activities in the Brooklyn elections.”
Documents I found in my research on this period seem to confirm Weintraub’s assertion. In one letter to a colleague in 1946, Rabbi Wise complained about “the creatures who dare to ask us to vote against every Administration candidate” because of Palestine. Wise felt it was urgent that the activists be “stopped now.”
Weintraub sees a certain parallel between Wise’s leadership and the behavior of some Jewish leaders in more recent times. In the early 1980s, as the Likud USA delegate to the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations, Weintraub approached leaders of the conference concerning The New York Times’s coverage of Israel.
“The Times was beating up on Israel almost every day,” Weintraub said. “In editorials, op-eds, even in news articles that were supposed to be objective reporting, they were calling Israel’s leaders ‘hardliners’ and ‘intransigent.’ I urged the Conference of Presidents to protest. But they wouldn’t do it. I had a similar meeting with the president of Hadassah. She said to me, ‘Some of our members don’t like [Israeli prime minister Menachem] Begin.’ I replied, ‘So are you willing to let Israel twist in the wind, just because some people disagree with this or that policy?’ ”
For Bob Weintraub, the cautious policies adopted by Rabbi Wise in the 1940s, and by some Jewish leaders in recent times, are inherently flawed. Throughout his many years as a lecturer, author of columns for The Jewish Press and the Jewish Week, co-host of the “Voice of Likud” radio show on WEVD-FM, and a leader of the American wing of Likud, Weintraub has devoted himself to the principle that, as he puts it, “Jewish policy should be decided on the basis of what’s best for the Jewish people and Israel, not fear of the Arabs or fear of causing anti-Semitism or fear of offending the powers that be.”
That, he maintains, “is as true in 2012 as it was in 1946.”
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THE JEWISH VOTE, THE HOLOCAUST AND ISRAEL
A conference sponsored by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies Fordham U. Law School
140 West 62 St. (between Columbus Ave. & Amsterdam Ave.)
Sunday, September 23 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
featuring Mayor Ed Koch, Prof. David Wyman and other prominent speakers
Info: 202-434-8994 or www.WymanInstitute.org.