Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
On the eve of President Obama’s meeting with American Jewish leaders last week, a prominent Jewish journalist urged the White House to take the unusual step of providing a transcript of the conversation.
“Transparency – this administration came into office pledging plenty of it.… Now’s a good time to put those ideals into action,” wrote Jewish Telegraphic Agency editor in chief Ami Eden in his daily blog.
“The question is whether the Obama administration wants to force millions of American Jews to be dependent on the leaks, spin and judgment of a select few, or empower them to make up their own minds.”
If such transparency had been practiced during the Holocaust years, history might have turned out differently. American Jewry’s untarnished image of President Franklin Roosevelt remained intact only because Jewish leaders never revealed what FDR was saying to them in private.
On December 8, 1942, Rabbi Stephen Wise, longtime leader of the American Jewish Congress and the American Zionist movement, headed a delegation of five Jewish leaders to the White House. Afterward, Wise said that the president was “profoundly shocked” by the Nazis’ mass murder of European Jewry; that Roosevelt said “the American people will hold the perpetrators of these crimes to strict accountability”; and that FDR promised the Allies “are prepared to take every possible step” to “save those who may still be saved.”
It must have been very reassuring to American Jews to hear that the president was so concerned and doing whatever he could to save Jews from Hitler.
But an account by another participant, Jewish Labor Committee president Adolph Held, told a different story. Held privately told his colleagues that FDR began the meeting by joking about his choice of Governor Herbert Lehman, a Jew, to head the postwar administration in Germany.
Rabbi Wise then spoke briefly about the Nazi atrocities. Roosevelt replied that he was “very well acquainted” with the massacres but it would be “very difficult” to stop them since Hitler was “an insane man.” FDR asked the Jewish representatives for their suggestions. Four of them spoke, but “the entire conversation on the part of the delegation lasted only a minute or two,” Held wrote. “The President then plunged into a discussion of other matters.”
Of the 29 minutes the delegation spent with the President, “he addressed the delegation for 23 minutes.” As soon as FDR finished speaking, he “pushed some secret button, and his adjutant appeared in the room” to usher the Jewish leaders out.
What would the American Jewish public have thought if it was known that Roosevelt spent 23 of the 29 minutes telling jokes and commenting on subjects other than Europe’s Jews?
Fifteen months later, Wise covered up for FDR again. On March 9, 1944, Wise and fellow Zionist leader Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver met with Roosevelt. The British White Paper of 1939, which had almost completely shut the doors of Palestine to Jewish refugees, would expire shortly and Wise and Silver hoped the president would oppose its renewal.
Wise and Silver told the press afterward that Roosevelt said the U.S. “has never given its approval to the White Paper,” and had the “deepest sympathy” for the goal of a Jewish National Home. Once again, American Jewry could feel confident it had a stalwart friend in the Oval Office.
But private accounts of the next day’s cabinet meeting, by Vice President Henry Wallace and Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., filled in some crucial blanks. FDR boasted to the cabinet that he told Wise and Silver “where to get off.”
He berated the Jewish leaders, “Do you want to start a Holy Jihad?…. If you people continue pushing this recommendation [for a Jewish national home in Palestine] on the Hill, you are going to be responsible for the killing of a hundred thousand people” (meaning that “enraged Arabs” would attack Americans in the Mideast as revenge for U.S. support of Zionism).
It was only after this dressing-down, Wallace wrote in his diary, that Roosevelt proceeded “to cause Wise and Silver to believe that he was in complete accord with them and the only question was timing.… The President certainly is a waterman. He looks one direction and rows the other with the utmost skill.”
About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
No tweets found.
To date, all the Bedouins’ legal land ownership claims that reached the courts have failed.
“It was quite an institutionalized racism, and we didn’t come to get involved in politics.”
With the passage of time, fewer and fewer people are left to testify about life and death in the camps at the hands of the Nazis.
A fascinating Biblical echo
So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.
Why should a young Israeli become an observant Jew when Judaism’s official representatives preserve it in its exile version?
Like Chamberlain, Obama sued the ayatollahs for peace, insisting the only alternative to appeasement is war.
I have frequently drawn up lists of what I love most about Israel, and Arik Einstein has ranked high.
This new mood among Christian Arabs has worried the communists and Arab nationalist.
After nearly five years in office it should be clear that President Obama has always been a man on a mission to change America and the world. To be sure, we couldn’t disagree more with his vision – and in this we think we speak for most Americans.
We find it noteworthy, if not surprising, that with all the well-documented systematic human rights abuses committed by governments around the world – including, but not limited to, China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Zimbabwe – not one resolution condemning any of them is planned by the UN General Assembly.
For his latest book, City College’s William Helmreich walked 120,960 blocks – in other words, nearly every block of New York’s five boroughs.
When Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September to make the case for U.S. intervention in Syria, he offered a historical analogy.
Numerous Danish Christian families hid Jews in their homes or farms, and then smuggled them to the seashore.
The outcry around the world against Nazi book burning included a moving letter from Helen Keller.
The Obama team included many outspoken advocates of U.S. action against the Bashir regime.
During his visit to China last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled that the city of Shanghai was “one of the few places that opened its gates” to Jews fleeing Hitler. Officials of the Chinese Communist government, standing nearby, beamed with pleasure at the expectation that people all over the world would read how their regime rescued Jews.
The news that the Internal Revenue Service unfairly targeted conservative groups has brought renewed spotlight on a 2010 lawsuit filed by the pro-Israel group Z Street, which alleges it was also singled out by the IRS when applying for tax-exempt status.
A pattern of private remarks about Jews made by Roosevelt may explain why 190,000 immigration spots were left unfilled despite the plight of European Jury.
No matter how deeply American Zionists yearned for peace their good intentions often went unreciprocated.
There was plenty of matzah ball soup and brisket, to be sure. But the dining room was occupied by a makeshift tent, the Passover table was replaced by a pile of sheepskin rugs, and the Lindheim children were dressed in Arab garb.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-jewish-leaders-meet-presidents/2009/06/22/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.