web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Who Were The Real ‘Accomplices’?


Share Button

According to a growing number of academics and political extremists, Jews have too much power in America.

This backlash against the so-called Israel Lobby has predictably caused many to wonder whether the assertive voice of contemporary Jewish political activism is too loud, too brash and, most of all, too pushy in making its case.

Those who wonder what the world would be like if only those pushy Jews listened to their critics need not engage in science fiction. All you need is a history lesson about how American Jewish organizations and leaders – the predecessors of the ones that are today considered the take-no-prisoners cornerstone of “the lobby” – acted during the Holocaust. And to do that, a visit to an off-Broadway theater this month will do nicely.

In Bernard Weinraub’s new play “The Accomplices” at the New Group’s Acorn Theater on Manhattan’s 42nd Street, the eminent Rabbi Stephen Wise is confronted by an obnoxious young foreigner. The young man, who goes by the name of Peter Bergson, is frustrated by the unwillingness of the most influential American Jew of his era to use his power to speak up to save European Jews slated for death by Hitler’s Nazis.

Explaining his reluctance to confront an American president whom he considers a “god,” Wise says that American Jews are just too scared to make a stink about rescue. “We don’t shout,” says Wise. “We work quietly. We don’t draw attention to ourselves.”

Bergson was the assumed name of Hillel Kook, a member of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the pre-Israel underground resistance movement. And he’ll have none of it. A stranger to America, he was mystified by the supine attitude of an American Jewry living in comparative security.

He could not comprehend how deeply intimidated Jews and their leaders were by American anti-Semitism. While Bergson saw only a prosperous group who need not fear the assaults of Cossacks, even a powerful figure like Wise trembled at the thought of the hatred expressed by radio personality and anti-Semite Father Charles Coughlin.

“Don’t judge me!” Wise implores as Bergson prepares to launch a noisy public campaign.

Sadly, for Wise, posterity has done little but that ever since.

Weinraub, a longtime reporter for The New York Times who retired a few years ago to try his hand at playwriting, may be exploring familiar territory for those scholars who have been picking at this ugly scab on our communal conscience for decades, but his riveting play has the ability to tell this story for an audience that may never crack open a history book. In resurrecting this confrontation for the stage, he has tapped into a message that is as timely as it is dramatic.

Set in New York and Washington during the years of World War II, the action of “The Accomplices” switches back and forth between scenes in a small New York apartment and the corridors of power in the capital.

In New York, a couple of “nobodies from nowhere” – Bergson and his colleague, Samuel Merlin – try to organize a movement for rescue. At the same time, we see how President Franklin Roosevelt’s appointment of Undersecretary of State Breckenridge Long – a man hostile to Jews and opposed to any thought of allowing refugees into the United States – has made this country an “accomplice” in some ways to the desire of the Nazis to kill those who can’t escape their clutches.

But as much as the roles of FDR and Long in this scenario are central to understanding how events preceded, our attention is inevitably drawn elsewhere. It is the failure of Jewish leaders like Wise, the preeminent spokesman for Jewry of his era, and Jewish insiders like Samuel Rosenman, one of FDR’s top advisers, to risk their own standing in the president’s inner circle to advocate for rescue, that seems to constitute the most shameful aspect of the story.

The willingness of Bergson to go public with his frustration about indifference to the ongoing slaughter of Jews appalls Wise. He is willing to swallow any indignity and failure rather than challenge the president. Instead, he sees Bergson, the Jew who is willing to “shout,” as more of an enemy than even the Germans.

Share Button

About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.com.


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.

No Responses to “Who Were The Real ‘Accomplices’?”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Arab rioters hurl objects at Israeli security personnel who use pepper spray to quell the violence emanating from the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount.
Arab Violence Closes Temple Mount to Visitors Again
Latest Indepth Stories
Haredim riot after draft-dodger is arrested.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

Bitton-041814

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

MK Moshe-Feiglin

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

Dov Shurin

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Perhaps worse than all the above is the acute lack of unity among Jews

At our seder we emulate the way it was celebrated in Temple times, as if the Temple still stood.

More Articles from Jonathan S. Tobin
Mahmoud Abbas, acting leader of the Palestinian Authority

To admit Israel is a Jewish State would undo Arabs’ claimed victimhood and plans to eliminate Israel.

Robert Malley

When it became known in May 2008 that Malley had met with Hamas terrorists, the Obama campaign severed ties with him.

Friedman has been writing the same column for decades in which he asks Israelis whether they will leave the “West Bank.”

Issuing a statement dredging up Wildstein’s life, Christie’s office raised as many questions as it answered.

No matter how wrong Israel’s leaders may think their American counterparts are, little good comes from public spats.

Lieberman has repeatedly dismissed the Palestinian Authority as not being a peace partner.

This is a political version of replacement theology.

Like Chamberlain, Obama sued the ayatollahs for peace, insisting the only alternative to appeasement is war.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/who-were-the-real-accomplices/2007/04/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: