Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Reform Rabbi Stephen Wise fought against the Bergson group which tried desperately to push American Jews to help European Jews caught in the Nazi death grip.

But there was another motive, too. Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Reform Movement’s Hebrew Union College (in part founded by Wise), explained it in a September, 2008, talk:

“In the 1930s, it was Wise who led the rallies against Hitler, so why did he fail so horribly in the 1940s?” Ellenson asked at a Holocaust conference organized by the Washington-based David S. Wyman Institute …

He said part of the explanation lies in Wise’s “absolute and complete love” for president Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as his antipathy toward the Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and toward the Bergson Group, whose leaders were followers of Jabotinsky, something that “helped blind him” to the need for more activism.

Ellenson said concerns of provoking an anti-Semitic backlash should not have thwarted the American Jewish leadership from actively working to prevent the extermination of six million Jews. “Jewish leaders have an obligation to be sufficiently flexible and imaginative to deal with unprecedented situations,” he said. He said he hoped that today’s leaders would respond more effectively to contemporary dangers facing the Jewish people, such as the Iranian nuclear threat.

“Stephen Wise spent too much time trying to protect FDR from criticism, and not enough time focusing on how to convince Roosevelt to help rescue Jews from Europe,” said Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff. “Rabbi David Ellenson is to be commended for acknowledging the mistakes of his predecessor and trying to ensure that the failures of the 1940s will not be repeated.”

It seems to me that this is almost exactly what is happening today, with the liberal Jewish establishment in America cleaving to its President, Barack Obama, while the latter pursues policies inimical to Jewish survival. It is ironic that Rabbi Ellenson criticized Rabbi Wise in this way, and then three years later viciously attacked opponents of the nomination of J Street and New Israel Fund activist Rabbi Richard Jacobs as head of the Union for Reform Judaism!

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Kook and Merlin, by the way, both sailed to Israel in 1948 on the ill-fated Irgun arms ship Altalena, which was fired on by IDF forces on the orders of David Ben-Gurion (Merlin was wounded, as the Times article notes). Interestingly, later in life, Ben-Gurion said that he regretted the decision, which he would not have made had he known Irgun leader Menachem Begin as well as he had since come to know him.

I don’t know if Wise regretted his actions in regard to Kook, although he apparently understood that he had failed in his responsibility toward the Jews of Europe. Toward the end of his life, he wrote,

I have seen and shared deep and terrible sorrow. The tale might be less tragic if the help of men had been less scant and fitful.

Today’s establishment still has time to choose the right path.

Visit Fresno Zionism.   / Vic Rosenthal

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Vic Rosenthal created FresnoZionism.org to provide a forum for publishing and discussing issues about Israel and the Mideast conflict, especially where there is a local connection. Rosenthal believes that America’s interests are best served by supporting the democratic state of Israel, the front line in the struggle between Western civilization and radical Islam. The viewpoint is not intended to be liberal or conservative — just pro-Israel.

53 COMMENTS

  1. I am less than thrilled with your accusation here. Just because one is Liberal means he is anti-Zionist? Just because I do not vote for the Tea Party-who seeks to make the USA a Christian nation-does not mean I am anti-Zionist. It means I hate the idea of the Tra Party always voting to discriminate against Jews, Gays, and the disabled-those who were killed during the Shoah…in case YOU have forgotten.

  2. C Itai, JStreet lobbies congress and organizes protest AGAINST Israel. That makes it an anti-Israel organization. The Reform movement openly supports J-Street, and the head of the movement, rabbi Rick Jacobs is a J-Street member.

    We are not calling them ant-Zionist because they are left wing, we are calling them anti-Zionists because there actions and words are AGAINST Israel.

  3. Then explain why the comment states ‘Liberals’ as anti-Zionists. It sickens me that you can use the Yom HaShoah as a political Republican push.
    You called Liberals anti-Zionists. Well, we aren’t.
    Some Liberals just hate Republicans pushing Christianity and hate down our throats.

  4. Maybe we should not use the word Liberal to describe Reform Judaism. It leads us to think you support the Christian Republican Right wing, which seeks to rid the world of Judaism and any religion besides Christianity. You do realize they ‘love’ Israel but in reality only seek to convert it to Jesus, their messiah? It sickens me that anyone would support them in ridding the world of Judaism in the name of love. Hate and discrimination is all the right wing knows. Sad that we attack fellow Jews rather than standing against oppression.

  5. My grandparents, father and uncle were members of the Bergson Group. They also were gun runners in Israel’s War of Independence. They smuggled guns and parts to Israel in wooden crates marked as farm equipment and tractor parts. I remember my father saying that some of the Jew’s worst enemies were other Jews. Not much has changed. ………. Many of us still act and react with Ghetto Jew Mentalities, and that is something we must get rid of. The ancient Hebrew warrior that resides within the soul of every Jew must rise and our people must act from that place of boldness and direct strength of mind and purpose. HaShem made us “stiff necked” for a reason- and it was NOT to bow down to others, nor was it to lower ourselves to their ways. It was to survive and thrive as JEWS -despite the best efforts among the worst of them to wipe us off the face of this earth. The fact is, the nations hate us because we refuse to give up who we are to become like them. And “Rabbis” like Wise, and those who follow the Ghetto Jew Mentality, will only get Jews killed.

  6. Possibly just another liberal , liberal who does not know what she is talking about . When one of your own ,refused to answer Golda Meir’s urgent plea for arms , planes and tanks to defend themselves from ALL THE ARAB countries around them in the 1967 war , it was the Republican President who she called after the then Secretary of State , Henry Kissinger refused her cries , who sent her everything she asked for and ALL THE ARAB COUNTRIES around them were SOUNDLY BEATEN !!! I cannot recall his name at this time but it is reported that he said,” Let the Isralies bleed a little .” His name was Henry Kissinger , and by the way, that Republican President was none other than Richard M. Nixon ! Go to the library and read a little, knowledge goes a long , long way !!! Shalom

  7. I hate the Tea Party and I support Israel. The Tea Party would prefer it if I went away or died. I’m stubborn and I’m not going away. And it’s the republicans trying to do away with Social Security and Medicare which would kill me. My Eyes are wide open. I don’t like Obama or Kerry. My Eyes are Open enough to know that anyone who dares judge my Jewishness is going to be blocked and exorcised from my Life. I won’t tolerate that from anyone. Not NOW or EVER. Think before you type. I did.

  8. It’t not blaming any set of Jews for the Shoah. However, it is a fact, that the Reform movement then (and its leader rabbi Stephen Wise) was against saving Jews. Similarly, the current head of the Reform movement, rabbi Rick Jacobs belongs to a group that lobbies congress and protests AGAINST Israel.

  9. I will support and never divide Jerusalem, because it’s your only land when bad times comes, you have a land where to be in Peace! I hope not but in case the situation in USA gets worse and discriminates Jews, then you have a land where to be and go. DON’T BE FOOL! It’s the LAND that ADONAI ELOCHIM Promised to our Father Avraham, in case you forgot, Read your Jewish History and your Torah and Tanach! If a Jew is anti-Zionist, he or she is AGAINST HASHEM and HIS plans! PERIOD. MAY HASHEM BLESS US ALL!

  10. I will support and never divide Jerusalem, because it's your only land when bad times comes, you have a land where to be in Peace! I hope not but in case the situation in USA gets worse and discriminates Jews, then you have a land where to be and go. DON'T BE FOOL! It's the LAND that ADONAI ELOCHIM Promised to our Father Avraham, in case you forgot, Read your Jewish History and your Torah and Tanach! If a Jew is anti-Zionist, he or she is AGAINST HASHEM and HIS plans! PERIOD. MAY HASHEM BLESS US ALL!

  11. Thank you for this brilliant article. The same scenario all over again, Jews against Jews. So sad…
    The comments here contain discussions about Liberals, Reformers, Democrats, Republicans, ……
    What does it have to do with the annihilation of Jews during World War II, does it matter? What matters is , that the American Jewish leaders – influential Rabbis, betrayed their European brethren and it is happening again. Yes, now it’s Leftists (Sorros and others Jews) who support boycott, and other dire actions against Israel. These enemies of Israel create numerous new organizations (J Street etc.) in order to incite young Liberal Jews , who are badly educated, do not know history of Israel , did not experience anti-Semitism, and were raised comfortably in the US at the absence of war, to promote their agenda. This is an old “revolutionary” scenario, which is now under successful implementation here in US – Jews have always been a useful tool in any revolution. American Jews do not want to know that their comfort here is not forever, they are not immune from slaughter (remember relaxed German Jews?). This time, with the “redistribution” and Islamisation of the US, very soon the American Jewry will feel what the anti-Semitism is, just watch many youtube videos. I am not writing all this for J Street people, who are probably paid for, or simply dumb. I am writing it for those few who can hear, because I came from there, from Europe, and I know what I am talking about. The understanding of Jewish Mission, having a Jewish soul, is not equal to being, or called, a Jew. At the end only 1 of 5 Jews left Egypt with Moses, as we know from Torah. This few will safe Israel, despite all obstacles, all this miserable howl, but it is so terribly sad to watch this repeating betrayal…

  12. I truly don’t understand why the Haredim don’t want to fight our work? Our ancestors all did, In fact the Jews of Elephantine, an area of Egypt, were mercenaries, hired by Egypt, and they and a large synagogue there.

  13. Thank you for this brilliant article. The same scenario all over again, Jews against Jews. So sad…
    The comments here contain discussions about Liberals, Reformers, Democrats, Republicans, ……
    What does it have to do with the annihilation of Jews during World War II, does it matter? What matters is , that the American Jewish leaders – influential Rabbis, betrayed their European brethren and it is happening again. Yes, now it’s Leftists (Sorros and others Jews) who support boycott, and other dire actions against Israel. These enemies of Israel create numerous new organizations (J Street etc.) in order to incite young Liberal Jews , who are badly educated, do not know history of Israel , did not experience anti-Semitism, and were raised comfortably in the US at the absence of war, to promote their agenda. This is an old “revolutionary” scenario, which is now under successful implementation here in US – Jews have always been a useful tool in any revolution. American Jews do not want to know that their comfort here is not forever, they are not immune from slaughter (remember relaxed German Jews?). This time, with the “redistribution” and Islamisation of the US, very soon the American Jewry will feel what the anti-Semitism is, just watch many youtube videos. I am not writing all this for J Street people, who are probably paid for, or simply dumb. I am writing it for those few who can hear, because I came from there, from Europe, and I know what I am talking about. The understanding of Jewish Mission, having a Jewish soul, is not equal to being, or called, a Jew. At the end only 1 of 5 Jews left Egypt with Moses, as we know from Torah. This few will safe Israel, despite all obstacles, all this miserable howl, but it is so terribly sad to watch this repeating betrayal…

  14. Well said Robbie!
    Although, sometimes I have this little feeling that our “liberal” Jewish brothers are not just simply idiots. I think they have business interests in the Muslim world and that is more important to them than the life of a few million fellow Jews.

  15. Well said Robbie!
    Although, sometimes I have this little feeling that our "liberal" Jewish brothers are not just simply idiots. I think they have business interests in the Muslim world and that is more important to them than the life of a few million fellow Jews.

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