Because of Passover, the next issue of our newspaper will appear on Friday, May 6.
More than three thousand years ago a foreign people in the wondrous lands on the Nile gained their freedom after several hundred years of bondage. Leaving a highly cultured and economically thriving land, the freed people went into the desert toward battles and an uncertain future.
The wonderland with its colossal buildings, pyramids, and temples, with its hieroglyphs and mummies, with its blossoming science and art still holds the interest of researchers. But next to the greatness, almost as a condition for the existence of the former, the limitless despotism of the pharaohs, the oppression of the people, the complete negation of individual freedom and independence, stood the people, slaves to the work that created the great monuments, where only a few who belonged to preferred casts earned anything. The aristocratic culture existed only for a few privileged while millions lived primitively. How could foreigners expect a better lot? Even if one of them had been one of the land’s benefactors—gratitude was an unknown concept in the pharaohs’ politics. The foreigners were enslaved and because their resistance was feared, one tried to exterminate them.
The Israelites suffered badly under slavery. But they still retained some of what had come down from their ancestors. They went along with the circumstances, but while the majority of the Egyptians took slavery for granted, they at least had an understanding for the misery that burdened them. The liberator appeared. The hard misfortunes that were dealt the Egyptians became signs to them that the God of their ancestors punished the opposition of the despots. Finally, their opposition was broken and the people could leave the land freely.
In remembrance we celebrate Passover every year. But can we really celebrate something that lies millennia in the past? And is then the fact that it happened to our forefathers enough to bridge the abyss of the millennia? Indeed the celebration would be useless and without meaning, if it didn’t have anything to say to us about ourselves and our lives. That becomes clear in the Passover haggadah. In every era, mankind should see itself as being freed from Egypt. God freed not only our ancestors but us as well.
The question must be asked: What lasting, fruitful effect does this event have? For “only what is fruitful, is true.” That was what was claimed by those teachers that spent Passover together in Bue Brak. That has come down to us from the very little we know of what they spoke about. One interpretation is that the liberation from Egypt is something so mighty that no moment of our existence should pass without thinking about it. The other interpretation is that even in messianic times will its memory be kept alive because it is the route and source of what mankind will have achieved when the messianic prophecy is fulfilled. In this event does the freedom of the individual not only appear as a God-given right, as a religious and moral imperative, but is realized through the freeing of Israel. The idea of freedom has become one of the foundational pillars of the entire religious and moral way of life and “Weltanschaung” of Judaism. Thus, it is not an empty formula, when in the Sabbath prayer and on every holy day the exodus from Egypt is mentioned. But the idea of freedom is simultaneously a duty. One asks, “Free from what?” because the external bonds seem most important to mankind. More important though is the question, “Free to what end?” Only through this question does freedom attain moral value.
Judaism has gone through history as a fighter for freedom. In those times when the unethical position was held that a land’s ruler determined the religious faith of his subjects, Judaism rejected the oppression of the conscience. In times of misery and persecution it called for inner freedom. The ideas embodied by Passover are no less meaningful today than thousands of years ago. As with all historical holy days of Judaism, Passover points to the work of the present, to the aim of the future, through the remembrance of past events. Consequently, the last days of the celebration emphasize thinking of the future.
The world is apparently infinitely far from messianic perfection. But for everyone who seeks ideal values in today’s life, it must be a proud and joyous awareness to be able to work towards the realization of an ideal which was borne out of Egypt by our ancestors.
From Deutsche Gröβe, Friedrich Schiller:
Fighting for reason’s freedom,
Is to fight for all peoples’ rights,
for all eternal time.
Did That Have to Be?
We have ascertained directly with the author of the following essay that it expresses only his personal opinion. The Editors.
As easy as it is, as happy as it makes us, to cross swords with the enemy on the field of intellectual battle, so hard and depressing it is to have to fight with friends. In this case, one doesn’t want to say one word too many or form a sentence too sharply, so that each makes clear the desire and intention to aver only that which the conscience calls one to, and yet does not hurt the one to whom we are so bound with strong connections.
Today I must fight with one of my best and oldest friends—with the Central Organization of German Citizens of Jewish Faith! In the previous issue of this newspaper appeared the April 10th resolution that the leadership of this association made with regards to the settlement of Palestine. It’s perhaps not redundant if I repeat the statement here:
“Were the settlement of Palestine nothing more than a large aid project, nothing would be said about the decision of the Central Organization not to support this work. However, the settlement of Palestine is the primary objective of nationalist Jewish politics. That is why its support is to be rejected. As long as the social and religious institutions of the German people and the religious and cultural needs of the German Jewry suffer bitterly and as long as countless homeless Jews need our immediate and urgent help, the Jewish sense of community and charity has many opportunities and the duty to work productively within German society.”
When shortly before the World War the Saverne Affair occurred, as down below in Alsace the most extreme and unsympathetic representatives of Prussian militarism trampled on the freedom and equal rights of the Alsatian people, our current Chancellor, Fehrenbach, said in a masterful speech in the Reichstag, that the recent improvement in the attitude and position of the Alsatians toward the Reich was over and done with. He, Fehrenbach, when he heard of the goings on in Saverne and their impact, called out in consternation, “Tatters, only tatters!”
“Only tatters” … that is how many of us feel in the face of the Central Organization’s resolution. There was in the last few months—as I had once before expressed in these pages—a feeling of hopefulness developing.
The Zionists had moved on beyond their deep disappointment. With the high hopes, with triumphant celebrations, they had welcomed that the English Commonwealth had taken over the Palestinian Mandate from the Turkish empire and immediately started the process of creating a national homeland for the Jews. It seemed then that all the Zionist dreams were coming to fruition, and that we who had opposed the Zionist ideology were being swept aside.
But then a frost came into the spring nights. The text of the law made it clear that the English government had worked out the justification for their Palestinian Mandate. And the text was very far from allowing the Jews any significant influence on the governance and administration of the country, and carefully and fearfully defined parity of the national and political rights of the non-Jewish inhabitants of the country. It does not differ from the principles—reasonable and democratic—according to which the culturally progressive English colonies are governed so that it should be apparent to the whole world, what is obvious to sober judges of English ways and history, that England has no intention of seeing this country as anything other than a means to expand the sphere of influence for British statecraft and administrative power—and an infinitely valuable protection of its flank position in the Orient.
More disappointments came. The more one got to know the country, the clearer it became that mass settlement would require a very long time and a huge amount of money, which England expects the Jews to fund. Also to consider is the resistance offered by the Arabs, which was underestimated thanks to the wily Emir Faisal’s fine speeches two years ago, but which is quite strong and touch and requires the greatest care and caution. And finally, the American Zionists are not agreed with the continental Zionists, especially not with the Germans. The Americans with their clever insight had expected the afore-mentioned difficulties. They also have the example before them of the bitter experiences of the German-Americans during the World War as a warning not to let themselves get pushed into a national conflict. And so they have made as a condition of their participation (which is essential) that any national element in the movement be de-emphasized in favor of the social, practical aspects of colonization which would make it easier for all Jews to participate in the work in Palestine.
The German Zionists did not agree with this position. They learned, they adapted. Their tone, which every visitor to their meetings and every reader of their press has found to be bitter and embittering for decades, mildly put, began to gradually change.
On our non-Zionist side, tendencies were developing that were somewhat receptive and made it easier for the Zionists to change their approach. That Jewish youth was participating more actively, more deeply in religious life, in Jewish literature, and Jewish history, also increased their love of the land which was once the homeland of our people but also of our faith. The hate of others bonded us more tightly together and made it the order of the day that despite our differences we come together to defend against the enemy and work together toward strengthening Judaism. A new attitude was developing. It appeared everywhere. A few weeks ago at a Berlin lecture, the staunch fighter for liberalism, a man of faultless German conviction as Rabbi Dr. Baeck called for all Jews to participate in the establishment of a new Palestine. In Breslau, the chairman of the Central Organization, Hirschberg, a man who has no understanding for Zionist leanings, expressed the same sentiment. But none has expressed so clearly our right and our duty to build up Palestine as a man, who has done so much for the Jews of the East as for the German-Jewish colonization and educational work in the Orient, who always sided with universal Judaism and against any exaggerated Zionist aspirations and whose German conviction not even Dr. Naumann could doubt—I am referring to Dr. Paul Nathan.
In an essay, “The Jewish-national homeland in Palestine” (the author also placed the title in quotation marks) in the March volume of the Central Organization Journal he said unequivocally:
“The position of the various Jewish parties take towards each other, especially the position of the Zionists toward the non-Zionists must change fundamentally; at least it should change fundamentally. The differences that separate the one from the other have lost any meaning for the foreseeable future, and according to these principles: cessat causa, cessat effectus [The cause ceasing, the effect must cease; see http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/%5D, we are approaching the moment when it might be possible for Judaism to present a unified front.”
He based his belief, which was at once a wish and an admonition, on the English Mandate, the positive it contained, that it would allow Jews with national or religious longing for the holy land cultivate the fields, import and export goods, “pray at the Wailing Wall as once before,” and the negative, in that it would put an end to misguided Zionist hopes and bring the dreamers back down to earth and to fruitful, positive work. Nathan added in his clear and deliberate way:
“The new development, whether one greets it with exaggerated hopes, or regards it with negativity, places all Jews of the world, regardless of whether they are Zionists or not Zionists, in a completely changed position.
The hopeful Zionists now see their plans being constrained to a high degree. The non-Zionists however find themselves in a position that no longer offers them names for what they should call their opposition to the Zionists.
Palestine is firmly in the hands of England, which makes it highly possible that under English protection secure institutions can be created that benefit the Jews in that country both in intellectual and economic terms. Whereas before the war of 1914, all business in Palestine had to deal with arbitrary acts by the Turks, now English lawfulness will provide a dependable guarantee for the country’s development.
Today, the world Jewry can consider the Palestine question as it once did before the unfortunate and bitter strife with the Zionists. In politics, the best thing that one can do is in the face of new conditions is to forget, to thoroughly forget.
My circle of friends and I have worked on the Palestine project for a quarter of a century. We can now get back to work as only one thing has changed. In the place of constantly changing political conditions, which the Turkish regime engendered, there is, for the foreseeable future, a firmly grounded English rule.”
Naturally, Nathan warns pointedly against overestimating the possibility of development in this country that he knows so well, and against one other illusion—namely to have any exaggerated hope of German participation in building this country. He sees two reasons for our limited participation: because of our poverty and because the boundless misery of the Ukrainian Jews will consume all of our charity and willing aid. “Our sympathy, however,” concludes the beautiful essay, “stays with Palestine, where the collective contribution of all Jews looks attainable.”
The odd response to this heartfelt and compelling appeal is this resolution of the Central Organization’s board. Whoever reads the resolution reprinted above completely objectively must recoil from the iciness of the first sentence. Even if the settlement of Palestine were nothing more than a large social aid project—even then there shouldn’t be anything said against this project from the Central Organization’s perspective. The devil take it, shouldn’t there be something to said for it?
The second and third sentences deny support for the settlement of Palestine. Here I ask emphatically: Where does the board of the Central Organization get the right to undermine the Esra association, which has done great and beneficial things for the colonization of the holy land, and has just recently once again asked for the participation of all German Jews, and which consists of all Jewish directions while consistently highlighting that the development of Palestine is not the work of a single party?
The last sentence gives a kind of answer to this question, although not one that is satisfying on a human or scientific level. It states with bare words, “We are too poor, we can’t do anything.” Indeed, we have become very poor—we scarcely know or apprehend how poor. The need of our congregations, or our charitable institutions becomes ever clearer and more blatant. Paul Nathan in no way fails to recognize that, as we have seen, when he declares that the burden of caring for Palestine will have to rest mostly on the shoulders of the English and American Jews. But does that mean that we impoverished ones cannot or should not contribute our mites to this great work? That’s what the Central Organization’s board thinks, and Rabbi Dr. Jacob (whom I know as a redoubtable opposition fighter and therefor don’t like to see him on this path) agrees with them and gives the Zionists this deadly earnest advice, to come back “in fifty, or perhaps in thirty or twenty years.”
No, and a hundred times no! “Poverty gladly gives to poverty,” claims the lovely poem by Heinrich Seidel. In addition, a significant portion of German Jews still lives in relative ease, so that their ability to make donations need not be so limited. It’s only a matter of appealing to the Jewish heart and conscience of these men and women, of hammering it home, that an “I can’t” isn’t acceptable from them. Should they have such reservations on their overly sensitive consciences, as has Rabbi Dr. Jacob, that every Mark spent on Palestine is “forbidden displacement of capital abroad,” then we need only point to the certainly very patriotic German Catholics, who don’t hold back from paying millions and more every year as Peter’s Pence that to Rome, the center of their religion. Let’s not be more Catholic than the Pope! Let’s not be shamed by our fellow citizens who are no poorer than we are. We must protect ourselves from illusions about what we can achieve, but let’s not turn away from making our modest contribution to the significant work that the greater Jewish community is doing down there.
Naturally, we must emphatically make the point, that as Hirschberg said: an unconditional support of the Zionist development fund, Keren hayesod, does not come under consideration. We want to help Palestine develop, because the clamoring misery of our brothers in the East demands that no possibility of finding the homeless a refuge be overlooked. We want to do it because the immigration options in other countries are increasingly limited due to the prevalent prejudice and the growing economic difficulties, while this country has been declared through a formal act of justice for human rights to be a homeland for homeless Jews. We want to do it because the aroused longing of tens and hundreds of thousand victims for the land of their fathers, the land of religious promise. We don’t want our participation to fail, because we confidently hope that this country will someday be a warm source from which Jewish religious renewal will spring. We don’t however want to gather the building blocks for a Jewish national state, a Zionist castle in the clouds, and therefore we need assurances that the work that all parties should contribute to does not serve those objectives that we non-Zionist Jews today, after the fiasco of the boldest Jewish nationalist dreams, oppose even more heartily than in the years and decades of struggle that lie behind us.
It might not be easy to find such a compromise, but it will and must succeed, if we have the will to put our hands to building Palestine. That the board of the Central Organization is lacking this will (or at least the majority that pushed through this resolution) – that is the serious reproach we must make today.
We know, or at least apprehend: The concern that a number of the members who were present when the League of Nationalist German Jews that some real or apparent concessions to the Zionists were made influenced this resolution. But fear always makes for a poor advisor in such essential matters. And especially when the well-known “fear of one’s own courage” bears even slight resemblance…
The board of the Central Organization has spoken. Now it is up to the members to speak and to act. No one should take the comfortable approach and quit because they don’t like the new direction. Today’s minority must become tomorrow’s majority. Even if it takes until the day after tomorrow—our day will come! Because the future has never belonged to absolute negation!
by Erich Spitz
Aus dem Reich.
Berlin. A description of the Liberal Association’s Winterfest concert and dance.
A sketch by Ino Gaβmann.
Synopsis: On a ship bound for New York, a wealthy Jewish industrialist from Baltimore is throwing an opulent supper party with his business associates. He meets the ship’s steward who tells him how ten poor Eastern Jewish families are preparing their seder, which evokes his own childhood memories of seders he used to celebrate when he was a poor orphan living with his Uncle in a Silesian town near the Polish border. Instead of attending his dinner party, he goes below deck to spend the night in prayer and song with the immigrants. Morning finds him renewed, having re-discovered his better self. He goes on to help his new friends make their way in the new world, and since then, always celebrates Passover.
Detmold. The court recently acquitted Captain Manderscheidt of having insulted Reichsminister Geβler by saying that as a Democrat he was influenced by Jews. The court found that no insult had taken place, merely a statement of fact because as everyone knows the German Democratic Party has a high percentage of Jewish members, therefore calling it a “Jewish Party” is not an insult.
Hamburg. At a meeting of the Central Organization of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith, Rabbi Dr. Jacob (Dortmund) spoke on “The Jews in Germany.” He focused on the history of Anti-Semitism in Germany. His speech was often interrupted by calls and comments from the audience. He ended with the statement, “All of us are the Fatherland. Germanness lies in the spirit, not in the blood.”
Lecture by the teacher, Robert Hirschfeld in the Jewish Liberal Youth Organization, Breslau.
Synopsis: The lecturer describes the contents of the Hagadah and the seder in a straight-forward manner. He then describes the Hagadah books themselves and how they were the only opportunity for Jewish artists to illustrate using a wide range of Biblical topics. These illustrations were often meant for children. In recent times, there were various attempts at appealing to modern interpretations, the most successful of these being written by Rabbi Dr. Seligmann from Frankfurt.
Introduction of the New Congregational Rabbi.
Dr. Hoffmann’s introduction took place the 20th of April. After Eduard Sachs warmly remembered Rabbi Dr. Rosenthal, who had passed away just several weeks ago, the head of the representatives, Professor Wohlauer recalled Dr. Hoffmann’s father’s contributions as the director of the Berlin rabbinical seminary. Dr. Vogelstein expressed his hope and desire that both colleagues would work side-by-side for the good of the whole community although they held opposing views on Jewish matters. After thanking for the praise given his father, Dr. Hoffmann promised that he would always be a true pastor of the orthodox community.
Exhibit of Jewish Religious Objects.
Synopsis: Rosa Freudenthal organized the exhibit that included objects used in synagogues as well as in the home. It featured modern artists, men and women, from all over Germany: Mendelssohn (Hellerau), Leo Horovitz (Frankfurt), Friedrich Adler (Hamburg), Wonka (Breslau), Rosa Weyl (Breslau), Mrs. Zadikow (Munich), Erna Selten (Breslau). Antique objects from Willy Falk’s private collection, from the Soldin synagogue and the Kirschstein (Nikolassee) were also on display.
The local Chapter of the League of Jewish Women will be once again sending children in need of rest and relaxation to the sun spa home in Segeberg from June 10 to July 15. Miss Cohn will be accepting registrations daily from 9 to 10 am until May 5 at 12 I Tauentzienstraβe.
Associations and Assemblies.
The Central Organization.
The Central Organization of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith recently called a meeting dedicated to examining anti-Semitism. The originally scheduled speaker, Reverend Nithak-Stahn could not attend. In his place, Representative Staerck (Jena) spoke on the history of anti-Semitism. The meeting was well attended by government leaders and Christian fellow citizens. Staerck begins his history with the book of Esther to illustrate how anti-Semitism has been present since the earliest times. He showed how in Greco-Roman times, hatred of the Jews as “enemies of the truth” transformed into hatred of Jews as “enemies of Jesus Christ,” especially as the status as privileged slave traders led them to sell Christians. Spain was cited as the premier example of medieval anti-Semitism, despite the papacy being generally well-disposed toward Jews, which did not prevent priests from waging a battle between church and synagogue that even Luther joined. In the 18th and 19th century the French Revolution’s notions of freedom and equality eventually led the way to Jewish emancipation. By 1870, anti-Semitism had once again peaked with Adolf Stöcker leading the movement, the effects of which are still being felt today. He goes on to contrast the situation of Germany’s Jews with England’s where integration of even relatively conservative Jews has occurred. He ends with an appeal to the spirit of reconciliation for Jews to participate in the reconstruction of Germany.