WJC 85th Anniversary - World Jewish Congress
A Message from WJC President Ronald S. Lauder

Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder


Menachem Z. Rosensaft

The Jewish Right to Equality

Judge Julian W. Mack

The World Jewish Congress during World War II

Gregory J. Wallance

The Re-enfranchisement of the Jew

Rabbi Stephen S.Wise

Nuremberg and Beyond: Jacob Robinson, a Champion for Justice

Jonathan A. Bush

The State of World Jewry, 1948

Nahum Goldmann

Gerhart M. Riegner: Pioneer for Jewish–Catholic Relations in the Contemporary World

Monsignor Pier Francesco Fumagalli

The World Jewish Congress and the State of Israel: A Personal Reminiscence

Natan Lerner

The World Jewish Congress, the League of Nations, and the United Nations

Zohar Segev

From Pariah to Partner: The Jews of Postwar Germany and the World Jewish Congress

Michael Brenner

Diplomatic Interventions: The World Jewish Congress and North African Jewry

Isabella Nespoli, Menachem Z. Rosensaft

Bourguiba’s Jewish Friend

S. J. Goldsmith

Soviet Jewry: Debates and Controversies

Suzanne D. Rutland

Advancing the Best in Jewish Culture

Philip M. Klutznick

The Struggle for Historical Integrity at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Laurence Weinbaum

New Directions and Priorities, 1985

Edgar M. Bronfman

Fighting Delegitimization: The United Nation’s “Zionism Is Racism” Resolution, a Case Study

Evelyn Sommer

Navigating the Communist Years: A Jewish Perspective

Maram Stern

The Kurt Waldheim Affair

Eli M. Rosenbaum

In Search of Justice: The World Jewish Congress and the Swiss Banks

Gregg J. Rickman

Confronting Terror: The Buenos Aires Bombings

Adela Cojab-Moadeb

The World Jewish Congress Today

Robert R. Singer

My Vision of the Jewish Future

Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder


Robert R. Singer

WJC 1936 - 2021

Advancing the Best in Jewish Culture

There is a rarely remembered exchange of correspondence between Dr. Albert Einstein and Dr. Sigmund Freud, which took place before Hitler’s election victory and World War II. It provides the kernel of thought which I would like to apply against these crucial days. On July 30, 1932, Dr. Einstein asked Dr. Freud: “Is there any way of delivering mankind from the menace of war? Is it possible to control man’s evolution so as to make him proof against the psychoses of hate and destructiveness?” While he posed these questions, he proposed “the setting up, by international consent, of a legislative judicial body to settle every conflict arising between nations.”

Freud’s response was delayed a few weeks and was several times the length of Einstein’s letter. It was not an optimistic one. He did not accept the contention that

in some happy corners of the earth, where nature brings forth abundantly whatever man desires, there flourishes races whose lives go gently by, unknowing of aggression or constraint. The Bolsheviks, too, aspire to do away with human aggressiveness by ensuring the satisfaction of material needs and enforcing equality between man and man. To me, this hope seems vain. Meanwhile, they perfect their armaments and their hatred of outsiders, [which] is not the least factor of cohesion amongst themselves.

How well do we know the verity of this conclusion; sixty years after the revolution, the Jew remains an outsider under anti-Semitic attack. Freud then commented on ideal utopian conditions which he believed then unattainable. He agreed with Einstein’s view of a central establishment which could have the last word in any conflict of interest. But he foresaw the recent weaknesses of the United Nations when he added, “obviously such notions as these can only be significant when they are the expressions of a deeply rooted sense of unity shared by all. ”Then he added the following:

The cultural development of mankind (some, I know, prefer to call it civilization) has been in progress since immemorial antiquity. To this process we owe all that is best in our composition, but also much that makes for human suffering. Its origins and causes are obscure, its issue is uncertain, but some of its characteristics are easy to perceive On the psychological side two of the most important phenomena of culture are, firstly, a strengthening of the intellect which tends to master our distinctive life, and, secondly, an introversion of the aggressive impulse, with all its consequent benefits and perils. Now war runs most emphatically counter to the psychic disposition imposed on us by the growth of culture; we are therefore bound to resent war, to find it utterly intolerable. With pacifists like us it is not merely an intellectual and affective repulsion, but a constitutional intolerance, an idiosyncrasy in its most drastic form.
How long have we to wait before the rest of men turn pacifist? Impossible to say, and yet perhaps our hope that these two factors— man’s cultural disposition and well-founded dread of the form that future wars will take— may serve to put an end to war in the near future, is not chimerical. But by what ways or by-ways this will come about, we cannot guess.

The cultural development of mankind still remains the single best answer to our search. Culture, as Freud meant it, was not just intelligence or intellectualism but something much more— the making of the whole man. As he states it so well, “not merely an intellectual and affective repulsion but a constitutional intolerance.” This is a large order and none can guess any more than did Dr. Freud as to when that day can be reached. Nor can each of us or many of us, organized as you are or as the World Jewish Congress is, expect to tackle the encompassing challenges that surround this generation of man. But, as it is said, even if it be not our lot to complete the goal, it is our duty not to desist from the work.

The breath-taking pace of the last seventy-five years which brought both opportunity and peril leaves us not much removed from the content of the Einstein-Freud correspondence of over forty years ago. In recent weeks, Gore Vidal published his latest book Kalki. It is a fantasy in which an ordinary soldier from New Orleans assumes the role of the Hindu god reincarnated to bring about the end of the world. By use of his own discovery for biological warfare, he does destroy the world leaving five to rebuild it. But only he and one other can produce offspring and they fail. The loneliness of the few left and the thought that it would take two centuries to repopulate the world with but one million people are indeed fantasies. But the walls that grow up between only a few who roam the earth suggest that destruction and rebuilding is no less hazardous an enterprise than undertaking patiently to solve the problems we face now. Each of us, in our own way, can make contributions to problem-solving if we would first permit ourselves the time to try to understand the problem. A culture must be based on knowledge and understanding, not ignorance and passionate reaction.

On the fortieth anniversary of the Holocaust, all of us and certainly we Jews, should understand the ultimate price of abysmal ignorance and passionate prejudice. Over the life history of our own people, many generations in one way or another have paid an enormous price for the indignity and oppression visited upon our ancestors and on some of our co-religionists in certain parts of the world until this day. Forty years ago, the world by a miracle moved back from the abyss of universal doom as millions stood by and permitted the inhuman deprivations of a false god and a servile people. But millions of humans were destroyed in a fiery conflagration that would be considered a Sunday school picnic compared with the awesome instruments of warfare available these days.

I know that in many places even after the establishment of the United Nations and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki Accord, there is a tendency to soft pedal the issues involved as if we can long isolate those who suffer indignity from the rest of the world. But, the pains of human misfortune cannot be quarantined forever without the rest of the world ultimately paying the price of blindness to such pains. We came of a people who believe in one God and that men, all men, are fashioned in His image. We believe, too, that to destroy one man is as if you destroyed the world. This is basic to our culture and our hopes. So for us to contribute our best to universal demands, we must drink deeply of our history and culture and act in accord with its precepts. Whether in the Jewish Board of Deputies or the World Jewish Congress, advancing the best in Jewish culture is our solemn duty.

I want to be clearly understood. There are many types and methods of problems affecting human dignity throughout the world as there are many types and methods of solution. I am not here as an American or as the president of a world organization, to tell you or your government what the formulae might be for the solution of your problems no more than I expect you can tell others how to solve theirs. My purpose is simply this—forty years ago, when it was easier to hide, the whole world paid a tragic price when it failed to recognize that there are no borders when hate and prejudice start their foreboding march. Today, modern communication, transportation, and capacity to destroy have virtually reduced the universe to a compact abode for us all. One nation’s serious potential conflict unsolved cannot leave the rest of the world untouched for long.

But there is another area to which I have alluded that is weighted with great urgency. The continued potential for warfare, whether in the Middle East or Southern Africa, which international experts continue to identify as current hot spots, does not limit concern to these areas. Maybe, the convergence of culture and a realization of the awesome implications of war are nearer than we think.