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

The Re-enfranchisement of the Jew

This day, for the first time since the fateful day of September 1, 1939, Jews of many lands are met together. If it were not for my knowledge that immediately after my welcoming words we are to have a fitting service in memory of our beloved and martyred brothers and sisters, I would begin my salutation by proposing that we rise together in sorrowful tribute to our martyred and immortal dead. Their remembrance is our deepest sorrow and our most compelling challenge. Nor shall we rest as Jews and as members of humanity until we have done all that in us lies, not chiefly to express our tribute to the dead, but over and above all, in order to reach high and united resolve with regard to the future of our great people. Were we at this time to utter our grief, our truly immedicable woe, wailing and lamentation would be the form that remembrance would take. We feel, however, that we can best do honor to our martyred dead not by protest against injustice, but by plea translating itself into unwithstandable demand that never again shall the Jewish people be sacrificed upon the altar of those forces in the world which are resolved to crush free men and freedom everywhere.

We do not represent the entire Jewish world. For the largest number of Jews—of central Eastern Europe (this side of the Soviet Union)—we may not speak, for these are dead. Millions of unarmed brothers and sisters, from infancy to old age, have died because they were Jews, because a group of debased and degenerate madmen had resolved to overrule the free peoples and nations of the earth, and because the free nations of the earth resisted not the madmen until it was too late!

Proudly and rejoicing we welcome the delegates from many lands. We welcome our brother Jews from England and all English-speaking lands, for these have been a part of the great army of unafraid resisters to the devouring and, for a time it seemed, irresistible monster. We welcome our brother Jews from all American lands, including the Dominion of Canada, and all the Latin-American countries—ten or more—which are to have part as the delegates to the War Emergency Conference. Eagerly we welcome delegates from the liberated countries, above all, from immortal France and its North African lands, from Egypt, and above all, from Palestine, soon under God to be transformed into a free and democratic Jewish Commonwealth. Regretfully we note the absence of delegates from the second largest Jewish community of earth, that of the Soviet Union. But messages of sympathy from Jews in the Soviet Union have come to us, those who constitute one of the most effective anti-fascist and Nazi-resisting forces in the mighty Soviet Union. For the saving of mankind, Russia not only held Hitler and Nazism at bay for three years, but now is on the point of crushing to earth the military which was to win for him rule over mankind.

It has been declared by unfriendly observers that many of the delegates have not been chosen by the democratic process We have only this to answer: that, in the circumstances of war, it has not been possible for Hitler-conquered countries, such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, to choose their own representatives to this War Emergency Conference. But surely it is of deepest significance that the two Jewish members of the National Councils of the Polish Republic and of Czechoslovakia have journeyed from London, the seat of their war governments, in order to counsel with us, in order to have part in our deliberations. And this great assembly bids thrice welcome to the Jewish representative of the Polish National Council, Dr. Schwarzbart, and to the Jewish member of the Czechoslovakian National Council, Ernest Frischer.

Two things I would at once make clear. This is not a relief conference. This is not a charity conference. This conference is not called for consultation on the subjects of philanthropy. We are met as fellow-Jews and as brothers in order that we may take counsel together, not over our sorrow, our losses, our limitless tragedy, but over our common hopes and our common determination to share our common fate as Jews. If the Jews of other lands were our brothers before the overwhelming disaster which began not on September 1st, 1939, but on January 30, 1933— if, I repeat, these were our brothers before the moral chaos that has come to pass, they are doubly and trebly our brothers now. Not because they need us, not because we need them, but because in equal measure we need one another, and in the unity of our common faith and fate we are all indefectibly resolved to go forward together to do what may be done in order to repair the impaired fortunes and broken lives and, above all, to plan as one among the peoples of the earth for a happier, securer, and above all, freer future for all Jews. The motto of the world may be: Ubi bene, ibi patria; the motto of the Jew is: Ubi male, ibi patria, “my fatherland is wherever my brothers suffer wrong.”

I thank God that victory is about to crown the glorious and incomparable strength of the United Nations. I thank God that free peoples are on the march and that they cannot be halted. We, who nearly thirty-five hundred years ago were the first of peoples to pilgrim for freedom, are at the side of all the free peoples, great and small, sharing the common lot and facing a common future not without high pride and loftiest hope! Recently a volume has appeared, entitled “Justice for My People.” In other days we thought of justice for my people as that which could only be achieved through the favor or bounty of other peoples. Too long we imagined that justice was something to be gained from without rather than wrought in large part from within. This War Emergency Conference of the World Jewish Congress is an affirmation of the deepening conviction of the Jewish people that there will be no justice to the Jewish people in the shaping and forging of which the Jewish people will not have its full and rightful part. As a people, we take counsel with the peoples of the earth, and even as we desire that the fullest justice be done to every people of the earth, we shall be satisfied with nothing less than the fullest measure of justice to the people of Israel.

Since the founding of the Congress, and even before its founding, I have felt, as its founder, by the side of Leo Motzkin and Dr. Nahum Goldmann, my co-founders, that we are not to limit ourselves in relation to our brother Jews to the business of supplying them with food and clothing and shelter. We are to feel with them and think with them and plan together with them for that morrow on which once again they will become free and re-enfranchised members of the human race, with their enslavement forever behind them. The re-enfranchisement of the Jew! But such liberation of the Jew can only come if the democracies succeed in beating back the invading hordes of Nazism. Any other outcome of the war would mean blackest night for civilization, for religion, for freedom, and, therefore, for us Jews.

Whatever be the seeming exactions of neutrality, we Jews do not pro- fess to be neutral as between democracy and dictatorship, as between freedom and enslavement, as between religion—which is the worship of God the Father and the doing of justice to one’s brother man—and that idolatry, which is the worship of man and the unjust enslavement of one’s fellow man. We were not morally neutral as between England and Germany, and any Jew who professes to be neutral between the democracies and the dictatorships is not loyal to democracy, nor faithful to Israel. Avoiding every act that violates the law of neutrality, our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, are with the democracies. Their fate is our fate; our future is bound up within their future. The unimaginable triumph of the dictatorships would mean the temporary eclipse of those values by which and for which the Jew has lived, which the Jew has done most to bring to the enrichment and ennoblement of the human race.

A word has come into use in the language of the world as a result of the most tragic circumstances, a word which it is our business to banish from the vocabulary of civilized nations. That word is “refugees.” That term “refugee” is in itself a reproach to civilization. That reproach can and must be blotted out. It can only be blotted by the will of the peoples of earth, including the Jewish people. Protest may not avail amidst the turmoil and strain of war, but the day of peace will demand of us that we present to them that are to shape the destiny of the human race after the war, in such wise and temperate fashion as to make incontrovertibly clear, that Jews cannot be permitted to become a great body of refugees, that they have human rights and equal rights, and that a world at peace can deny those rights to Jews in every land in which they live only if they are indifferent to the causes of other and still more terrible wars. A world which permits Jews to be warred upon by any nation will find itself at war everywhere.

Dr. Beer-Hoffmann made the penetrating observation, “All peoples have a history; Jews have a destiny.” Would it not be truer to put it that we Jews have a fate and that such fate is bound up with the fate of nations? When that fate is evil and bitter, it is not we Jews who communicate that evil fate to the nations, but the evil of nations results in an unhappy fate for us. Thus it is never Jews who are war-mongers, but the nations. And when we are charged with war-mongering, it is only because we are the first or earliest victims of war, even war waged within a nation of which we are a part as well as of war between nations. When Jews are permitted to live their lives as free men who know justice, then the peoples and nations are blessed. For the absence of strife against and war upon Jews is in itself the token of the highest status of the nations among whom and with whom the Jew lives. Peoples have their history; we have a destiny. Our destiny after centuries and millennia of injustice and hurt and wrong, to be pioneers in suffering the worst and in helping to achieve the best for all mankind. . . .

Zionism means the reconstituting of the Jewish people as a people in the Jewish homeland. I have only to add that it will come to pass as one of the moral triumphs of the global war. The English-speaking peoples, I am confident, desire it; the Soviet Union cannot fail to give it concurrence. The failure to establish the Jewish Palestine would mark the tragic failure of the global war. I venture to prophecy that the free and democratic Jewish Commonwealth will become one of the abiding achievements of the global war. The Jew owes it to himself to insist upon a free and democratic Jewish national home. The Christian world owes to the Jew reparation for all the centuries of wrong and hurt and humiliation—reparation for the awful and tragic Hitler years. That return will be afforded by the Jew. The Jew has taken his full part in the waging and in the winning of the war. The Jew has been the earliest and the greatest sufferer under the Hitler regime. A free and democratic Jewish Commonwealth means nothing more than justice to the Jew, freedom for the Jew, Jewish equality with all the free peoples of the earth. Difficult it is to think of anything more regrettable, indeed, lamentable, than the recent assassination of Lord Moyne, the former Colonial Secretary of the British Government, and at the time of his death diplomatic agent of his Government in Cairo. There are some among us who availed themselves of the occasion in order to explain why some crazed young people in Palestine should be moved to rest their faith in the efficacy of violence, even to the point of assassination. The truth is that what must now be done is to put an end, at any and every cost, to that terrorism which prevails in Palestine. If such terrorism had the approval of the population of Palestine, it might be difficult to banish it; but it is a wicked aspersion upon the honor and integrity of the Jewish people even to insinuate that the terrorism has more than a handful of advocates and defenders among the Jewish people of Palestine. The Jews of Palestine best know and have given us reason to believe that they fully understand that Jewish terrorism, the policy and the work of a handful of misguided youth, must be uprooted at once. This is no time for pilpulistic augmentation about the cause of violence. The havlaga, or high self-restraint to which the Jewish population of Palestine rose in the midst of the unprovoked Arab disorders, must once again become the rule and the discipline of the Yishuv. The question is not whether terrorism can ultimately prevail. The fact is, if Jews are to be worthy of their traditions, if Jews are to be equal to themselves at their highest, if the moral law is to mean something for the Jewish people, terrorism must go and a handful of confused defenders of terrorism must not be suffered to stand in the way of the extirpation of that which can bring no advantage in itself, and, apart from every political consequence, is certain to bring infinite woe to the soul of the Jewish people.

Only yesterday, upon the eve of the convening of this assembly, I received a letter from a Jewish chaplain in the American Army, who writes:

It is for the War Emergency Conference of the World Jewish Congress so to speak and act that the lot of Hitler’s victims may be ameliorated and their faith in humanity maintained by providing for them equalities and opportunities for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in whatever country they may choose to live, especially in Eretz Israel.

The letter ends with the prayer: “May God grant you of the World Jewish Congress the necessary strength and endow you with a divinely inspired vision to perform these historic tasks.” Whatever this War Emergency Conference of the World Jewish Congress does will be done on behalf of an eternal people by those sons and daughters who are resolved not to be unequal to the task or unworthy of their sacred and immortal heritage.

1. Jacob Robinson’s papers, including many of his brother Nehemiah’s papers, are in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, Accession No. 2013.506.1, http:// collections.ushmm.org/findingaids/ 2013.506.1_01_fnd_en.pdf (“Robinson Papers”); the published records of the Institute of Jewish Affairs can be found in a number of places, including the American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, New York, Accession No. I-371, http:/digifindingaids.cjh.org/?pID=365637 (“IJA Papers”); and the papers of the relevant offices of the World Jewish Congress are in the Jacob Rader Mar- cus Center of the American Jewish Archives, in Cincinnati, OH, http:/catalog.american- jewisharchives.org/cgi- bin/ajagw/chameleon (“WJC Papers”). I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of archivists at all three institutions. Shabtai Rosenne, “Jacob Robinson, 28 November 1889– 24 October 1977,” An International Law Miscellany (Dordrecht, NL, 1993), pp. 831–843, especially 842, originally published as “Jacob Robinson: In Memoriam,” Israel Law Review 13, no. 3 (July 1978), pp. 287–297.