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Yehuda Bauer: My Brother's Keeper

A History of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 1929-1939

[Holocaust preparations in Europe and resistance without solution of the situation]

The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia 1974

Transcription with subtitles by Michael Palomino (2007)



Chapter 4. Refugees: 1933-1938
[4.13. Fund raising competition between Joint and Zionists]

[Joint Distribution Committee and American Zionists fund raising work]

Another aspect of the relationships between JDC and the American Zionists was the eternal problem of competitive fund raising. Two problems arose: what proportion of funds raised by the American Jewish communities for all purposes should be diverted to what was known as overseas relief; and how these overseas funds would be divided between Palestine and other areas. As far as the first problem was concerned, the interests of both Zionists and non-Zionists obviously coincided. They both wanted a growing proportion of the funds raised to go to help Jews abroad, including those in Palestine. After the worst of the depression was over, that is, from 1935 on, the proportion of overseas relief as compared to local expenditures began growing.

(End note 70: Zosa Szajkowski: Budgeting American Overseas Relief, 1919-1939; In: American Jewish Historical Quarterly 59, no. 1 (September 1969): 87 ff., 110)

During the depression an attempt was made to set up a combined fund-raising agency, the United Jewish Appeal. This body was set up in March 1934 by JDC and the United Palestine Appeal under Louis Lipsky and Morris Rothenberg; their aim was to raise $ 3 million, of which (p.166)

JDC was to get 55 %. However, no more than $ 1,246,000 came to JDC, and the 1935 results were even less impressive: total JDC income went down to $ 917,000.

[Quarrel who pays for the transportation for Palestine]

Disagreement on what the money should be spent for also troubled the relationship between the two agencies. A case in point was the question of who should pay for the transportation for immigrants to Palestine, discussed above. This was a major reason for JDC's terminating the agreement with UPA [United Palestine Appeal]. The attitude of the Zionists, so JDC thought, was to get money from American Jews on the strength of the German emergency and force JDC to use it for transportation to Palestine, while themselves refusing to contribute to expenses in Germany or the refugee countries.

[Jewish Agency has become in fact a Zionist front organization]

Behind this argument

(End note 71: Ibid. [Zosa Szajkowski: Budgeting American Overseas Relief, 1919-1939; In: American Jewish Historical Quarterly 59, no. 1 (September 1969)] p.88, quoting from letter of Caroline Flexner (10/29/35 [29 October 1935]) to Herbert H. Lehman. Also: Executive Committee, 10/9/35 [9 October 1935])

lay the feeling of Warburg and his friends that the Jewish Agency, in which they were supposed to be equal partners, had in fact become a Zionist front organization.

[October 1935: Breakup between UPA and JDC]

The breakup of UPA by JDC in October 1935 was probably intended also as a warning to Weizmann to take the non-Zionists more seriously.

[Joint: Hyman sees Zionism as a reason for anti-Semitism in Europe]

In 1936 and 1937 relations with American Zionism remained strained organizationally, despite a growing recognition of a similarity in aims and objectives. Ideologically, the case for JDC was put very clearly by Hyman in 1937. Stating that non-Zionists supported a "great Jewish settlement of refuge and of cultural development in Palestine", he said that they "decline to regard themselves as actually or potentially elements of a Jewish nation, with its center in Palestine." Zionism, he thought, was giving anti-Semites the pretext for evicting Jews from their countries. To him and his friends, "America, France, Holland, England is home and homeland."

[That's true: Zionist organizations work with the Hitler regime to organize pogroms and racist laws so the Jews are driven out. But at the end the Hitler regime plans to occupy Palestine, so the Jews had lost all].

[The fund raising quarrel - JDC is loosing it's position against the Zionists since 1936 appr.]

Hyman was against a "fusion" (that is, a combination for fund-raising purposes) of Zionists and non-Zionists. He wanted the proponents for each program to appear before the public separately: "The one that seeks to make Palestine the Jewish homeland, the core and kernel of Jewish conscious objective; the other that deems the primary goal the integration of Jews with the life of their lands of birth or of adoption."

(End note 72: Joseph C. Hyman: Jewish Problems and Activities Overseas; In: Proceedings of the National Conference of Jewish Social Welfare, 1937)

In actual fact JDC probably was bound to lose by an alliance (p.167)

with the Zionists, simply because alone it could get more funds out of the richer elements in Jewry, who generally were more inclined toward Hyman's ideology than toward that of the Zionists. This situation was to change considerably in the last year before the war, but even before that, JDC was having more difficulties because local welfare funds tended to refuse to raise funds separately for UPA and JDC. In a growing measure they and the professional associations in the large Jewish communities insisted on united campaigns, the proceeds of which would be handed over to the overseas relief agencies according to prearranged percentages.

Slowly but surely this grass-roots attitude left the JDC leadership isolated in its desire to continue independent fund raising. As the situation in Europe deteriorated, JDC reluctantly began to come around to the idea of a more permanent alliance with UPA. This development itself reflected the shift in emphasis in Jewish leadership: the welfare funds were increasingly controlled by professionals - social workers, fund raisers, and the like. The lay leadership was slowly losing ground.