Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Last Example Of Great Jewish American Leadership Shows How Much Trouble We Are In

Jennifer Rubin has an interesting post in response to the upcoming meeting Obama will have on Monday with Jewish leaders.

She suggests that now is the time for real Jewish leadership to show itself, and even goes so far as to provide an example: Peter Bergson. She retells Bergson's relatively unknown success in saving Jews from the Nazi Holocaust, prodding the US in general and FDR in particular in a way no other American Jewish group did.

The result:
Although the War Refugee Board suffered from inadequate funding and lack of cooperation from other government agencies, it probably saved about 200,000 lives. Scholars the “Bergson Boys” deserve some credit for that. They had arrived in the U.S just a few years earlier without a network of followers or any financial support. Within months of hearing about the Nazis’ plan to destroy European Jewry, they had created a mass movement — the Emergency Committee itself would ultimately boast more than 125,000 active members and supporters. The Bergsonites enjoyed greater success than most American Jewish activists because they were unfettered by allegiances to existing political organizations. And, unlike American Jewish leaders who were at times hesitant to be too vocal for fear of exacerbating anti-Semitism, they had no qualms about whom in America they offended. Ultimately, Bergson and his followers were driven by one belief: the need to act with all haste to save the remaining Jews in Europe. They never questioned their right to agitate within the U.S. for government action. When others asked with what authority they did so, they would reply we have “the mandate of conscience.”

With Obama as president, agitation seems the last thing on the minds of American Jews--a fact Obama knows.

The example, though, may be an even better example of the problem--Peter Bergson was the pseudonmy of Hillel Kook, the Lithuanian-born nephew of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of British Mandate Palestine.

If the best example of American Jewish leadership is a non-American Jew, we may be in big trouble.

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