What was John Buchan's position on Jewish immigration?

What was John Buchan's position on Jewish immigration?

Canada was very restrictive about Jewish immigration in the late 1930's. John Buchan was governor general of Canada at that time. What was his position on Jewish immigration into Canada at that time?


A quick google search led me to Model Prime Minister which states that Buchan's name was entered in the Golden Book as a friend of the Jews, but that he was unable to overcome his government's "tragically intransigent policy that excluded Jewish immigration".


The Past Speaks

I’m interested how research by academic historians reaches the average person . I’ve noticed an increasing number of media references to Lord Tweedsmuir’s role in the origins of Canadian multiculturalism.

Tweedsmuir, who had achieved fame as a novelist under his birth name John Buchan, was Canada’s Governor-General in the late 1930s. He used his largely ceremonial position to preach in favour of tolerance and the right of immigrants and First Nations to retain their cultural traditions.

In many ways, his ideas were a precursor to the policy of official multiculturalism introduced by the Trudeau government in 1971, but the context was completely different. In 1971, racism and discrimination had become anathema throughout the Western world. Thanks to the huge worldwide cultural shift that took place in the 1950s and 1960s, lunch counters in the Deep South were desegregated and laws outlawing employment discrimination were passed in most Western democracies. The US, Canada, and Australia all shifted from racist to non-racist immigration policies. Historians have advanced competing explanations for this cultural shift: the Cold War, decolonization, revulsion at the Holocaust or a mixture of all three.

The 1930s, in contrast, were pretty much the peak of racist and ethnocentric thinking in the Western world. Racist and ethnic nationalist ideas were pretty common everywhere, even in those Western countries which remained democracies. Eugenics laws and quasi-mystical ideas about Aryan supremacy were widespread. Even Mackenzie King, Canada’s Liberal PM, opposed Jewish immigration because he was worried about the “admixture” or “alien blood” polluting Canada’s genetic stock. (It should be noted that while King was opposed additional non-Aryan immigration, he courted the votes of Jewish people and did not advocate doing anything to reduce Canada’s then existing Jewish population). Most Canadians in the 1930s were, at best, advocates of assimilation (e.g., residential schools for Natives and regular schools for immigrants designed to destroy their cultures) and at worst supporters of sterilization, exclusion, and deportation.

This context is what Lord Tweedsmuir’s advocacy of tolerance so striking.

In the 1930s, Tweedsmuir told an audience in rural Manitoba, “You will all be better Canadians for being also good Ukrainians.” Tweedsmuir also encourage First Nations people to retain their cultures, which flatly contradicted the assimilation agenda that the federal government was then forcing on the Natives. Tweedsmuir was truly a man ahead of his time.

Until a few years ago, nobody paid much attention to Tweedsmuir. Then a history professor named Peter Henshaw started published some articles about Tweedsmuir that were read and popularized by journalists. See here. Jason Kenney, the Immigration Minister, quoted Tweedsmuir in a speech in 2008. There is even a reference to Tweedsmuir in the new Canadian Citizenship Guide for immigrants. One of the problems with this guide is that while it mentions Tweedsmuir, who was a precursor of multiculturalism, but it doesn’t mention Trudeau, the Prime Minister who actually implemented the policy! But the interesting thing is that Tweedsmuir is mentioned at all.

Today’s Globe contains an article on religious minorities that quotes Tweedsmuir’s famous advice to the Ukrainians of Manitoba. See here.

Check out Henshaw’s research in : ‘John Buchan and the British Imperial Origins of Canadian multiculturalism’, in N. Hillmer and A. Chapnick, eds, Unfinished Business: The Making and Unmaking of Canadian Nationalisms in the Twentieth Century (Kingston: McGill-Queen’s, 2007).


How the Sierra Club Learned to Love Immigration

The Sierra Club, one of the largest and oldest environmental organizations in the nation, announced last month its support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. It was a unanimous decision among the group’s board of directors and marks a definitive break with the group’s troubled history on immigration–a history that has also plagued the environmental movement broadly.

The arc of Sierra Club’s evolution starts with a dubious if not hostile perspective on immigration that the Club carried in the 1960s. The theory was that immigration drives unsustainable population growth, which then drains resources and harms the environment. That perspective shifted to a hard line against immigration in the 1980s, then to a neutral position in the 󈨞s, before finally coming around in the 21st century to advocating on behalf of immigrants.

The announcement was mostly a codification of work Sierra Club had already been doing lately, such as fighting against building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to block migration to the United States. But by officially adopting a stance that endorses a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Sierra–like the Republican Party–is recognizing that shifting demographics matter.

Sierra has more than two million members, many of them white and elderly. In order for their numbers to grow, recruitment will have to reflect what America looks like today and in the future, which is younger and more racially diverse. For Sierra to do that, though, they have to reconcile their history, which didn’t always endorse open pathways to U.S. citizenship, or even its own membership.

Catherine Tactaquin, executive director of the California-based National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, sat on Sierra’s eight-member committee on population growth in 1994. The organization’s general membership was roughly 93 percent white at the time, says Tactaquin, and many wanted Sierra to take controversial positions on immigration and reproduction to advocate for reduced population growth. The population committee had equal numbers, women and men. Tactaquin says that all of the women were pro-immigration and championed reproductive rights, while the men were steadfastly anti-immigration.

“We tried to have Sierra do things that would educate and raise awareness within the Club about the forces of migration [like] trade policy impacts, and to have them support the [United Nation’s] Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,” Tactaquin says. “We did that to make the connection that, from a population-growth perspective, we are interested in supporting the rights of women, including better education and healthcare access.”

But many Sierra members at the time were more interested in controlling how women reproduced, even urging the club to address teen pregnancy. That interest was more prevalent in the 󈨞s and the decades before, but some of it still exists today. Immediately after Sierra made its pro-immigrant citizenship announcement, commenters reacted.

Said one: “This divisive present stance has no place in the purpose of the club. To state that those voluntarily violating ours [sic] laws should be rewarded with citizenship because they voluntarily came to our polluted country and must be protected as such is illogical in the scheme of environmentalism in the United States. … The club has lost my support.”

Another added, “Like most environmental groups, the Sierra Club continues to ignore all the problems stemming from overpopulation in the U.S. and many other countries. This is nothing more than a call for amnesty for millions of welfare-dependent, over-breeding illegal aliens who can’t speak English and don’t know what condoms are.”

These comments reflect what the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as a nativist strain. That strain has a direct theoretical line to environmentalism’s origins, as well as Sierra Club’s beginnings to some extent. Sierra Club founder John Muir, a nature conservationist, wrote about Native Americans in the late 19th century in ways that many people of color consider offensive, if not racist. Even worse were the people he befriended, like the naturalist Henry Fairfield Osborne, a leader of the racial “eugenics” movement, and Madison Grant, another eugenist whose early 20th century writings were literally the bible for the Nazi Third Reich government.

Grant and his peers believed that population growth–and non-white growth in particular–would lead to an apocalyptic mess, like something out of “Planet of the Apes.” Grant–who is also considered the godfather of wildlife management–believed that the white “Nordic” race of the United States needed to be preserved by limiting the reproduction of non-white peoples, and also controlling, if not eliminating, the immigration of non-white people into the country. Grant’s ethnic cleansing doctrine was the blueprint for the exclusionary Immigration Act of 1924, an official door closing to Eastern Europeans, Jews, Asians and Indians.

While the overt use of eugenics theory became unpopular after Nazi Germany institutionalized it, the underlying white supremacy remained. In 1968, Sierra published “The Population Bomb,” a seminal text by Paul Ehrlich that advanced the idea of overpopulation and recommended that the federal government put sterilization chemicals in public water sources to destroy women’s fertility.

Ehrlich’s “Bomb” helped birth the modern environmental movement, along with Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” a critique of over-industrialization and urban renewal. Both books were popular in the first Earth Day gathering of 1970. In his recent book, “The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation,” Adam Rome notes that at that event “population was second only to pollution.”

As I’ve previously reported, Earth Day events led to the creation of the strongest environmental protection policies ever created by the federal government, particularly the National Environmental Policy Act ( NEPA ) of 1970, which prioritized population stabilization.

Yet the Sierra Club wanted the federal government to go further, particularly by examining the role of immigration on population management. Sierra’s National Population Committee was chaired from 1971 to 1975 by John Tanton, who at the time was a liberal activist. He later became convinced that immigration was, in fact, the primary cause of overpopulation. In 1980, Sierra Club officers testified before the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Reform that it is “obvious that the numbers of immigrants the United States accepts affects our population size.”

Tanton left Sierra to form a number of radical anti-immigrant organizations, many of which have been labeled as hate groups (most prominently, the Federation for American Immigration Reform) by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Some of Tanton’s acolytes attempted to take over Sierra Club’s board of directors in the 󈨞s so that they could make anti-immigration an official stance. While these attempts were defeated by a groundswell of Sierra members including Tactaquin, some board directors still tried to keep the anti-immigration fringe in the fold. That was the last straw for Tactaquin, who then left the Club. “It was disappointing,” she says. “Our sense was they were trying to keep the peace after the [anti-immigration] defeat by providing an avenue for the dissidents to participate.”

Today, Sierra has formally adopted many of the progressive reproductive rights stances that Tactaquin and her peers fought for in the 1990s. The organization has also dedicated resources to environmental justice, more than any other environmental group of its age and stature. Sierra’s historical and recent past is ugly, which makes the announcement such a big deal. She attributes this growth to younger, more diverse leadership in the club, like Sierra president Allison Chin.

When asked why Sierra Club didn’t address its race evolution in the immigration statement, spokesman Oliver Bernstein told Colorlines.com that the history is important but the Club “feels that now is the time to look forward, and we wanted to focus on what we could do to move this discussion forward.”

Latino organizations such as Mi Familia Vota Education Fund have applauded Sierra’s new stance, noting the “the wide array of issues that could be addressed through the passage of reform, such as climate solutions, fixing our nation’s healthcare system, educating our future workforce, and fixing our nation’s economy.”

Other environmental groups such as Greenpeace and 350.org have also come out in favor of immigration in recent weeks. But these are young groups compared to Sierra. Many environmental and conservation groups born in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have similarly racist origins, and a lot worse than that of Muir’s. The question is whether they will actually confront those pasts and follow Sierra’s lead on immigration–and environmental justice–today.


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From his post at the statehouse, it was a short leap to the national stage, and in March 1901, Roosevelt was inaugurated as vice president to McKinley. It’s a cliché that a vice president is a heartbeat away from the presidency, but in Roosevelt’s case it proved true: Within half a year, McKinley fell victim to an assassin’s bullet. Roosevelt acceded to the White House and easily won a second term in office in 1904.

Roosevelt was the first president to appoint a Jewish cabinet member. He named Oscar Solomon Straus as secretary of commerce and labor, a position that also placed him in charge of the United States Bureau of Immigration. The German-born Straus had previously served as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire — a position he would resume under Roosevelt’s successor, William Howard Taft. Later on, Straus became president of the American Jewish Historical Society. Straus’s brothers, Nathan and Isidor Straus, co-owned the department store R. H. Macy & Co., and later on they acquired the store that would become Abraham & Straus. (Isidor Straus died tragically, as a passenger on the Titanic.) Straus’s grandson Roger W. Straus Jr., founded the publishing company Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

As president, Roosevelt issued a strong letter of rebuke to the Russian czar in 1903 after the murder of 49 Jews in the Kishinev pogrom. Pogroms like Kishinev prompted waves of Jewish immigration to the United States from Eastern Europe and Russia, a situation not welcome by everyone. Roosevelt, however, resisted efforts to stem the tide. He opposed labeling Jews as a separate race on their passports, saying, “I should no more have a man entered on a passport as a Hebrew than as an Episcopalian, or a Baptist, or a Roman Catholic.” He went on: “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad.” Words that resound with great impact today.

Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his role in the mediation of the Russo-Japanese War he contributed a portion of his prize money to the National Jewish Welfare Board. In 1918, shortly after the Balfour Declaration, which favored establishing a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, Roosevelt wrote, “It seems to me that it is entirely proper to start a Zionist state around Jerusalem,” suggesting that peace would happen only if Jews were given Palestine.

In what remains something of a mystery to this day, Roosevelt kept two menorahs at Sagamore Hill. A gift from Sarah Bancroft Leavitt, who was not Jewish, the seven-branched candelabras are Jewish symbols referencing those used in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.


JEWS & JUDAISM

JEWS & JUDAISM. The beginning of the Jewish community in Cleveland is easy enough to date. A group of fifteen Jews from Unsleben, Bavaria, arrived in the city in July 1839. They had most likely been encouraged to move to the city by the fur trader SIMSON THORMAN, their neighbor who had left Unsleben earlier, traveled throughout the United States, and then returned and decided to stay in Cleveland. Thorman was one of a handful of Jews who passed through the growing city in the 1830s. He made Cleveland his home and reached back to his birthplace to bring over friends and family members. This small group of immigrants built the congregations in which Jews would pray and study. Their descendants established the community’s infrastructure, the educational, social services, and cultural organizations that continue to serve Jewish Cleveland.

Before they left, Lazarus Kohn, their religious teacher in Unsleben, wrote a letter to his friends who were leaving their hometown for “a land of freedom” – namely, Cleveland. Kohn’s letter, perhaps best described as an ethical will, appeared in a small booklet with a heart on its cover and, almost as additional signatures to the letter, 233 names of Unsleben Jews who remained behind. Kohn’s message to his friends was clear. He asked them to “promise to remain good Jews”, to resist the “tempting freedom” of their new land, where they would have the opportunity to live “without compulsory religious education.” Kohn’s farewell was an admonition, a warning that the greatly changed circumstances of his friends’ new lives would present significant challenges and, at least in some sense, imperil their identities as Jews. This dichotomy – between tradition and the temptations of the immigrants’ new world, between one’s own community and the larger society – was certainly not new for Jews in the Diaspora, nor, indeed, is it unique to the Jewish community. But Kohn’s letter is notable both because it helps us to date the beginnings of larger scale Jewish settlement and because he states explicitly the challenge of “earthly pleasures” to religion. His fear, that his friends would break their promise and be lost to the Jewish community, is implicit. Kohn’s letter, known as the Alsbacher Document, after MOSES ALSBACHER, the early settler to whom the document was entrusted, is widely seen as the community’s foundational document.

Kohn’s challenge to his friends to remain Jewish, however that might be defined, is central to Jewish life, as experienced both individually and communally. The story of Jewish Cleveland is a tale of upward mobility, from a community of fifteen Bavarian Jewish immigrants to a population of over 80,000. The Jewish population of Northeast Ohio grew most dramatically in the first two decades of the twentieth century, reaching a high of 86,540 in the 1920s. Population reports from the 1980s reported lower figures of 65,000-70,000, pointing to a conclusion that Jews left the area just as so many others did in response to industrial decline. But in 1996 the Federation announced a revised, more likely estimate of 81,500, a change, according to the report, reflecting less a dramatic growth than improvements in technology allowing for a more accurate count. In truth, it appears that the community remained largely stable throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century, even as the population aged. An estimate of just over 80,000 for much of the late twentieth century to the present is more likely correct. In addition, the community remained geographically concentrated in the eastern suburbs, since its move there starting around 1918. Following their mid nineteenth century settlement in the CENTRAL MARKET district downtown and in later decades in the Woodland neighborhood around East 55th Street, Jews moved in the early twentieth century to two geographically separate neighborhoods to the east, GLENVILLE and MOUNT PLEASANT-KINSMAN. Jews left these neighborhoods from the 1930s to the 1940s for the contiguous suburban neighborhoods known as the Heights, including CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, SHAKER HEIGHTS, and UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS. By the 1950s, several congregations and Jewish institutions were already locating further east, especially in BEACHWOOD. Over the decades the concentration of Jews shifted from the Heights to an outer suburban core, including Beachwood, CHAGRIN FALLS, GATES MILLS, HUNTING VALLEY, MORELAND HILLS, ORANGE, PEPPER PIKE, and WOODMERE. Yet the inner ring suburbs of the Heights retained its Jewish population. By 1960, one of Cleveland’s most prominent Federation leaders, Sidney Z. Vincent, described the city of Cleveland proper as a “city without Jews.” Jews established themselves firmly on Cleveland’s East Side, in spite of earlier restrictions from settling in some of these suburban neighborhoods through the exclusionary policies of developers. As throughout the nineteenth century, a small number of Jews continued to live on the West Side, but the community became definitively associated with the eastern suburbs.

Jewish community institutions once clustered downtown and then in Glenville and Mount Pleasant-Kinsman. By the mid twentieth century, they followed those they served, relocating to Cleveland Heights and then Beachwood. For example, South Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights, between Cedar Road and Mayfield Road, remains home to an important segment of the Orthodox community, hosting private Jewish schools and a kosher market. Similarly, the area surrounding the intersection of Cedar Road and Green Road (straddling the communities of South Euclid and University Heights) became home to a number of Orthodox institutions in the early 2000s, including Congregation Zichron Chaim, GREEN ROAD SYNAGOGUE, Young Israel of Greater Cleveland, Chabad House of Greater Cleveland, and Cedar Green Community Kollel. The importance of Beachwood for the area’s Jewish community deserves special mention. From the 1990s to the present day Beachwood has been home to a cluster of institutions, forming what might be described as a sizable Jewish campus. These institutions include THE TEMPLE-TIFERETH ISRAEL, the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School (formerly Agnon School), the Laura and Alvin Siegal College of Judaic Studies (until its closure in 2012), Fuchs Mizrachi School, the JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER, and Park Synagogue East. THE JEWISH FEDERATION OF CLEVELAND, located in downtown Cleveland since its founding in 1903, moved to a nearby location in 2011. This concentration of community institutions is in part the result of conscious planning. The building and relocation of institutions in Beachwood in the past thirty years attests to the need for convenient access and the desire to locate near similar organizations. This clustering fosters activity and, for many, a sense of belonging, even as some Jews continue the direction of migration further east and south.

Comparatively early arrivals in the city, Jews were part of a wave of German Jewish immigration that led to the establishment of Jewish communities throughout the Great Lakes region and the Midwest, such as St. Louis, Columbus, Rochester, Milwaukee, and Chicago. In addition to Thorman, two other Jewish men from Unsleben settled in Cleveland before 1839, Abraham Rosenbaum and Nathan Tuch. But not all of the early immigration was from Unsleben. The Amsterdam born DANIEL LEVI PEIXOTTO, who had studied medicine at Columbia College in New York City, came to Northeast Ohio in 1835 to take a position at Willoughby Medical College. He was the first Jewish doctor to teach medicine in Ohio. He and his family left the area in 1841 and so Thorman is credited as the area’s first permanent Jewish settler.

The Unsleben group came with the intent of establishing a community. The seven adult males of the group joined the three already here to make a minyan, meeting the minimum number of adult males for a traditional prayer service. The group brought a Sefer Torah with them, and Simson (Samson) Hoffman (Hopfermann, Hopfmann) was both a chazzan (cantor) and shochet (ritual slaughterer). His son Isaac (Seckel) was a mohel, qualified to perform male circumcision. The Unslebenites arrived in a Protestant community, a town of eight Protestant congregations and just one Catholic Church for the city’s Irish and German Catholics. They established the Israelitic Society in 1839. A splinter group founded ANSHE CHESED (People of Lovingkindness) in 1841, perhaps because of differences over religious practices. A fire destroyed the meeting place of the Israelitic Society in 1845, and the two groups came together again. They built the city’s first synagogue in 1846 and, in 1849, hired Rabbi ISIDOR KALISCH. He was dismissed less than a year later for making changes deemed too radical. A substantial number of members of Israelitic Society Anshe Chesed left with him to form TIFERETH ISRAEL (Glory of Israel) in 1850. Both congregations gradually adopted a focus on classical Reform Judaism in the nineteenth century, in an effort to appear similar to their Protestant neighbors, and both eventually affiliated with the Reform movement.

The community grew modestly from the 1840s to the 1880s, but Cleveland’s Jews succeeded in finding work, establishing families, and in creating religious, social, and cultural institutions to serve their community. The immigrants first worked as peddlers and shopkeepers and later in the garment trade. Many were also bankers, clerks, bookkeepers, and dry goods merchants. The garment industry, which, arguably, grew into the most significant industry in the city for Jewish immigrants, took root as early as the 1840s. Koch & Loeb, a wholesale clothing store selling men’s clothes and piece goods, relocated to Cleveland from Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1845 and developed into JOSEPH & FEISS, a well-known menswear manufacturer. George A. Davis, another Jewish immigrant from Germany, sold ready-made clothing in a shop he opened in 1847. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PEIXOTTO, son of Daniel Levi, returned to Cleveland as a young man and eventually entered into business with Davis. Davis, Peixotto & Co. manufactured thousands of uniforms for the Union during the Civil War.

These early settlers and manufacturers left their mark. Davis and Peixotto founded the Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1855. Peixotto founded the Young Men’s Hebrew Literary Society in 1860 and helped to found the Cleveland chapter of B’NAI B’RITH in 1863. As elsewhere, the Jews of Ohio adopted the views of their neighbors and took up the cause of the nation that had welcomed them as immigrants, fighting for the Union during the CIVIL WAR. The regional district of B’nai B’rith established the JEWISH ORPHAN ASYLUM in the city in 1868, to serve Jewish orphans from throughout the Midwest, partly as a response to the increased number of orphans during the period of the Civil War. Early settlers such as Thorman and Kaufman and Joseph Hays became well-known businessmen and community leaders. After joining Thorman in business in 1860, the Hays brothers established a clothing store KAUFMAN HAYS later sold the store and became involved in finance, manufacturing, and local politics. Simson Thorman served a term on Cleveland City Council in the 1860s. Kaufman Hays won a seat on the City Council in 1886 and later, as the city’s acting treasurer, was instrumental in saving the city’s credit after a financial scandal. While not everyone was as successful as Thorman or the Hays family, the Jewish community gradually achieved a degree of professional success and economic stability. Institutions such as the Jewish Orphan Asylum and the Sir Moses Montefiore Kesher Shel Barzel Home for the Aged and Infirm Israelites (MONTEFIORE HOME), founded in 1882, provided for the community’s most vulnerable. Jewish merchants provided a sign of commercial success just as immigration was increasing in the 1880s and 1890s and many Jews were moving further out from the Central Market district to the Woodland neighborhood. Three of the city’s largest department stores were owned by Jews, THE BAILEY COMPANY, THE MAY COMPANY, and HALLE BROTHERS. Cleveland’s Jewish upper middle class was not yet accepted socially. Excluded from private, non-Jewish clubs, a group of Cleveland’s most prosperous Jews founded the EXCELSIOR CLUB in 1872. Excelsior merged with OAKWOOD CLUB in 1931.

Some immigrants from East Central Europe had already begun to arrive as early as the 1850s. They established their own congregations, with significantly different practices than in the Reform congregations. ANSHE EMETH (today’s Park Synagogue, founded by Polish Jews in 1857) and B’NAI JESHURUN (founded by Hungarian Jews in 1866) eventually adopted some of the innovative practices of Reform Judaism and came to occupy a space between Orthodox tradition and Reform practice, identifying with the Conservative movement. Together with Anshe Chesed and Tifereth Israel, these congregations are sometimes called “the Big Four”, because they remain the area’s largest congregations. The immigration from the 1880s to the 1920s increased the city’s Jewish population substantially and led to the formation of many smaller, more religiously traditional congregations. By 1918 there were twenty-four Orthodox congregations in the city[. Many of them were formed by immigrants who came from the same region, such as the Marmaresh B’nai Jacob Society, founded in the Woodland neighborhood in 1910 (see GREEN ROAD SYNAGOGUE). This congregation brought together Jews from Máramaros in pre-World War I Hungary (Maramureş in today’s Romania). The TETIEVER AHAVATH ACHIM ANSHE SFARD congregation formed in 1910 and had its roots in the organization of the Tetiever Verein, for Russian Jews from the town of Tetiev, around 1900. The Tetiever Verein (Tetiev Union) is just one example of Cleveland’s landsmanshaften, mutual aid societies founded by Jewish immigrants from the same town or region in Europe. The most significant among Cleveland’s Orthodox rabbinical leaders, RABBI ISRAEL PORATH retired from his position at Heights Jewish Center in 1972, having served earlier at Congregation Neveh Zedek and OHEB ZEDEK.

Chain migration is responsible for the growth of the Jewish community. Jews came to join family and friends who had already established themselves. The influx of immigrants from the 1880s on ultimately transformed the Jewish community. Their needs made plain the necessity of Jewish community institutions to grow and to help the recent immigrants. Cleveland’s small German Jewish community, which had long been English-speaking and religiously reform minded, was faced with migrants who spoke Yiddish and retained traditionally religious practices. The new migrants were also in dire need of employment assistance and education. They needed help to become Americans, and they also needed appropriate social services.

The charitable associations founded to aid the newer arrivals worked to bridge the differences between Cleveland’s established Jewish population and the more recent arrivals. Much of this activity is due to the work of women. THE COUNCIL EDUCATIONAL ALLIANCE, part of the work of the Cleveland Section of the NATIONAL COUNCIL OF JEWISH WOMEN, formed from the merger of smaller associations. These smaller groups were made up of middle class Jewish women who gathered together in an effort to help the new immigrants. Non-Jewish groups assisted as well, especially the social settlement Hiram House. Like the Council Educational Alliance, HIRAM HOUSE operated in the Woodland neighborhood and offered classes for children and adults, camping programs, counseling services, and musical and cultural events for the new immigrants. Some groups targeted their efforts more specifically. The Young Ladies’ Hebrew Association held fundraising balls that eventually resulted in the founding of MT. SINAI HOSPITAL in 1903. That same year, the Federation for Jewish Charities (today’s Jewish Federation of Cleveland) was established to centralize fundraising efforts it quickly became seen by outsiders as representative of the organized Jewish community.

The Federation was founded just when Cleveland’s Jewish population began to increase exponentially, growing from 25,000 in 1905 to 75,000 in 1917. By 1920, Cleveland’s approximately 80,000 Jews represented ten percent of the city’s total population. Many of the new immigrants found employment in the growing GARMENT INDUSTRY, which included manufacturers of women’s wear, menswear, and knit goods. Nearly all of the manufacturers were Jewish, and they hired Jews, POLES, HUNGARIANS, CZECHS, SLOVAKS, SLOVENES, CROATS, SERBS, ITALIANS, GREEKS, and others. But Jews were also employed as peddlers and the proprietors of small shops, as carpenters and clerks and in cigar manufacturing. As their lives became more stable and they gained education, many entered service industries, the legal and medical professions, and businesses, especially real estate and banking. Many were also involved in the scrap metal industry.

The immigrants from East Central Europe also brought with them a stronger interest in Jewish education. Jewish children found a place in the public schools once they were established in Cleveland, sometimes receiving supplementary Jewish education in congregational educational programs. Though Christian influence was still strong in public schools, Jews, unlike Catholic immigrants, did not establish their own network of private day schools, preferring instead supplementary afternoon or weekend options. Nondenominational supplementary schools for instruction in Hebrew and religion served the community and grew throughout the early twentieth century.

The two broad strands of the community, represented by those from German-speaking areas who arrived in the 1840s and those who came later from East Central Europe, gradually learned to cooperate with each other in the first decades of the twentieth century. East European Jewish immigrants founded their own congregations and social service agencies, but they also learned English, gradually joined Cleveland’s older, less traditional congregations, and eventually improved their economic prospects. The established Jewish community learned that the new immigrants could not be seen simply as recipients of charity but as full-fledged members of the community who would eventually become active in community groups and take over their leadership positions. Though the new immigrants tended to live in the same neighborhoods as those Jews who had been here longer, social services within the community were for many years completely divided. Separate organizations, such as the ORTHODOX JEWISH CHILDREN’S HOME, opened in 1920, and the Hebrew Orthodox Old Age Home, Bet Moshav Zekenim (MENORAH PARK CENTER FOR THE AGING), founded in 1906, served Orthodox Jewish orphans and the Orthodox elderly. The Federation did not begin supporting Orthodox institutions until the 1920s. This rapprochement was a sign of growing unity within the Jewish community.

Since the 1840s Cleveland’s Jews had demonstrated their comparatively quick linguistic acculturation to English. There was no German-language Jewish press, and the English-language Jewish press did not develop until the founding of the first Jewish newspaper, the Hebrew Observer in 1889. The Jewish Review was founded in 1893 and the two newspapers merged to become THE JEWISH REVIEW AND OBSERVER in 1899. THE JEWISH INDEPENDENT appeared in 1906. Still both Yiddish and Hebrew played important roles within the community. A Yiddish title Yiddishe Tegliche Presse (Jewish Daily Press) was published briefly in 1908, but it was the Rocker family’s DIE YIDDISHE VELT (The Jewish World) which became Cleveland’s Yiddish newspaper, published from 1911 to 1952, until 1945 as a daily. Cleveland’s Yiddish-speaking Jews patronized the performances of the visiting Yiddish theater troupes, who came to Cleveland as early as the 1890s. The I. L. Peretz WORKMEN’S CIRCLE School also offered supplementary education in Yiddish for both children and adults from its founding in 1918. The educator A. H. FRIEDLAND was perhaps Cleveland’s foremost promoter of the use of Hebrew. His arrival in 1921 transformed Jewish education in the city. Friedland led the CLEVELAND HEBREW SCHOOLS and, later, the BUREAU OF JEWISH EDUCATION, infusing the schools with his Zionist Hebraist brand of education. Congregational and supplementary schools provided education in Hebrew as well.

The Woodland neighborhood, especially around East 55th Street, was still a Jewish neighborhood in the 1920s. In 1916, Mount Sinai Hospital opened a new building on East 105th Street. A year later The Temple-Tifereth Israel hired a promising young rabbi, Abba Hillel Silver. In 1924 The Temple dedicated its new building, striking in its modified Byzantine style, right next to Mount Sinai. These two prominent institutions, The Temple-Tifereth Israel and Mount Sinai Hospital, anchored the southern end of the Glenville neighborhood. Glenville prospered as a densely populated neighborhood of larger Jewish institutions, storefront shops, small congregations, and large single-family and double-family homes from the 1920s to the 1940s.

The Jewish population of Glenville is usually described as middle class, while the Kinsman neighborhood is viewed as working class. Glenville was over twenty-five percent Jewish in the 1920s, while only fourteen percent of the total population in the Kinsman neighborhood was Jewish. Trade unions in the Kinsman neighborhood were stronger than in Glenville, and Kinsman was the home of the socialist Workmen’s Circle. Both Glenville and Kinsman hosted smaller congregations, supplementary schools, and branches of the Council Educational Alliance (one of the agencies that formed the Jewish Community Center in 1948). The Jewish communities of these neighborhoods were truly urban, centered around East 105th Street in Glenville and East 140th Street in Kinsman. They offered the grocery stores, dry cleaners, barbers, and other services that made up an urban neighborhood and, of no less importance, the public transportation that took Jews to their jobs throughout the city.

Most striking about these neighborhoods is their transitory nature. Cleveland’s Jewish community has been stable geographically, but only when the eastern suburbs are viewed in their totality. Woodland, in the center of the city, declined rapidly as a Jewish center in the late 1920s. Anshe Emeth established a significant presence on East 105th Street, in the Cleveland Jewish Center, a synagogue complete with pool and recreation center, dedicated in 1922. But the congregation soon began raising money to prepare for a later move to Cleveland Heights. B’nai Jeshurun jumped over Glenville and Kinsman and relocated further east in Cleveland Heights. In 1906 B’nai Jeshurun opened a new building on East 55th Street in the Woodland neighborhood in 1926, the congregation opened what became known as “The Temple on the Heights” on Mayfield Road. The geographic stability of the Jewish community is a phenomenon of the 1950s and 1960s, by which time most of the Jews of Glenville and Kinsman had already moved out and some institutions had already located in Beachwood.

The towering figure of Cleveland’s twentieth century Jewish history is ABBA HILLEL SILVER. His tenure at The Temple, from 1917 until his death in 1963, encompassed a period of significant change, both locally and internationally. Silver was actively involved in local Jewish education, in the labor movement, and in fighting antisemitism. While becoming a beloved congregational leader, he also forged a career as one of the most important American Zionist leaders. Zionism had a significant presence in Cleveland before Silver’s arrival. Soon after Zionist groups formed in Cleveland in the mid 1890s, the city hosted in 1904 the conference of the Federation of American Zionists. Cleveland was again the site of a national Zionist conference in 1921, when Chaim Weizmann and Albert Einstein attended the conference of the ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA. But not all of Cleveland’s Jews supported the movement for an independent Jewish state when Silver arrived in 1917. Born in Lithuania to an observant family but trained at the Reform Hebrew Union College, Silver was able to communicate the need for the movement to all segments of the community. He became a dominant presence among local Zionists in the 1920s and 1930s. He also led the LEAGUE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, formed in 1933 to promote a local boycott against Nazi-produced goods and to combat antisemitism. As chairman of the American section of the Jewish Agency, Silver advocated for the creation of an independent Jewish state in front of the United Nations in May 1947.

While mass emigration from Europe ended with federal restrictions put in place in 1924, the crisis and war brought on by the rise of Nazi Germany led to the arrival of refugees in Cleveland. About a thousand Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany arrived in Cleveland in 1939. Some of them formed a new congregation, Gates of Hope (Shaarey Tikvah). At the start of World War II Rabbis Eliyahu Meir Bloch and Chaim Mordechai Katz escaped from Telšiai (Telshe), Lithuania, where they served on the faculty of the TELSHE YESHIVA, established in 1875. Bloch and Katz reestablished the yeshiva in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood in 1941. In 1943 they founded Hebrew Academy, a Torah-oriented school for Jewish boys. Their educational efforts also led to the establishment of the Yavne High School for Girls in 1957. Holocaust survivors who came to Cleveland after the war joined together in 1959 to form the Kol Israel Foundation, an organization offering social, vocational, and financial assistance to their members. The group erected Cleveland’s Holocaust memorial in 1961 in Zion Memorial Park, a cemetery in Bedford Heights. The organization remains active and strives to encourage the involvement of survivors’ children and grandchildren.

Cleveland’s Jews benefited from America’s postwar prosperity. The garment industry continued to prosper for about twenty years until its decline in the 1970s and 1980s, and Jews entered the professions and service industries in greater numbers. The move to the outer suburbs continued, though sometimes not without opposition. A lengthy court battle spurred in part by antisemitism delayed the construction in Beachwood of Anshe Chesed’s new building, dedicated in 1957. Jewish education, for both children and adults, developed significantly during these years. Two schools founded by Friedland in the 1920s to train Sunday school teachers and teachers of Hebrew merged to form the Cleveland Institute of Jewish Studies in 1947. The Institute developed into the Cleveland College of Jewish Studies (later, the Laura and Alvin Siegal College of Judaic Studies), granting degrees in Jewish studies and Jewish communal service and providing adult educational opportunities until its closure in 2012. Jewish students fared well in the suburban public schools, but they also attended the area’s private Jewish and non-Jewish day schools, most located in the eastern suburbs.

The Federation opened a new building in downtown Cleveland in 1964, demonstrating the community’s commitment to a “city without Jews.” That decision came at a time when downtown Cleveland was still a vibrant metropolis, when many still worked downtown, commuting via the local rapid transit, which had been designed specifically to make downtown accessible from the eastern suburbs. The Federation remained downtown until 2011, when at last it relocated to Beachwood, which housed much of its constituency and hosted most of the community’s major institutions. The Jewish population in the eastern suburbs remained stable, though some migration continued to towns further to the east and south.

The Jewish community responded to challenges both local and international, especially the civil rights movement and the plight of Soviet Jewry, and its activism had national consequences. Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld of Anshe Chesed was especially active in the civil rights movement. While registering black voters in Mississippi in 1964, he was beaten by white segregationists. Cleveland’s role in the Soviet Jewish movement has been widely recognized. The CLEVELAND COUNCIL ON SOVIET ANTI-SEMITISM began with a project of a men’s social justice group at BETH ISRAEL-WEST TEMPLE. The group worked from the 1960s to the 1980s to bring the plight of Soviet Jews to the attention of the larger community. Cleveland absorbed an estimated 12,000 Soviet Jews from the 1970s to the 1990s. Emigration from the former Soviet Union, often classical chain migration, continued into the 2000s.

The 2011 Greater Cleveland Jewish Population Study confirmed the community’s stability, estimating an 80,800 Jews in the area. In addition, twenty-three percent of the total Jewish population was under the age of seventeen, while only nineteen percent were over sixty-five. There was some growth in the southeast suburbs, especially in SOLON, but the population maintained its geographic stability as well. The Heights maintained its share of the Jewish population, twenty-seven percent into the twenty-first century. Cleveland’s Jewish community is largely Reform the Orthodox make up ten percent of the total surveyed. Among those married, thirty-eight percent are intermarried. It is not only the community’s oldest congregations that attest to the stability of the community. The city’s Jewish newspaper, CLEVELAND JEWISH NEWS, was born of a merger of The Jewish Review and Observer and The Jewish Independent in 1964 thus, it can trace its roots to the 1890. Similarly, eight smaller Orthodox congregations founded in the early twentieth century merged over the years to become Oheb Zedek Cedar Sinai Synagogue, established in 2012.

The general picture of the Jewish community in the twentieth century is one of growth and stability, but there has also been significant change. While Cleveland’s original congregations remain active, other institutions have closed. Mt. Sinai Medical Center was sold in 1995 to a for-profit company the hospital closed in 2000, without having made the transition to the suburbs. The Siegal College of Judaic Studies closed in 2012, but part of its operations continued as the Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY. These closings reflect in part wide-ranging changes in the delivery of health care and in higher education. Like Jews elsewhere in the United States, Cleveland’s Jews at the turn of the twenty-first century participated much more broadly in non-Jewish institutions than in earlier decades. Changes within the community were evident as well. Friedland’s Hebraist education, always as much cultural as religious, eventually gave way to supplementary education in the congregations, even as Hebrew helped tie American Jews to the young state of Israel. Due to declining enrollment, Cleveland Hebrew Schools closed in 2009. Rather than auguring a decline, the closure of these significant institutions might also be taken to suggest the community’s flexibility and a willingness to transform to meet the needs of its members.

Gartner, Lloyd P. History of the Jews of Cleveland (1978).

Martin, Sean, Grabowski, John (eds) Cleveland Jews and the Making of a Midwestern Community (2020)

Pike, Kermit J., ed. A Guide to Jewish History Sources in the History Library of the Western Reserve Historical Society (1983).

Rubinstein, Judah, Avner Jane. Merging Traditions: Jewish Life in Cleveland (2004)

Vincent, Sidney Z., and Judah Rubinstein. Merging Traditions: Jewish Life in Cleveland (1978).

Wertheim, Sally, Bennett, Alan, Rubinstein, Judah. (eds) Remembering: Cleveland's Jewish Voices (2011)


Wartime Immigration

As stated previously, for the simple reasons of the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge and the expansion of the subway system Jews started moving from the Lower East Side to Brooklyn. Notable institutions opened the same year that America entered the war. In 1917, the Sea Gate Sisterhood and the Talmud Torah of Coney Island Avenue are established and fully operational [26] . The communities in Brooklyn at this point are all from Eastern Europe and carry on the customs from those countries. In 1918, this changes with Syrian Jews, specifically from Aleppo moving into the borough. They would lay down the roots that would allow for the modern day Syrian Jewish community to settle in Brooklyn. They moved to Bensonhurst, and settled there, opening up the landmarked Magen David Congregation in 1921.

In 1919, the Women’s Hospital is opened in Brownsville. This hospital was formed and organized by the Jewish women in the community. This hospital is still open and functioning today. By 1920, almost 30 percent of New York City is Jewish, and by 1923 Brooklyn has the largest population of Jews than all the other boroughs. This is a dramatic change from the 19 th century, where the Jewish population on the Lower East Side was so large that the neighborhood was dubbed “Little Jerusalem.” The population change was so great that Emanuel Celler, a Jew from Brownsville, was elected as Representative to Congress. He served in Congress on behalf of the Brownsville community for almost 50 years. He was a second generation American, with all four of his grandparents emigrating from Germany at the end of the 19 th century. He gave his first important speech to Congress in 1924 against the Johnson Immigration Act of 1924. This Act was to further restrict immigration to 3%, roughly 356,000 immigrants, of nationalities that were counted in the census of 1910. If the Act were to be passed, that number would be cut to 2%, limiting immigrants from countries such as Italy, Russia, and Poland. This of course would affect Jewish immigration, practically eliminating all immigrants other than those coming from Western Europe. The Act was passed and signed into law, but Celler had found his cause. He spent a majority of his time in Congress fighting immigration laws and national origin as a reason for immigration restriction. At no point was this more crucial than with the outbreak of World War II, with thousands of Jews being denied entry to the United States while trying to flee from Nazi Germany and the outbreak of war [27]

The rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, specifically in Germany was very alarming for the Jewish community in the United States. Many families still had relatives in Europe and letters from them raised alarm in the New York area. Even before the Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935, Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 scared Jews in America. In 1933, the largest anti-Hitler rally was held in the 13 th Regiment Armory, located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn [28] .

Six years later, an anti-Nazi “Stop Hitler” march drew half a million protestors. But by 1939, it was too late. World War II had started, and along with it the Holocaust, a genocide so evil and horrible that it would change the face of the world, and the face of world Jewry, with the murder of six million Jews.

Immigration, as discussed before, was severely limited for Jews from Eastern Europe, but Jews in Western Europe were not as restricted, and a small but significant community came from Germany to settle in New York. They chose Manhattan over Brooklyn, and settled in Washington Heights. They are notable group because of their accomplishments in the Arts and Sciences. Henry Kissinger, who served as Secretary of State, and Ruth Westheimer, the famous therapist, both immigrated as children at this time [29]


Where Tony Blinken Stands on Jewish Issues, From Immigration to Israel

Tony Blinken, when he was deputy secretary of state, is seen at a news conference at the State Department, Aug. 10, 2016. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

(JTA) — Tony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for secretary of state, is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor whose stories shaped his worldview and subsequently his policy decisions, including in the Middle East.

Biden named Blinken to the post on Monday, a day after news leaked about his plans to bring on the Jewish former high-ranking official in the Obama administration.

Blinken, 58, has been one of Biden’s closest policy advisers for over a decade and espouses the opposite of Trump’s “America First” agenda, which prioritized nationalist goals over international diplomacy. Multiple reports say that Blinken will seek to rejoin many of the international agreements that Trump left as president, notably the Paris Climate Accords and the Iran nuclear deal (an agreement with major diplomatic consequences for Israel).

Under Blinken, the State Department will usher in a much different foreign policy era, including on Israel. Like Biden, Blinken has close ties to the country forged from his decades of strong support of the Jewish state.

His Jewish parents were influential in their own right.

Blinken was born in New York City, where he spent most of his early years. His father, Donald, co-founded the hefty E.M. Warburg Pincus & Company (now Warbug Pincus) investment firm and served as the U.S. ambassador to Hungary for four years under President Bill Clinton’s administration. There is an archive at George Soros’ Central European University in Hungary named for Donald Blinken, now 95, and his second wife, Vera, who survived the Holocaust, in part for their support of the “democratization process in the United States and in Hungary.”

Donald Blinken’s grandfather Meir Blinken also was a noted Yiddish author whose stories were published in a book in the 1980s that features an introduction by scholar Ruth Wisse.

His stepfather’s Holocaust experience shaped his worldview.

Tony Blinken’s mother, Judith, remarried Samuel Pisar, a Holocaust survivor and attorney who advised President John F. Kennedy and multiple French presidents. Pisar, who survived three concentration camps, also worked for the United Nations, wrote a libretto title “Kaddish-A Dialogue With God” at the behest of Leonard Bernstein and penned an award-winning memoir about his Holocaust experiences. Read more about him here in a Jewish Telegraphic Agency obituary and the description of a Yad Vashem program named after him.

Blinken has said that Pisar’s experiences have informed his vision for the “engaged” role that the United States should play on the global stage. Here’s one story he tells frequently, via Jewish Insider:

“One day as they were hiding out, they heard this deep rumbling sound,” Blinken recounted, “and as my stepfather looked out, he saw a sight that he had never seen before — not the dreaded Iron Cross, not a swastika, but on a tank a five-pointed white star. And, maybe in a foolhardy way, he rushed out toward it. He knew what it was. And he got to the tank, the hatch opened up, and a large African-American G.I. stared down at him. And he got down on his knees and he said the only three words that he knew in English, that his mother had taught him before the war: ‘God bless America.’ And at that point, the G.I. lifted him into the tank, into freedom, into America. That’s the story that I grew up with — about what our country is and what it represents, and what it means when the United States is engaged and leading.”

His diplomatic career has spanned decades and gained him a reputation as a centrist.

That career began on the National Security Council under Clinton. Blinken also was appointed staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was headed by Biden during the George W. Bush years.

In 2008, Biden tapped Blinken to help his presidential campaign, and when Biden was chosen as Barack Obama’s vice president, Blinken followed, becoming one of his national security advisers. In 2014, Obama elevated Blinken to deputy secretary of state under John Kerry.

During those years, Blinken was heavily involved in the crafting of Middle East policy, including the landmark Iran deal.

Blinken has been described as a centrist and an interventionist, and he’s said to have a “mind meld” with Biden on foreign policy — an area of governance in which the president-elect specializes and wants to prioritize in the Oval Office.

Blinken is more hawkish on issues such as Russia, whom he considers a foe (he helped Obama’s team respond stiffly to Vladimir Putin’s encroachments into Crimea).

On Israel, Blinken’s views reflect the Democratic mainstream.

Within the Democratic Party, a minority of lawmakers and advocates have been trying to shift the party to the left on Israel issues. Progressives including Bernie Sanders have suggested that aid to Israel ought to be conditioned on certain policy choices.

The Trump administration has shifted U.S. policy to the right in recent years, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and, just last week, saying that the United States would consider the movement to boycott Israel officially anti-Semitic.

Blinken is a centrist here, too. He has said that a Biden administration will not condition aid to Israel on policy choices, will keep the embassy in Jerusalem and will staunchly support Israel at the United Nations — a body that often singles out the Jewish state for human rights abuses without condemning offenders such as Syria and China. In May, Biden wrote that he “firmly” rejects the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and Blinken has backed up that stance.

Blinken’s appointment drew praise from centrist Democrats on Sunday night, but also from Sanders’ foreign policy adviser, Matt Duss, who tweeted that it would be “a new and great thing to have a top diplomat who has regularly engaged with progressive grassroots.” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a progressive who is known for her harsh criticism of Israel and support for boycotting Israel, responded that she would be happy as long as “he doesn’t try to silence me and suppress my First Amendment right to speak out against Netanyahu’s racist and inhumane policies.”

Blinken’s record has earned him respect from Israeli officials, even when he hasn’t always agreed with them. Michael Oren, a conservative former U.S. ambassador to Israel, called Blinken a man of “singular intelligence and warmth” in a passage of his 2015 book “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide” — even in describing how Blinken rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for expanding settlement building after agreeing not to.

“How could you do this to Israel’s best friend?” Blinken said about Biden to Oren, who was the ambassador at the time.

On Twitter Sunday night, Oren said he could think of “no finer choice” for the post, and news of Biden tapping Blinken drew praise from a cross-section of Israelis who have encountered him in the course of diplomacy.

If there’s ever tension between Israeli and American leadership, don’t expect to know about it. A big part of keeping things copacetic, as Biden and Blinken see it, is leaving policy disputes behind closed doors — something Blinken pushed for during the Obama years, sometimes to no avail.

As he told a “Sesame Street” character, Blinken is compassionate toward refugees.

President Trump prioritized closing off U.S. borders and punishing immigrants who sought asylum in a policy set by a Jewish adviser, Stephen Miller.

Biden has said his approach to immigration — an issue important to many American Jews— will be much different. Blinken explained his attitude about refugees in a 2016 video with the “Sesame Street” character Grover, in which he explains to the fuzzy blue puppet that refugees should be treated the same as “you and me.”

“We all have something to learn and gain from one another, even when it doesn’t seem at first like we have much in common,” Blinken said after asking Grover to imagine how challenging it must be for someone to feel so unsafe that they decide to leave their home.

This school year, some kids will have new classmates: refugees. @Grover & I discuss how to make them feel welcome in their new communities. pic.twitter.com/gKInM2Ahuw

&mdash Antony Blinken (@ABlinken) September 21, 2016

He’s got a lighter side — and a band with a clever name.

At one point the Harvard grad — who married Evan Ryan, a former assistant secretary of state in a ceremony that involved both a rabbi and a priest — wanted to be a filmmaker. Blinken also has a ’70s-inspired band called Ablinken — wordplay on multiple levels — that has two tracks on Spotify and was making headlines Monday.


Ship carrying 937 Jewish refugees, fleeing Nazi Germany, is turned away in Cuba

A boat carrying 937 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution is turned away from Havana, Cuba, on May 27, 1939. Only 28 immigrants are admitted into the country. After appeals to the United States and Canada for entry are denied, the rest are forced to sail back to Europe, where they’re distributed among several countries including Great Britain and France.

On May 13, the S.S. St. Louis sailed from Hamburg, Germany to Havana, Cuba. Most of the passengers—many of them children—were German Jews escaping increasing persecution under the Third Reich. Six months earlier, 91 people were killed and Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues were destroyed in what became known as the Kristallnacht pogrom. It was becoming increasing clear the Nazis were accelerating their efforts to exterminate Jews by arresting them and placing them in concentration camps. World War II and the formal implementation of The Final Solution were just months from beginning. 

The refugees had applied for U.S. visas, and planned to stay in Cuba until they could enter the United States legally. Even before they set sail, their impending arrival was greeted with hostility in Cuba. On May 8, there was a massive anti-Semitic demonstration in Havana. Right-wing newspapers claimed that the incoming immigrants were Communists.

The St. Louis arrived in Havana on May 27. Roughly 28 people onboard had valid visas or travel documents and were allowed to disembark. The Cuban government refused to admit the nearly 900 others. For seven days, the ship’s captain attempted to negotiate with Cuban officials, but they refused to comply.

The ship sailed closer to Florida, hoping to disembark there, but it was not permitted to dock. Some passengers attempted to cable President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for refuge, but he never responded. A State Department telegram stated that the asylum-seekers must 𠇊wait their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.”

As a last resort, the St. Louis continued north to Canada, but it was rejected there, too. “No country could open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who want to leave Europe: the line must be drawn somewhere,” Frederick Blair, Canada’s director of immigration, said at the time.

Faced with no other options, the ship returned to Europe. It docked in Antwerp, Belgium on June 17. By then, several Jewish organizations had secured entry visas for the refugees in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Great Britain. The majority who had traveled on the ship survived the Holocaust 254 later died as the Nazis swept through the continent. 


The Balfour Declaration 5: Zionism in America The Rise of Louis Brandeis

Russian persecution also precipitated a wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe to America in the first decade of the century, [1] but attempts to organise Zionist societies across the United States failed to ignite early enthusiasms. With two or three exceptions, the wealthy Jews in America would have nothing to do with Zionism in any shape or form. [2] The settled and prosperous upper-class, mostly German Jews, believed in assimilation. Their wealth and social position proved to them that the melting pot analogy was working. Above all, they did not want anyone to question their loyalty to America or embrace an ideology that might rock their well-provisioned boat by advocating the creation of a foreign country specifically for Jews. [3] That might prove an uncomfortable transformation, especially if the argument focussed on the theft of an already Arab country or a the need for Jews to go and live there.

On the other hand it appeared that some poorer immigrants, were becoming more vocal in their support, though it was not backed by an evident desire to move from the ‘Land of the Free’ to the sands of Palestine. The Jewish leaders in America, Jacob Schiff and Rabbi I.M. Wise claimed that ‘America is our Zion’. [4] The Jewish community in America was at best divided. There was no groundswell in the Zionists’ favour and the State Department dismissed them as a minority political group without money, influence or social standing. [5] They were not listening. Slowly a generation of new Zionists began to assert itself amongst the aspiring middle-classes of teachers, lawyers, businessmen and professors. They required a leader to champion their cause.

The flag-bearer for Zionism in the United States, Louis Brandeis, was a Boston lawyer hailed as a champion of the people. As early as 1890 he had created a legal storm with an article in the Harvard Law Review, a Citizens Right to Privacy. [6] In 1905 he successfully challenged the J.P. Morgan banking and financial conglomerate over a proposed railroad merger, raged against the abuses of monopolies and championed women’s working rights in a high-profile court case against the State of Oregon. [7] Brandeis was widely considered dangerous by his opponents because he couldn’t be bought. Outrageous anti-Jewish rants were vented against him by magazines and journals owned or part-financed by the New Haven Railroad Company when he spoke out against their abuses. [8] Unbowed and unbroken Brandeis fought them and won.

Louis Brandeis was attracted to Zionism fairly late in his life. He first came into contact with Eastern European Jews amongst the New York garment workers whom he supported in the great strike of 1910. Burgeoning anti-Semitism in Boston and his own encounters with prejudice influenced his attraction to the Zionist cause and in an interview with the Jewish Advocate in 1910 he openly acknowledged his sympathy for Zionism. [9] Within two years it had become his life’s purpose.

On 30 August, 1914, barely a month into the war, an extraordinary conference of American Zionists took place in New York at which Louis Brandeis, the Boston Lawyer, was unanimously elected leader of the Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs. His reputation electrified the Jewish community. Here was a leader of national standing with the reputation of a fearless champion of the people. [10] He brought respect and authority to this post and under his direction a stream of other leaders in American Jewish life were attracted to the Zionist movement. He believed in a cultural pluralism in which ethnic groups retained their unique identity as did Americans of Scottish, Irish, German or any other nationality. His message was that there was no inconsistency between loyalty to America and loyalty to Jewry. Although some European Zionists viewed this as an anaemic adaptation of their own passion, [11] Brandeis’s approach to Zionism succeeded in encouraging far greater support in America for a ‘homeland’ in Palestine. That did not, however, infer their intention to go and live there. [12] Ever.

Brandeis’s magnetism in Jewish circles was further enhanced by President Wilson’s surprise decision to appoint him to the vacant position on the Supreme Court on 28 January, 1916. [13] His many detractors gave vent to their anti-Jewish bile in a firestorm of protest. Newspapers called Louis Brandeis a red-hot radical the Sun declared that it was the Senate’s duty to ‘protect the Supreme Court from such an utterly and ridiculously unfit appointment’. According to The Press President Wilson had never made a worse mistake than his nomination of Brandeis. It added, ‘if he fails to withdraw it, the United States Senate should throw it out.’ [14] The Zionist leader had to endure six months of unrelenting abuse from opponents before winning Senate approval in June 1916.

The transformation of Mr Brandeis into Justice Brandeis should have reduced his active involvement in the Zionist movement. Not so. Louis Brandeis’s influence and power increased a hundred-fold. Clearly his official involvement in overt Jewish matters should have been reduced to a minimum, but he held on to all the reins of influence. [15] He remained in daily communication by telephone, telegraph and conference with all the other leaders of the movement, and little escaped his attention. Brandeis was in the business of recruitment. He clearly understood the power that ordinary Jewish voters could wield at the ballot-box. But the struggle within American Jewry for control of their own community between the exceptionally wealthy few and the masses, descended into bitter accusation and counter-accusation.

Jacob Schiff, the New York financier, head of the great Kuhn Loeb banking firm was the foremost Jewish financier in the United States. His philanthropy towards Jewish causes was legendary. Nevertheless, in June 1916 he was shocked by the personal attacks levelled against him. He had originally held himself aloof from Theodore Herzl and overtly political Zionism and in a speech at the Central Jewish Institute, he was reported to have said that Jews in Russia had brought many of their troubles upon themselves because they ‘kept apart as a separate people’. [16]

Schiff always claimed that he had been misrepresented by the pro-Zionist Jewish press that he had been unfairly and improperly maligned. He told the New York Times that he had been warned that his opposition to the Jewish Congress movement would result in such an attack. Schiff revealed that the Zionists were determined to undermine Jewish confidence in him in a well orchestrated plan that whatever he said, they would attack him. He was gravely hurt by the allegations and swore that Zionism, Jewish nationalism, the Congress Movement and Jewish politics in any form was thereafter a closed book. [17] Schiff’s anger subsided later and he was persuaded to help the Jews in Palestine, provided the project could be presented to him as unrelated to Zionism.

The message was clear. Zionism was not to be crossed, even by the richest of its own co-religionists. There was an unsubtle message in this character assassination. No matter how rich, how influential, how generous, no-one would be allowed to criticise the Zionist agenda. No-one. Many others have suffered similar fates since.

Louis Brandeis grew in stature. He had the President’s ear. Precisely why remains a matter of conjecture. Allegations have been voiced that Wilson was blackmailed into making the appointment by a lawyer, Samuel Untermeyer. This has never been proved. [18] Formerly, as an adviser to Woodrow Wilson, Brandeis helped to broker the compromise that led to the adoption of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 without which U S bankers could not have financed the world war. [19]

Viewed from that angle one might question the purity of his anti-trust reputation. Though he should have kept his responsibilities as a Supreme Court Judge separate from the workings of the Department of State, which had responsibility for all international dealings, Brandeis made his views on Palestine clear. He approached Woodrow Wilson directly on the issue of Palestine and ‘obtained verbal assurances’ on his and the allied policy in Palestine. In an article in the New Statesman and Nation in November 1914, he argued that Palestine should become a British protectorate. [20] Consider that date. In November 1914, the idea that Palestine should become a British Protectorate was planted by an American Zionist three years ahead of the more general Balfour Declaration. In what depth of fertile soil did it germinate?

For very many Jews who had suffered directly from Russian brutality, supporting the Allies was emotionally difficult. Many could not understand how the British in particular could fight side by side with the hated Romanovs. Brandeis saw beyond that hatred. Above all, he knew that America had to be involved in any international congress which would be empowered to settle the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. He looked to Chaim Weizmann, his fellow Zionist leader across the Atlantic to help find a form of commitment which would deliver Palestine to the Jews. [21]


The world has never supported a Jewish State in all of Palestine

Since the early days of the Zionist endeavor the international legitimacy of the Jewish State has been linked to the idea of partition in Eretz Yisrael-Palestine. Even the Balfour Declaration did not recognize an exclusive Jewish right to all of Palestine. The British declaration of support for the idea of a “Jewish national home” in Mandatory Palestine, was tied to the condition that “nothing shall be done” to prejudice the “civil and religious rights” of the non-Jewish communities in the country.

The San Remo Conference of the victorious allied powers in April 1920 bestowed broad international recognition on both parts of the Balfour Declaration recognizing the idea of the Jewish national home in Palestine as well as the essential protection of the rights of the Arab population. It is true, as Zionists have regularly pointed out, that these documents recognized “national rights” in Palestine for the Jews alone, while the Arabs were only to enjoy “civil and religious” rights. That, however, was not a position that the British and the international community would hold for much longer.

Haim Weizmann famously declared in 1919 that with mass Jewish immigration Palestine would eventually become “as Jewish as England is English.” The British flatly rejected Weizmann’s assessment. The White Paper of June 1922 noted in reference to Weizmann’s prediction, that His Majesty’s Government had “no such aim in view.” Moreover the British government had never contemplated “the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine.” The British reiterated that the Balfour Declaration did not “contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded ‘in Palestine.’”

The Arab Rebellion in Palestine in 1936 convinced the British, as noted in the Report of the Peel Commission in 1937, that there were two national movements in the country. The Rebellion forced the British to recognize the Arab national movement, which they had not done in the Balfour Declaration. Recognizing two national movements was but a stepping stone away from the logic of partition into two states, which Peel in fact recommended. Under the pressure of Arab rejection the British dropped the idea of partition, and in the White Paper of 1939 they chose to abandon the Zionist movement altogether.

But after the Second World War the idea of partition was revived and virtually became an international consensus. The new consensus led to the UN Partition Resolution of November 1947 that laid the international foundation for the declaration of Israel’s independence in May 1948. The Partition favored the Zionist cause and reflected the identification of most of the international community with the plight of the Jewish people in the wake of the Holocaust and the concern for the Jewish survivors in the DP (Displaced Persons) camps in Europe.

The borders of the partition plan were determined with the Jewish predicament in mind, and considering the urgent need for the immigration of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees to Palestine. Even though the Jewish community in Palestine was only one third of the total population, the partition borders awarded the Jews 55 percent of the territory. The Arabs were left with only 45 percent despite the fact that their population was twice the number of Jews in the country.

The international community recognized the historical connection of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael, their right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland, and their right to self-defense in their sovereign state. The international community, therefore, acquiesced in Israel’s territorial expansion beyond the partition boundaries in the War of Independence in 1948, to include 78 percent of Palestine in the newly founded State of Israel, even though the war had turned half of Palestine’s Arab population into refugees.

The international community also regarded the Six Day War as a just war of self-defense. Resolution 242, passed by the UN Security Council in November 1967, therefore, did not require Israel to withdraw forthwith from the territories it had occupied. Withdrawal was only to take place in exchange for peace treaties in which Israel’s neighbors would accept its right to exist in secure and recognized boundaries.

In December 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334 that condemned Israeli settlements as “a flagrant violation” of international law and “a major obstacle” to the attainment of a two-state solution. The Resolution called upon all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” Thus, in one breath, the resolution condemned the occupation while reasserting the unequivocal recognition of Israel’s legitimacy in its 1967 boundaries.

A few days after the Resolution US Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the details of what had become the international consensus on the two-state solution, on the basis of the 1967 boundaries. Generally speaking Kerry supported the Palestinian position on Jerusalem, settlements and borders. But it was especially noteworthy that Kerry did not support the Palestinian position on refugees. On the refugee question Kerry supported the Israeli position, which required that any solution to the refugee problem must not negatively affect Israel’s character as the nation state of the Jewish people. In other words, there should be no “right of return” to Israel proper.

But for post-1967 Israel, a Jewish State in 78 percent of Eretz Yisrael-Palestine, with no refugee return, was no longer sufficient. Israel also wanted some, if not all, of the 22 percent that remained in the hands of the Palestinians. Nonetheless, the position of the International community has remained unchanged. It was not prepared to ignore the rights of the Arabs just as it would not in 1920, not in 1947, not in 1967, and not in 2016.

The international community by and large does not question Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, but it will not accept Israel’s disregard for the civil, religious and national rights of the Palestinians. After all, the recognition of Israel’s right to exist had always been tied to an Israeli willingness to accept some form of sharing of the country between Jews and Arabs. Presently that means a two-state solution.

Any unilateral annexation deliberately designed to prevent such a solution is bound to be seen as an intolerable affront to the international community. If and when such annexation leads to sanctions or diplomatic isolation the Israelis should not blame, as they often do, the built-in prejudices of an anti-Semitic world. They should for a change, recognize the responsibility of their own government for its ill-considered, illogical and unjust decisions.


Dominion - a critical review

About the Author

Marcus Paul is author of The Evil That Men Do (Sacristy Press, 2016) and Ireland to the Wild West (Ambassador International, 2019). He has two degrees in English and history and has enjoyed a life-long career working with students and sixth formers in universities and schools in three continents. He now spends his time running a 'School Pastor' scheme and writing and speaking about the Gospel and the Church, as well as painting and reading. He also enjoys rock climbing and travel - having had (as a young man) the now nearly impossible experience of hitch-hiking &lsquoon a shoestring&rsquo ten thousand miles round Africa and the Near East. He is married with two grown-up children.
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