Monday, January 15, 2007

Thursday Jan 17

Home & Radio as usual

Earlier in the evening I
was rather busy arranging
the Massmeeting for the
Z.O.A. for Mon. Jan 28. I have
secured Ab. Goldberg and Maurice
Samuel as the principal speakers
but I am not yet through
the worst part is yet to come

This is my last effort to
revive the first Zionist dist.
If I should fail here I give
up. I told it to Blitz and
my conscience will not bother
me as I have tried my best,
but I do hope the meeting
will turn out a success.


Once again, Papa shows heavy involvement in the early development of what would become a prominent Zionist group. Though the Zionist Organization of America (Z.O.A.) was relatively more established than the Sons of Zion in 1924 (it had been around since 1897) Papa's chapter was clearly in trouble. His choice of words ("If I should fail here I give up") and the presence of a mysterious supervisor named "Blitz" remind me of a cold-war spy novel, though I assume Papa was meeting with Blitz in the open and not passing envelopes to him in a darkened alleyway or whispering to him from behind a copy of the Forward at a kosher lunch counter (he did, however, wear a fedora). Still, with the future of the Zionist movement in doubt and anti-Semitism growing in Europe by the moment, Papa must have felt like the stakes were urgently high for the Z.O.A's success.

I'm not clear on what his frustrations with the progress of the first "district" were but he certainly secured a couple of good speakers for the January 28 mass meeting. Abraham Goldberg was the primary face of the Z.O.A. in 1924, and remained a key figure as it evolved. I won't even think about tackling the enormous history of Zionist factions, feuds and alliances in the early 20th century, but Goldberg figures prominently throughout (he was so identified with Zionism that he was listed in the phone book at "Goldberg Abraham Zionist"1). Alas, the helpful people at the Z.O.A. don't think many of their records from the 20's have survived, so more details on Papa's district may be a long time coming.

Maurice Samuel, the other speaker Papa booked, would make a splash later that year with the publication of his book You Gentiles, which characterized the social, emotional and cultural differences between Jews and Gentiles as fundamental, irreconcilable obstacles to mutual understanding. Admired in its day for its frankness and still admired by some for certain well-articulated sentiments, it has, perhaps not surprisingly, become a minor touchstone for anti-Semites of all stripes who like to quote its more resolute passages as proof of Jewish otherness and general nastiness. In any event, Samuel continued as a prominent writer, speaker and Yiddish literature scholar and would be noted for many other accomplishments; You Gentiles is absent from Irving Howe's 1972 New York Times obituary of Samuel, which cites The World of Sholom Aleichem as his best work.


References for this post

1 - Howe, Irving "Maurice Samuel, 1895-1972", The New York Times, May 21, 1972

Adams, J. Donald, "Jew And Gentile", The New York Times, September 7, 1924

"A. Goldberg Dead; Leader in Zionism", The New York Times, June 6, 1942

Also, thanks to the Zionist Organization of America for their help.

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