at the Hotel Astor marking
the opening of the 1924
$1,500,000 Keren Haysod
drive in NYC
Gladly I listened to the
speeches of the
Dr. Silverman (Rabbi) and
Mr. David A. Brown.
All the enstranged Jews
are bound to come back
sooner or later.
Light must triumph over darkness.
This entry contains the Hebrew phrase baalei teshuva (the plural form of baal teshuva) which refers to Jews who have strayed from Judaism and returned to the fold.
In this case, Papa adapted the phrase to describe Jews who rejected Zionism and later came to accept it, specifically Rabbi Silverman and David Brown. Silverman was the Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emanu-El, an influential Reform (or progressive) synagogue in New York, and for many years he had spoken out against Zionism. As reported in the Times, he returned from a trip to Palestine with a different point of view, and his speech at the Astor marked his commitment to "devote the remainder of his life to the cause of Palestine."
As Papa crowded in with the other 1,000 attendees at the ball, he would have smiled to hear Silverman say:
Any Jew who willfully hinders the movement to rebuild the Jewish homeland is injuring his people and his faith. Any Jew who remains aloof from the movement at this critical period in our history lays himself open to the charge of indifference to the fate of a large part of Israel.
Papa has indicated his disapproval of non-Zionist Jews before (I'd almost say he held them in contempt, but I'm not sure he was capable of such feelings) but he has also indicated his willingness to rejoice in their "repentance." My mother says he "never held a grudge in his life," and after reading this entry I wonder if his capacity to forgive, to expect, in fact, people to turn themselves around, had spiritual roots in the concept of baal teshuva.
(Thanks to my wife, Stephanie, for the Hebrew lesson.)
My father, Sy Unger, died eleven years ago today. Here he is, around 1960, seated between Papa and my mother. How would Papa have told me to remember him?