Thursday, August 23, 2007

Saturday Aug 23

Attended a rather stormy
meeting of the 3 down town
districts at St. Marks Pl.
I took part in the discussion.


The "down town districts" Papa mentions here are probably chapters of the Zionist Organization of America. The Z.O.A. was, at the time, a 40,000 member group closely affiliated with the womens' group Hadassah, the fundraising organization Keren Hayesod, and Order Sons of Zion (B'nai Zion) the Zionist fraternal order to which Papa belonged.

Back in January, Papa had put quite a bit of pressure on himself to help revive the 1st district of the Z.O.A., organizing and publicizing a meeting with A-list guest speakers including the prominent Zionist figures Abe Goldberg and Maurice Samuel. He hasn't mentioned the district since then, but I assume he represented it at the meeting mentioned above.

Where would this meeting have taken place? In a private home? A coffee house? Over dinner in a Jewish restaurant on the Lower East Side? Perhaps, since it was a Saturday, Papa and his comrades met in a synagogue after Shabbat services, or maybe, in the cool of this August evening, they strolled up to the the Z.O.A. offices on 5th Avenue and 12th Street. [Not sure what I was thinking when I wrote these last couple of sentences -- he mentions that the meeting was on St. Marks place.]

I wonder, too, what kind of "stormy" debate Papa participated in during this meeting. The possibilities are limitless: They may have had a heated political discussion over the advantages of the movement's left-wing socialist or right-wing militant philosophies; perhaps they needed to decide which of their less successful downtown districts to shut down; maybe they disagreed over how to best spread the word in lower Manhattan or about where the next fundraising event should take place.

Stridency was the order of the day in Papa's Zionist circles, so I imagine whatever room he and his friends smoked up must have been really alive with argument if Papa noted the meeting's contentiousness. (Even Papa, who we all remember as remarkably gentle and fair, could take the gloves off when he aired Zionist opinions -- witness his strident language in an article he wrote for the Z.O.A. publication Dos Yiddishe Folk criticizing a rival Zionist group.) When he says he "took part in the discussion," does he mean he jumped into the fray and shouted to be heard? Or, when faced with a room full of red-faced colleagues, did he try to restore civility and cool everyone down with quiet logic?

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