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Allan C. Brownfeld
Spring - Summer 2022

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the American Council for Judaism. Since  
1942, the Council has advanced the philosophy of Judaism as a religion of  
universal values, not a nationality, and has maintained that Americans of Jewish  
faith are American by nationality, and Jews by religion, just as other Americans  
are Protestant, Catholic or Muslim.  
The Council has challenged the Zionist philosophy which holds that Israel is the  
“homeland” of all Jews, and that all Jews living outside of Israel are in  
“exile.” In doing so, it has contended that its philosophy represents the  
thinking of the majority of Jewish Americans, a largely silent―but, in recent  
days, increasingly vocal―majority, which is not represented by the organizations  
which presume to speak in their name. Clearly, the homeland of American Jews is  
the United States.  
The Council’s philosophy is much older than the 80 years in which the  
organization has been in existence. In 1841, at the dedication of Temple Beth  
Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi Gustav Poznanski declared: “This  
country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple.”  
The Hopes of Jews Emigrating to the U.S.  
Rabbi Wolfgang Hamburger, for many years a leading member of the Council,  
explained the hopes of Jews who emigrated to the U.S., as he had: “They wanted to  
sink roots here because here they were not ‘at best tolerated guests in someone  
else’s home.’ This was to be their home and their children’s home; it was only  
natural that their Judaism would be no more than the faith of a religious  
community…And just as they had to adjust themselves to life in the New World, so  
their Judaism had to be adapted to the mores of a free society. Such were the  
dynamics of Reform Judaism. There was simply no other way to endow Judaism with  
meaning and vitality on these shores. The reformers…sloughed off all traditions  
which did not fit naturally and harmoniously into their existential  
consciousness. They saw no reason for imbuing an outdated hope with spiritual or  
symbolic meaning, and therefore created a prayerbook without any reference to the  
ancient Temple ritual and Jerusalem. Memories of a national past failed to  
sustain their devotion to Judaism, and dreams of a resurrected Jewish nation,  
understandable in the oppressive atmosphere of the ghetto, no longer exemplified  
the ties which Jews as members of a free society could have to the faith of their  
fathers. Jewish particularism and Jewish nationalism simply could not offer a  
valid identification for the Jewish citizen of the United States.”  
As a result, notes Hamburger, “Classical Reform Judaism emerged as the inevitable  
expression of the religious lifestyle of those who chose to be Americans of  
Jewish faith. Of necessity, the reformers’ outlook was universalistic; and having  
come to a land of promise, their outlook was optimistic. They looked forward not  
to the wondrous appearance of a personal Messiah but to the dawn of the Messianic  
age when humanity’s hope for truth, justice and peace would be fulfilled. To  
their Judaism they ascribed the ‘sacred task to toil for the speedy dawn’ of the  
Messianic age, a task that could be met by applying the ethical lessons of  
Prophetic Judaism to the conduct of their daily existence. This universal outlook  
was clearly mirrored in the Reform service. The prayers were in harmony with the  
concerns and aspirations of a Jewish citizen, at home in the land of the free.  
And for the sake of clarity and immediacy, they were recited in the vernacular.  
The few symbols and rituals which were retained appealed to heart and mind; the  
old synagogue tunes, rearranged in the style of the great masters, inspired those  
who came to pray. The service was distinguished for its clear structure, a  
tranquil atmosphere and the absence of emotionalism.”  
1885 Platform Rejects Nationalism  
In 1885, a group of Reform rabbis met in Pittsburgh and adopted a platform which  
emphasized that Reform Judaism rejected the idea of Jewish “peoplehood” and  
nationalism in any variety. It stated, “We consider ourselves no longer a nation  
but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine nor  
a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the  
laws concerning the Jewish state.”  
In 1898, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) adopted a resolution  
disapproving of any attempt to establish a Jewish state. The resolution declared:  
“Zion was a precious possession of the past…as such it is a holy memory, but it  
is not our hope of the future. America is our Zion.”  
The issuance of the Balfour Declaration convinced many Reform rabbis of the  
necessity to take strong measures to fight Zionism. Rabbi Louis Grossman, the  
president of the CCAR, reacted to this document by reaffirming the standard  
Reform viewpoint and by reiterating Reform’s opposition “to the idea that  
Palestine should be considered the homeland of the Jews,” because “Jews in the  
U.S. were an integral part of the American Nation.”  
Rising Anti-Semitism in Europe  
In the wake of growing anti-Semitism in Russia and Eastern Europe at the end of  
the 19th century and the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the nineteen thirties,  
many Jews began to look positively upon the idea of creating a Jewish state in  
Palestine as a refuge for those being persecuted. Jewish organizations in the  
U.S. which had always opposed Zionism began to view it more favorably. In  
February 1942, the CCAR, the Reform rabbinical group, reversed its position and  
called for a “Jewish army” in Palestine, a direct violation of its 1935  
resolution calling for “neutrality” when it came to Zionism.  
The American Council for Judaism was created in 1942 to maintain the traditional  
philosophy of a universal Judaism free of nationalism and politicization. In his  
keynote address to the June 1942 meeting in Atlantic City, Rabbi David Philipson  
declared that Reform Judaism and Zionism were incompatible: “Reform Judaism is  
spiritual, Zionism is political. The outlook of Reform Judaism is the world. The  
outlook of Zionism is a corner of Eastern Asia.” The first pledge of major  
financial backing was made by Aaron Strauss, a nephew and heir of Levi Strauss of  
blue jeans fame. Attending this meeting were six former presidents of the Central  
Conference of American Rabbis, the president of Hebrew Union College and a former  
president of B’nai B’rith.  
Prominent laypersons joining the Council included Rear Admiral Louis Strauss,  
Marcus C. Sloss, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court, former  
congresswoman Florence P. Kahn, Herbert and Stanley Marcus of the Nieman-Marcus  
Co., James D. Zellerbach, president of the Crown Zellerbach Corp., Sidney  
Weinberg, senior partner of Goldman Sachs and Monroe E. Deutsch, Provost of the  
University of California. It was Arthur Hays Sulzberger, publisher of the New  
York Times, who introduced the phrase “Americans of the Jewish faith” into the  
Council’s statement of principles. The first president of the Council was Lessing  
J. Rosenwald, who had retired as chairman of Sears Roebuck and Co., which was  
founded by his father, the respected philanthropist Julian Rosenwald, who, among  
many other things, worked with Booker T. Washington to build schools for black  
children in the South after the Civil War.  
Continuity Of Jewish Opposition to Zionism  
The continuity of American Jewish opposition to Zionism was reflected in the  
membership in the Council of more than twenty of the original signers of the  
petition Rep. Julius Klein presented to President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 in  
opposition to the Balfour Declaration and to the creation of a Jewish state in  
Palestine. Fourteen of the rabbis who had signed the petition also joined the  
Council, including William Rosenau, David Philipson, William Fineshriber, Samuel  
Goldenson, David Lefkowitz, Henry Cohen and Henry Barnston. Two lay endorsers of  
the petition, Ralph W. Mack and Milton S. Binswanger, became ACJ Vice Presidents.  
Many non-Jewish leaders, academics and journalists found the Council’s arguments  
compelling, and worked closely with the organization. Among these were Barnard  
College President Virginia Gildersleeve, British historian Arnold Toynbee,  
journalist Dorothy Thompson, an early opponent of Hitler’s rise to power in  
Germany, the Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick, author Freda Utley and socialist leader  
Norman Thomas. Thomas praised the Council as early as 1949 in a syndicated column  
on the Arab refugee crisis and spoke frequently at Council functions.  
The Council was incorporated in December 1942 and Rabbi Elmer Berger was named  
executive director. Judah Magnes, chancellor of the Hebrew University of  
Jerusalem, wrote a letter endorsing the Council’s statement of principles: “It is  
true that Jewish nationalism tends to confuse people not because it is secular  
and not religious, but because this nationalism is unhappily chauvinistic and  
narrow and terroristic in the best style of Eastern European nationalism.”  
“We Have Belonged to Every Nation”  
In 1943, Elmer Berger participated in a public debate in Richmond, Virginia with  
Maurice Samuel, who had published an article attacking the Council at its  
formation. Berger stated the fundamental position he would champion throughout  
his life: “I oppose Zionism because I deny that Jews are a nation. We were a  
nation for perhaps 200 years in a history of four thousand years. Before that we  
were a group of Semitic tribes whose only tenuous bond of unity was a national  
deity―a religious unity. After Solomon, we were never better than two nations,  
frequently at war with one another, disappearing at different times, leaving  
discernibly different cultures and even religions recorded in the Biblical  
record. Certainly, since the Dispersion, we have not been a nation. We have  
belonged to every nation in the world. We have mixed our blood with all peoples.  
Jewish nationalism is a fabrication woven from the thinnest kinds of threads and  
strengthened only in those eras of human history in which reaction has been  
dominant and anti-Semitism in full cry.”  
In his book “The Jewish Dilemma: The Case Against Zionist Nationalism” (1946),  
Berger argued that the Western world in general and Jews in particular were  
confused about the status of Jews. On the one hand, Jews and others condemned the  
Nazi ideas on race; on the other, some Jews were claiming to be a separate people  
or race. “Isn’t it a curious thing,” he wrote, “and tragically ironic that  
Zionists and extreme anti-Semites agree on the same solution―isolate the Jews in  
a country of their own.”  
Expanding on themes of emancipation and integration, Berger observed that, “Where  
men are free, Jews live in security, and where they are not free, Jews and others  
know no freedom.” To him, the German experience did not prove the failure of his  
ideas about the nature of emancipation. On the contrary, it actually proved his  
thesis. In Germany, according to Berger, emancipation did not fail―it was never  
real. What failed in Germany was democracy, and that affected Jews just as it had  
affected all other Germans.  
President Truman Meets with Lessing Rosenwald  
On Dec. 4, 1945, hours after the first meeting with Zionist leader Chaim  
Weizmann, President Harry S. Truman received Lessing Rosenwald in the Oval  
Office. He called for the admission of both Jewish and non-Jewish displaced  
persons to Palestine, and urged that, “Palestine shall not be a Muslim, Christian  
or Jewish state but a country in which people of all faiths can play their full  
and equal part,” and that, “the U.S. take the lead in coordinating with the U.N.  
a cooperative policy of many nations in absorbing Jewish refugees.”  
Rosenwald testified before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Jan. 10,  
1946 and urged that large numbers of Jews be admitted into Palestine on the  
condition that “the claim that Jews possess unlimited national rights to the  
land, and that the country shall take the form of a racial or theocratic state,  
were denounced once and for all.”  
From 1943 to 1948, the Council conducted a public campaign against Zionism. One  
of the speakers at its 1945 conference was Hans Kohn, a one-time German Zionist  
associated with the University in Exile in New York. He declared: “The Jewish  
nationalist philosophy has developed entirely under German influence, the German  
romantic nationalism with the emphasis on blood, race and descent as the most  
determining factor in human life, its historicizing attempt to connect with a  
legendary past 2,000 or so years ago, its emphasis on folk as a mythical body,  
the source of civilization.”  
“Spurious Nationhood Imposed Upon Jews”  
At this same 1945 conference, Rabbi Berger noted that the program of Jewish  
nationalism had never expressed the real aspirations of Jews in America or  
elsewhere. “Spurious nationhood,” he argued, “had been imposed upon Jews by  
reactionary societies in the Middle Ages and this could not provide a solution to  
reactionary forces in the modern world.” He maintained that “Jewish nationalists  
wanted to maintain a medieval type of control over a so-called worldwide Jewish  
people and to prevent emancipation of individual Jews.” This process, in his  
view, reached alarming proportions in 1897 at the first Zionist Congress, where  
197 men “arrogated to themselves the title ‘the Jewish nation.’ Proceeding to  
create a worldwide political movement, they proclaimed that the medieval  
collectivism of the ‘Jewish people’ wanted to realize its political destiny ‘by  
creating a sovereign state in Palestine.’”  
Berger pointed to the fact that Jewish emancipation had frequently been attacked  
during the preceding century and a half by the “official Jews” who controlled the  
community while it was imprisoned behind ghetto walls. With the collapse of the  
ghetto, the leaders of the Jewish community were weakened. Threatened by the  
prospect of integration and emancipation, they condemned it as “assimilation” and  
did their best to impede it.  
The connection between Zionism and the nationalism of Nazi Germany had been made  
in 1938 when Albert Einstein warned an audience of Zionist activists against the  
temptation to create a state imbued with “a narrow nationalism within our own  
ranks against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish  
state.” Another renowned German Jew, the philosopher Martin Buber, spoke out in  
1942 against “the aim of the minority to ‘conquer’ territory by means of  
international maneuvers.” In the midst of hostilities that broke out after Israel  
unilaterally declared independence, Buber cited with despair, “This sort of  
‘Zionism’ blasphemes the name of Zion; it is nothing more than one of the crude  
forms of nationalism.”  
Zionism’s Challenge to American Jews  
In the face of the 1947 partition of Palestine, the Council wished the new state  
well and declared its determination to resist Zionist efforts to dominate Jewish  
life in America. Rabbi Berger published an essay that outlined “the challenge to  
all Americans who are Jews by religion presented by Zionist plans to foster an  
‘Israel-centered’ Jewish life in the U.S.”. He wrote: “The creation of a  
sovereign state embodying the principles of Zionism, far from relieving American  
Jews of the urgency of making that choice, makes it more compelling.”  
Early in 1953, Berger and Rosenwald met in the White House with President Dwight  
D. Eisenhower. The president accepted their memorandum, which discussed the  
“confusion of Judaism with the nationalism of Israel,” such as Israel’s “Law of  
Return,” enacted in 1951, which could be interpreted as granting de facto Israeli  
citizenship to all the world’s Jews. The new Secretary of State, John Foster  
Dulles, took the memorandum with him on his first trip to the Middle East and  
echoed many of its points in a radio address at the end of his trip. Dulles urged  
that Israel become part of the Near East community and cease to look upon itself  
as alien to that community.  
Zionists obstructed refugee assistance for Jews in countries other than Palestine  
in the interests of its grand design to nationalize Palestine for all Jews.  
Indeed, as early as 1938, David Ben-Gurion had proclaimed his readiness to  
abandon thousands of Jewish children in exchange for a Jewish state: “If I knew  
that it was possible to save all the Jewish children of Germany by their transfer  
to England and only half of them by transferring them to Eretz Israel I would  
choose the latter―because we are faced not only with the accounting of these  
children but also with the historic accounting of the Jewish people.”  
Address By FDR Aide Morris Ernst  
One specific example was offered in 1950 by the distinguished American liberal  
and fighter for civil liberties Morris Ernst. He was a close friend and adviser  
to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was an early leader of the American Civil  
Liberties Union. In an address to the annual conference of the American Council  
for Judaism in Cincinnati on April 22, 1950, Ernst said: “Roosevelt had an idea  
that what we ought to do with the people pushed around in Europe was to set up  
what he called a World Budget and let all the free nations of the world agree as  
to how many people they would take in as immigrants, irrespective of race, creed,  
color or political belief. The president told me that he was sure that he could  
get so many into Canada, so many into Australia, so many in each South American  
country―and then he said, ‘You know we in the U.S. will be the last to open our  
doors, because we are going back on our historic position of political asylum.’  
This was before the labor unions had taken their shift on the Immigration Bill.  
This was before the manufacturers had gotten a little wisdom on the subject.”  
Ernst went to England in the midst of the blitz, and they agreed to take 150,000  
refugees from the Nazis. He reported that, Roosevelt said, ‘We can’t put it over  
because the dominant vocal Jewish leadership of America won’t stand for it.’ And  
I said, ‘It’s impossible, why?’ He said, ‘Well, they’re right from their point of  
view. The Zionist movement knows that Palestine is, and will be for some time, a  
remittance society. They know that they can raise vast sums for Palestine by  
saying to donors, ‘there is no other place this poor Jew can go.’ But, said  
Roosevelt, ‘if there’s a world political asylum for all people, irrespective of  
race, creed or color, they can’t raise their money. Because the people who don’t  
want to give the money will have an excuse and say, ‘What do you mean there’s no  
place they can go but Palestine? They are the preferred wards of the world.’”  
Ernst told the audience, “I could hardly believe it. I didn’t want to believe it.  
That a bit of chauvinism and nationalism among a few leaders of the Jewish  
organizations of America could defeat an overall haven for the oppressed of  
Europe. I said, ‘Let me test it out.’ I went to friends of mine, without  
mentioning the British people I had spoken to, without mentioning Roosevelt―I  
laid down this grand dream, this great plan―of the world joining together to give  
relief to the people pushed around by Hitler. I assure you that I was thrown out  
of parlors of friends of mine. And they said very frankly, and they were right  
from their point of view, ‘Morris, this is treason―you’re undermining the Zionist  
movement.’ I’d say, ‘Yes, maybe I am. But I’m much more interested in a haven for  
half a million or a million people―oppressed throughout the world.’”  
Religious Schools to Advance Judaism Free of Nationalism  
The Council engaged in a variety of activities to promote its vision of Judaism  
free of nationalism. It ran religious schools, published children’s textbooks and  
established a philanthropic foundation. Among the books it published were Samuel  
Baron’s “Children’s Devotions,”. Abraham Cronbach’s “Judaism for Today,” and “Not  
By Power,” by Allan Tarshish, who was rabbi of the first Reform congregation in  
Charleston, South Carolina. Rabbi David Goldberg, who served as the first Jewish  
chaplain in the U.S. Navy during World War 1, was the Council’s research  
director. He wrote three books, among them “Meet The Prophets.” For a number of  
years, the Council published a children’s magazine called “Growing Up.” The  
curriculum was designed by Leonard R. Sussman, who served for many years as the  
Council’s Executive director and later distinguished himself as the executive  
director of Freedom House.  
In “Meet The Prophets,” Rabbi Goldberg writes: “It was the Prophets who possessed  
the courage and the conscience to stress the universal, ethical values that have  
become Judaism’s contribution to the world…Despite the exclusiveness of the  
Covenant with Yahweh, we can see in it the first glimmer of the great religion  
that was to be known as Judaism. More and more, this relationship came to differ  
from the usual tribal god covenants. For one thing, Yahweh, as Moses introduced  
Him, was an invisible spirit that liberates people from the shackles of slavery:  
and who orders one to honor his parents, not to murder or cheat or steal or  
lie―and so with the other of the Ten Commandments. Yahweh, then, is a moral God  
who demands of his follower's moral behavior…. In the course of time, as the  
people’s understanding of Yahweh increased, the scope of the covenant also  
increased and was to be extended to other people.”  
The earliest pre -literary prophets, Goldberg points out, believed that Yahweh  
was the God of Israel and Judah only, “But to the Literary Prophets, He was the  
God of all humanity―indeed, of all creation…They have become not only the  
Prophets of Judaism but also the Prophets of Christianity and Islam, the two  
great daughter-religions of Judaism.” The Prophet Amos made clear that Yahweh is  
the God of all people. In Amos 9:7 we read, “Are you not like the Ethiopians to  
Me, O Children of Israel?” Says the Lord. “Did I not bring up Israel from Egypt,  
as I did the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?”  
The Common Possession of Humanity  
Amos and the other Prophets, Goldberg shows, “laid the foundation of a Judaism  
that no longer was to remain the cult of a mere clan or tribe or even a nation,  
but which was to become the common possession of all civilized humanity…He is the  
God of all countries ―He addresses his prophecies to other people who are not of  
Israel or Judah. They are directed to the people of Damascus in Syria, to the  
people of Gaza in Philistia, of Tyre in Phoenicia. He tells his countrymen that  
they shouldn’t expect to be favored by God above all other people because all  
people are alike in the eye of God.”  
It is this Prophetic vision of a universal Judaism which the American Council for  
Judaism has advanced. It understood that the great contribution of Jews and  
Judaism to the world is something far different from the narrow goals sought by  
those who would set Jews apart, either in a state of their own or in narrow  
religious ghettos of the spirit, which would make of Jews what Herzl called a  
“normal” people. To become “normal” is, of course, to abandon the unique Jewish  
role set forth by the Prophets and by the architects of Reform Judaism.  
In his book “The Gifts of The Jews,” Thomas Cahill provides this assessment of  
the Jewish contribution: “Because of their unique belief―monotheism―the Jews were  
able to give us the Great Whole, a unified universe that makes sense and that,  
because of its evident superiority as a worldview, completely overwhelms the  
warring and contradictory phenomenon of polytheism. They gave us the Conscience  
of the West, and the belief that this God who is One is not the God of outward  
show but the still, small voice of conscience, the God of compassion, the God  
‘who will be there,’ the God who cares about each of his creatures, especially  
the human beings he created ‘in his own image,’ and that he insists we do the  
same. Even the gradual universalization of Jewish ideas, hinted at in the story  
of Ruth…was foreseen by Joel, the late prophet who probably rose after the return  
from Babylon: ‘And it shall come to pass afterward that I shall pour out my  
spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old people  
shall dream dreams, and your young people see visions. Even on slaves, men and  
women, shall I pour out my spirit.’”  
“We Dream Jewish Dreams”  
Cahill declares that “The Jews gave us the Outside and the Inside―our outlook and  
our inner life. We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without  
being Jewish. We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes. Most of our best  
words, in fact——adventure, surprise, unique, individual, person, vocation, time,  
history, future, progress, spirit, faith, hope and justice―are gifts of the  
In his biography of Rabbi Elmer Berger, “Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and  
American Jewish Anti-Zionism,” Jack Ross shows how Berger worked closely with  
U.S. Government officials to oppose any idea that Israel could speak in the name  
of the “Jewish people,” rather than its own citizens. He also worked with, among  
others, Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-AR), chairman of the Senate Foreign  
Relations Committee, to have Zionist groups register as foreign agents of Israel.  
He wrote and spoke frequently about the dispossession and mistreatment of  
Palestine’s indigenous population and about the plight of Palestinian refugees.  
Ross provides this assessment of the Classical Reform Judaism in which Berger  
believed: “It involved the centrality of the biblical prophets. That is that the  
essence of Judaism is not the ‘national narrative that ostensibly constitutes the  
Old Testament but rather in the example of those, namely the prophets, who spoke  
out against the Kings and priests who corrupted the nation and the people. It has  
been said by many that there is no greater power in all of human literature than  
the warning of the Prophet Samuel against the Israelites’ desire for a king.  
Implicit in all of this is the overarching premise that the downfall of Biblical  
Israel was its eagerness to define itself as a temporal kingdom, in other words a  
state with all its trappings of power.”  
Majority of Jewish Americans Share Council’s Views  
In today’s America, in Ross’s view, the majority of Jewish Americans really share  
the philosophy enunciated by the Council: “…the majority of American Jews today  
would be completely baffled by the suggestion that they were anything but  
completely emancipated and integrated Americans whose Judaism is primarily if not  
solely a matter of confession…Berger…must be given credit for recognizing the  
underlying essential sociological truth of American Jewish life―that regardless  
of the theological and even sociological merits of the question of Jewish  
peoplehood, the concept could not withstand the reality of U.S. society.”  
Largely in response to the implications of the case of Adolf Eichmann in 1960, in  
which Israel justified its capture of Eichmann in Argentina in behalf of “the  
Jewish people,” the Council felt it was necessary to seek a formal declaration  
from the U.S. government as to whether or not it accepted the claims made by  
Israel and for the U.S. to declare whether or not it recognized the existence of  
“the Jewish people” as a matter of international law. The Council enlisted  
Professor William Thomas Mallison, Jr., who held chairs at both George Washington  
University and the Naval War College, to review the question.  
In 1964, Mallison completed his brief that would be known as “The Jewish People  
Study,” and would be published in the George Washington University Law Review. A  
copy was sent to Assistant Secretary of State Philips Talbot. On April 20, 1964,  
Talbot formally replied. He wrote: “The Department of State recognizes the State  
of Israel as a sovereign state and citizenship in the state of Israel. It  
recognizes no other sovereignty or citizenship in connection therewith. It does  
not recognize a legal-political relationship based upon the religious  
identification of American citizens. It does not in any way discriminate among  
American citizens upon the basis of their religion. Accordingly, it should be  
clear that the Department of State does not regard the ‘Jewish people’ concept as  
a concept of international law.”  
State Department Rejects Legal Concept of Jewish “Nationhood”  
Israel had indeed claimed the force of law in the name of the “Jewish people in  
the Eichmann case, and with the Talbot letter the State Department formally  
rejected the premise of a legal Jewish “nationhood” which underlined both the  
Balfour Declaration and the 1947 partition.  
Jewish criticism of Zionism throughout the world continued long after Israel’s  
creation. When Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion called for “complete  
solidarity with the State of Israel” on the part of all Jews, Denmark’s chief  
rabbi, Marcus Melchior, responded: “We Danish Jews do not usually air our  
patriotism. Why on earth should we shout ‘hurrah’ more loudly than all the other  
Danes? But we take an opportunity like this to state that no one, however big he  
may be or from wherever he may come, has the right or is able to change even one  
jot of what for 150 years has been the status of Danish Jews under which there  
has been established a relationship in Denmark of which we are all just as happy  
on the Christian side as on the Jewish side. If Premier Ben-Gurion really claimed  
that in order to be a Jew every minute of one’s life, one has to live in Israel,  
then according to my view two questions arise. The first is whether to be a Jew  
every minute is of imperative necessity and whether Jewishness and being a  
general human being did not equate each other so completely that one at the same  
time could be Jewish and a human being in other places than in the few square  
kilometers which form the territory of Israel.”  
In his history of the early years of the American Council for Judaism, “Jews  
Against Zionism” (Temple University Press), Professor Thomas Kolsky pointed to  
the fact that the Council was maintaining the tradition of Reform Judaism’s  
founders. The warnings which the Council expressed during its early years, he  
concluded, have been prophetic: “…many of its predictions about the establishment  
of a Jewish state did come true. As the ACJ had foreseen, the birth of the state  
created numerous problems―problems the Zionists had minimized. For example,  
Israel became highly dependent on support from American Jews. Moreover, the  
creation of the state directly contributed to undermining Jewish communities in  
Arab countries and to precipitating protracted conflict between Israel and the  
Arabs. Indeed, as the Council had often warned, and contrary to Zionist  
expectations, Israel did not become a normal state. Nor did it become a light to  
the nations. Ironically, created presumably to free Jews from anti-Semitism and  
ghetto-like existence as well as provide them with abiding peace, Israel became,  
in effect, a garrison state, a nation resembling a large territorial ghetto  
besieged by hostile neighbors…The ominous predictions of the ACJ are still  
haunting the Zionists.”  
“Everything they (the ACJ) prophesied…has come to pass.”  
Jonathan Sarna, Brandeis University historian and author of the book “American  
Judaism,” says that “Everything they (the American Council for Judaism)  
prophesied ―dual loyalty, nationalism being evil―has come to pass.” He states  
that, “It’s certainly the case that if the Holocaust underscored the problems of  
Jewish life in the Diaspora, recent years have highlighted that Zionism is no  
Samuel Freedman devoted his “On Religion” column in The New York Times (June 26,  
2010) to the Council. He pointed out that, “…the intense criticism of Israel now  
growing among a number of American Jews has made the group look significant, even  
prophetic…The arguments that the Council has levied against Zionism and Israel  
have shot back into prominence…The rejection of Zionism …goes back to the Torah  
itself. Until Theodor Herzl created the modern Zionist movement…the Biblical  
injunction to return to Israel was widely understood as a theological construct  
rather than a pragmatic instruction…The Reform movement maintained that Judaism  
is a religion, not a nationality.”  
Since that was written, it has become increasingly clear that Israel has turned  
its back on traditional Jewish moral and ethical values. It has denied equal  
rights to Palestinians who are citizens of Israel and has provided no rights to  
Palestinians in the illegally occupied territories. While Jewish Americans  
believe in religious freedom and separation of church and state, Israel is a  
theocracy with a state-supported ultra-Orthodox religious establishment. Non-  
Orthodox rabbis cannot perform weddings, conduct funerals or have their  
conversions recognized. Israel has no civil marriage. For a Jewish Israeli to  
marry someone who is not Jewish, it is necessary to leave the country to do so.  
Many Israelis, such as the human rights group B’tselem, have characterized  
Israel’s system as one of “apartheid,” as have Human Rights Watch and Amnesty  
International. Israel’s values and those of the overwhelming majority of American  
Jews have less and less in common with each passing year.  
“age of…unquestioning…support for Israel is over”  
In his book “Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel,”  
Professor Dov Waxman of Northeastern University reports that, “A historic change  
has been taking place in the American Jewish relationship with Israel. The age of  
unquestioning and unstinting support for Israel is over. The pro-Israel consensus  
that once united American Jews is eroding, and Israel is fast becoming a source  
of division rather than unity for American Jewry…The current debate echoes  
earlier debates about Zionism that occurred before 1948. Then, as now, there were  
fierce disagreements among American Jews and the American Jewish establishment...  
from a historical perspective, the pro-Israel consensus that once reigned within  
the American Jewish community is the aberration, rather than the rule. Jewish  
division on Israel is historically the norm.”  
The vast majority of Jewish Americans, Waxman writes, were never really Zionists:  
“Classical Zionism has never had much relevance or appeal to American Jewry.  
Indeed, the vast majority of American Jews reject the basic elements of classical  
Zionism―that Diaspora Jews live in exile, that Jewish life in Israel is superior  
to life in the Diaspora, and that Diaspora Jewish life is doomed to eventually  
disappear. American Jews do not think that they live in exile, and they do not  
regard Israel as their homeland. For many American Jews, America is more than  
just home; it is itself a kind of Zion, an ‘almost promised land.’ Zionism has  
never succeeded in winning over the majority of American Jews.”  
Ignoring the history of Jewish opposition to Zionism, in an effort to silence  
criticism of Israel, challenges to Zionism have been equated to anti-Semitism. On  
May 1, 2022, in a recorded speech at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) leadership  
summit, ADL chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt declared that “anti-Zionism is  
anti-Semitism.” He equated groups calling for equal rights for Palestinians in  
Israel with white nationalist extremists. Such a statement is, of course,  
completely ahistorical.  
Rabbi Brant Rosen notes that his Congregation Tzedek Chicago “recently amended  
its core values statement to say that we are ‘anti-Zionist,’ openly acknowledging  
that the creation of an ethnic Jewish nation in historic Palestine resulted in an  
injustice against the Palestinian people. It is becoming increasingly difficult  
to deny the fundamental injustice at the core of Zionism.”  
Maintaining Its Vision For 80 Years  
For 80 years, the American Council for Judaism has never abandoned its vision of  
a universal faith of moral and ethical values for men and women of every race and  
nation which the Prophets preached and in which generations of Jews believed. The  
Council’s early leaders recognized how narrow nationalism would corrupt the  
humane Jewish tradition. For the past 80 years, the Council has kept that  
tradition alive. That more and more men and women, particularly in the younger  
generation, are returning to that faith at the present time is a vindication of  
their vision. It seems, indeed, to have been truly prophetic. *

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© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.