JUNE 6, 1951
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—I have accepted the chairmanship of the United Jewish Appeal for Greater New York for the month of June, and I would like to explain to my readers why I have taken so much interest in this work.
This organization has helped refugees to get to Israel to escape persecution in different parts of the world and has assisted those who were already settled in Israel to develop their country in order that they might carry this burden of refugees until they were assimilated and became a part of the nation. Much has been done, but much still remains to be done.
In 1946 I visited some of the refugee camps in Germany. My visit was brought about by an argument in the first United Nations General Assembly meeting in London as to whether the displaced persons in those camps should be sent to the countries of their origin or should be given a choice of where they wished to go.
In the U.N. meeting the Soviet Union contended that all should be sent to their native countries, since if they did not wish to go home they must be either Quislings or traitors. The Russians contended that there could be no difference of political opinions which would make them want to live outside of their native land. It seemed to me quite possible that where a country had changed hands and was under entirely different political ideas some people might very well not wish to return to the country of their origin.
I asked, therefore, to be allowed to visit the refugee camps and was permitted to do so. To this day I shall never forget the tragedy of some of the Jewish camps—tragedies of age and of youth brought about by Hitler's barbaric racial and religious policies. From that day on I was interested in seeing all of those who wished to go to Israel and live in a nation among their own people not only go but have all assistance possible for their proper establishment there.
The United Jewish Appeal has been the principal instrument through which money has been collected for work in this country and for work in Israel. It has saved the lives of tens of thousands of victims of economic, political, and social persecution in the Middle East and behind the Iron Curtain. It has been a source of comfort to the survivors of Hitler's regime.
Occasionally one hears people say that the cooperative land-holding projects in Israel are similar to the Russian rural collectives and that therefore Israel in its economy is closer to the Soviet Union than to the free countries of the world. I think this is a mistaken idea because these colonies are cooperatives run much more on a democratic and socialistic basis than are the Russian communities.
I believe that a country, in which deserts have been reclaimed and where in spite of the tremendous influx of immigrants the standards of health have been raised and education is being provided for the majority of the people, cannot help but be a growing democratic force in the area in which it is established.
If this is so then whatever is done in Israel will serve in the long run to help stabilize an area of the world that needs peace for its future development. A strong and democratic Israel can mean a strong and democratic Middle East, and for that reason I am willing and anxious to help the UJA. I hope that people of all creeds and all races in this country will give their contributions during the month of June to help achieve the objectives of the UJA campaign.