"B'nai B'rith and the German-Jewish Tragedy,"
B'nai B'rith Magazine, May 1933.
CRITICISM is heard: B'nai B'rith did not join the public protests against the German-Jewish tragedy! The power of B'nai B'rith was not exploited sufficiently in the public press! What an opportunity B'nai B'rith had to keep its fame on the front pages in this crisis!
Such things have been said.
The members of this organization have cause to be proud of their affiliation with a Jewish body that obscured its own prestige in order to serve its German brethren the better. Not the glory of B'nai B'rith but the safety of German Jews was paramount at the moment and quietly B'nai B'rith moved to the defense of these brethren through the strong hand of the State Department.
What was the position of American Jewry in the tragic hour? It was as if a robber had entered one's house and seized one's child and held it for a shield... "You shoot at me and you kill your child!"
What does a man do in such a pass? Shoot? He puts aside his pistol. He considers other means of meeting the crisis.
With the Hitler government threatening reprisals against Jews, should B'nai B'rith have rushed forward with loud protests? In the eyes of the unthinking this might have enhanced the prestige of B'nai B'rith... "How courageous is B'nai B'rith!" they might have said.
B'nai B'rith puts aside the opportunity for valor (5,000 miles from the scene of danger!) and with what power is in its hand and in co-operation with other Jewish agencies, set in motion the diplomatic efforts that are already historic. Aye, B'nai B'rith might have thrown itself alone into the breach so that it could be said of it, "Single-handed this organization battles for the rights of Jewry." But B'nai B'rith greatly desires unity in Israel and it marched with other organizations and still so marches.
If there has not been complete unity in Israel in this crisis, it is no fault of Bınai Brith.
Weeks before the German-Jewish tragedy became the pain of all Jewry, B'nai B'rith, conscious of forebodings, took steps, met with the leaders of other organizations, considered what was best to do, having always in mind that nothing ought to be done that would endanger rather than mitigate the unhappy situation of the German Jews.
This policy directs and will continue to direct every move of B'nai B'rith acting in co-operation with the American Jewish Committee. We have no quarrel with other organizations that went their own way to make public protest. We believe, however, that time will show that the policy of B'nai B'rith is founded on better wisdom. We regret that in the momentous hour American Jewry is not united.
Even those who were at first hot for public protest have come to see that discretion is the better part of valor in an hour when lives are in the balance. They have announced that "In deference to the wishes of the State Department" they "refrain from making (further) comment on the tragic situation of the Jews in Germany."
For B'nai B'rith there was, besides, a poignant special cause to restrain it from action that might seem rash in the moment. It has fraternal ties with many Jews in Germany where the finest of Jewry is included in the membership of B'nai B'rith. Hostile public words or actions by B'nai B'rith in America might have reflected dangerously on the B'nai B'rith of Germany of whom it might have been said by their enemies, "They have instigated their fellow members in America against us."
The conscience of B'nai B'rith could never have acquitted itself had any ill-considered action by the Order in America caused injury to our brethren in Germany.
And what of the future? It may be answered that B'nai B'rith in co-operation with the American Jewish Committee is alert; that things are being carefully done; that perfect unity of speech and action exists between the B'nai B'rith and the American Jewish Committee.
If the Jews desire the unity of all Israel in America in the presence of this tragedy they can have it by demanding it of the organizations that represent them. As for B'nai B'rith, it feels that its action in this crisis will make a worthy chapter of its history.