American Zionist Leaders and the Rescue of European Jews - November-December 1942
The Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs (ECZA) was set up at the outbreak of World War II as an umbrella organization for the different American Zionist bodies under the leadership of Rabbi Stephen Wise. This body focused its efforts on Palestine as the answer to the “Jewish Question.” By the end of 1942, the U.S. leadership and the public knew of the mass destruction of Jews in Europe. The American Jewish Congress (AJC) under the leadership of Rabbi Wise had already headed the boycott movement against Germany following Hitler’s rise to power and later led to the formation of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) of whose actions the Zionists did not always approve. Wise found himself in a dual role in the above organizations. He convinced ECZA to participate in the big protest rally organized by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in New York’s Madison Square Garden on July 21, 1942. Jewish public pressure urged their organizations to immediately do something to rescue European Jewry, particularly to save the children. Wise suggested recruiting Eleanor Roosevelt to lead such a campaign. Meyer Weisgal, a member of the ECZA relief subcommittee stressed that there was no distinction between Zionists and other Jews as regards this problem. He opined that President Roosevelt should be prodded to action, but doubted whether he would indeed change his negative attitude. However, he stressed that the American people should be made aware of the Zionists’ aspirations for a Jewish commonwealth. In the meantime Nahum Goldmann decided that that the AJC should take over activities as regards the mass destruction of European Jewry and the ECZA accepted this decision. The ECZA under Abba Hillel Silver was reorganized into a powerful lobby in the political struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel.