Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Jewish New Year in the Synagogues, Brooklyn, 1919,the Treaty of Versailles, and the Condition of European Jewry


The Jewish synagogue, over time, have been the place where many countless sermons have been given. The content of these sermons often has reflected the state of world Jewry. It is often during the Rosh Hashanah services, where we welcome in the New Year, that he (or she) who gives the sermon waxes quite eloquently, often to the point of moving the audience both in thought and with great emotion.

In that spirit, I have found in an old Brooklyn Standard Union newspaper, dated September 25, 1919, an interesting article, which relates to the reader the dire state of the European Jews, post-World War II, especially after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. This was one of the peace treaties (signed 28 June 1919, to be effective 10 January 1920), this one between Germany and the three principal Allied Powers.

The article tells us in part of what was said in the sermons given by Drs. Raisin and Levinthal, who each gave a sermon at a specific synagogue, both located in Brooklyn, the latter at Temple Petach Tikvah. See the article below.
 
JEWISH NEW YEAR IN THE SYNAGOGUES
Celebration of Rosh Hashanah Also in Army Camps and Naval Bases.

USE THEATRES FOR TEMPLES


Sermons by Drs. Raisin and Levninthal on European Situation

The celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which began at sundown last night in the temples and synagogues throughout the greater city, with special services and prayers, was continued today, in all the army camps and naval bases where there are Jewish sailors and soldiers who were unable to take advantage of the furlough granted to men of that faith services were conducted under the auspices of the Jewish Welfare Board.
All the temples and synagogues throughout the city were crowded at the services last evening and this morning, and in some sections of the city where the synagogues would not accommodate the crowded motion picture houses and vaudeville theatres were rented for the services. Special services were also held at the various branches of the Young men’s Benevolent Association.

Rabbi Raisin on Conditions in Europe
Speaking at the New Year service of the Brooklyn Synagogue, which is worshipping at Albany Avenue and St. Johns Place, Dr. Max Raisin, rabbi of the congregation, spoke on the deplorable situation of the Jews in Europe, particularly in Poland.

“At the present moment the fate of the Jews in war-ridden Europe cries to the very heavens for protest and redress,” he said. “It is a fate cruel and bitter. For the treaty signed at Versailles, even though unintentionally, had dealt a terrible blow to millions of our brethren.  By the terms of that treaty, four millions of Jews who hitherto were secure in their rights under the firm rule of Germany and Austria-Hungary have been transferred to the medieval dominion of states newly created or enlarged, where their constitutional rights are mocked at, and the safety of their lives and property is at the mercy of barbarians. Bessarabia and parts of Austria-Hungary have gone to Romania, while Posen and Galicia, as well as parts of Lithuania, have been incorporated in the new Poland, and as a result the progress in a daily concurrence there and Jewish blood is flowing in currents without let or hindrance from the outside world.
“The Treaty of Versailles maybe be said to have been a sad failure from the very moment of its conception, and the reason for it is that it came to gratify the boundless selfishness of some of the victorious Allies to the neglect of the smaller and weaker national units. We still remember the grandiloquent words uttered by many a statesman about self-determination and the protection of the weak. Today we find those sublime principles but a mockery and derision. Is there real peace in the world today? The facts we are facing tell a different story. There is peace for a few great and mighty nations like England, France, Italy and the United States; there is war and death for Russia, Galicia, Posen, the Ukraine and Poland. The much talked of League of Nations has proved abortive, even before its consummation.”

Bitter Arraignment of World's Treatment of Jew.

A bitter arraignment of the world's treatment of the Jew was made in the sermon preached this morning by Rabbi Israel Herbert Levinthal before an audience that filled every seat in Temple Petach Tikvah, Rochester Avenue and Lincoln Place. Speaking on “The Secret of Israel’s Immortality,” the Rabbi said, in part:

“A year ago today the world was full of bloodshed and tears and sorrow. We felt that we were fighting to usher in a better day: we believed that we were offering up our lives so that all humanity shall be more blessed, so that democracy shall be triumphant throughout the world, that freedom shall be enjoyed by all. And we Jews too had dared to hope that this war would help to bring nearer the day of good will on earth and true brotherhood amongst men: We had dared to hope that the world would desire to show its appreciation for the heroic part played by the Jews in this war for freedom, by allowing them at least to live in safety, without harm, In the lands of their birth.

"Today the war, thank God, is over. Our boys have come back. And yet, what has become of that hope, that faith that gave us strength and courage to endure all suffering a year ago today? Yes, Germany lies vanquished. Never again will she dare to terrorize a whole world; no more will we aspire for world conquest or world domination. But, I ask you, Is democracy triumphant; is liberty exalted; does freedom hold sway in those lands that were supposed to be battling for democracy and liberty? Behold the mighty exponent of modern democracy—Poland! See to what civilizing use she is making of her new-found liberty. Her soldiers display their bravery by shooting down innocent and helpless Jewish men and women, and amuse their fellow-Poles with the fine sport of shattering the brains of little Jewish children, they have established democracy, and they prove it by desecrating Jewish synagogues and schools, by ravaging Jewish women, by tearing beards and the flesh too from the faces of old Jewish men. Well might we too cry out: ‘O Liberty! O Liberty! What crimes are committed in thy name!’

“Today, on Rosh Hashanah, the holiest season in all the year, we come to the synagogue to renew our faith in the living God, who sleepeth not, nor slumbereth. Today we come to the synagogue to accept the challenge of the world and to proclaim to all our enemies that as long as we are on the side of God, we cannot be crushed; we will not be downed. The Jew, the world by this time should have learned, is invincible, unconquerable, aye, immortal.”

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