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Aug102016

There Is No Better Person for This Job

Dr. Joseph Rosen: “If you really want the religious work to amount to anything, it must be somebody’s business to push it along and I do not know of anybody who could do it as well as Rabbi Schneerson” * Rabbi Dr. Meir Hildesheimer: “Rabbi Schneerson has an excellent supervision over every distributor, knows every city, town and hamlet … I consider it highly desirable that the direction remain in his hands, and that the moneys continue to be distributed from Riga” * Dr. Bernard Kahn: “There seems to be no other way, but to send the money through Rabbi Schneerson as heretofore” * Part II

After leaving Russia the Frierdiker Rebbe settled in Riga, Latvia, and immediately began to set up the infrastructure to continue and expand his holy work on behalf of Russian Jewry, ensuring their spiritual and physical survival; now, without the threat of the Communist Regime, the Frierdiker Rebbe was free to take the relief operations to a whole new level, with the help of the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

Last week’s installment included the letters from the Frierdiker Rebbe to the heads of the JDC requesting financial aid, and this week’s installment presents the letters among the heads of the JDC discussing the Frierdiker Rebbe’s request, and discussing whether he can still take care of the wellbeing of Russian Jewry despite being banished from Russia.

These fascinating documents are part of the JDC Archives (which were digitized and uploaded online, thanks to a grant from Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky CBE).

JDC: $75,000 For Educational Work

On November 4, 1927 [9 Cheshvan 5688] Mr. Joseph C. Hyman, the secretary of the JDC central office, penned a letter to Mr. Joseph Rosen, director of JDC operations in Russia, who was still in the USA, presenting the decision of the JDC to dedicate $75,000 to educational work in Russia, and asking whether the Frierdiker Rebbe might still be the right person for the job:

Dear Dr. Rosen:

Although it was impossible for you to attend the meeting of the Cultural Committee here yesterday afternoon, the Committee was indeed glad to have the benefit of the suggestions which you made to Dr. Adler, as well as to various members, with respect to the educational activities in Russia…

In the meantime, the Cultural Committee will urge the Executive Committee at its next meeting to make available at least $75,000 for educational work in Russia. As to the administration of this fund, we take it that you will consult with Rabbi Schneerson in Riga, and on your return to Russia you will likewise take the matter up with rabbis and others — you have already indicated that you will call upon Dr. Kahn for his counsel and help.

Important as has been Rabbi Schneerson’s participation in this work heretofore, you will undoubtedly need to give close consideration to the delicate problems which have arisen by reason of Rabbi Schneerson’s departure from Russia and his relationship to the Soviet authorities.

I need not go into this matter because we are all aware that this is one of the serious problems attendant upon an effective and workable method for distributing the fund. Naturally, we are anxious to learn what your decision is after you have gone into the matter thoroughly, and we shall look forward to early advices from you as to the result of your respective conferences with Dr. Kahn, Rabbi Schneerson, and with others…

“I do not know of anybody who could do it as well”

On December 2, 1927 [8 Kislev 5688] Dr. Joseph Rosen (JDC – Russia) writes a letter to Dr. Cyrus Adler (Philadelphia) discussing his meeting with the Frierdiker Rebbe, and the decision he has reached, that the Frierdiker Rebbe is the best person for the job of handling Jewish Educational work in Russia, even after he left Russia:

Dear Dr. Adler,

Rabbi Schneerson came over from Riga to Berlin to discuss Russian cultural work with Dr. Kahn and myself.

We had several meetings with him and Dr. Hildesheimer. It is our unanimous opinion that if you intend to continue the work in Russia, it would be in the best interest of this work to have it concentrated in Riga and supervised by rabbi Schneerson. He will try to get additional funds from other sources and he is also in a position to transfer your appropriations to Russia safely and perhaps at more advantageous rates than we get through our official sources.

From the information I received from him I am quite sure that his committee in Russia will be satisfied with this arrangement as they will not be in direct touch with him and will not get any funds direct from him. We made tentative arrangements, provided the budget will be approved as originally requested, that up to $50,000 will be appropriated during the year for religious work and will be paid in monthly instalments to the Riga committee and like all cultural monies can be transmitted by you direct to Riga. As soon as I can get in touch with the Religious Committee in Russia I will advise you whether this arrangement meets with their approval…

It is my candid opinion that, if you really want the religious work to amount to anything, it must be somebody’s business to push it along and I do not know of anybody who could do it as well as Rabbi Schneerson, although he has many enemies even among the orthodox rabbis.

 

“I consider it highly desirable that the direction remain in his hands”

On December 14, 1927 [20 Kislev 5688] Rabbi Dr. Meir Hildesheimer, head of the Jewish Community in Berlin, writes to Dr. Cyrus Adler (Philadelphia) explaining why the Frierdiker Rebbe should be the one to take care of the educational needs of Russian Jewry:

Dear Dr. Adler:

Permit me to address you with several lines on the subject of cultural funds for Russia allocated by the Joint Distribution Committee.

I took the liberty to address you and Mr. Louis Marshall, believing that I have gained during the past year a somewhat deeper insight into the problem of allocating the funds and thus may be permitted to express an opinion on the subject.

I was in Riga four weeks ago where I visited Chief Rabbi Schneersohn (formerly of Leningrad) for the purpose of discussing with him several matters concerning Russia, regarding which I will send you a more detailed report within the next few weeks.

I had occasion to hear from Rabbi Schneerson as to what is being done in Russia in the form of assistance to Talmud Torah Schools and Yeshivahs. I saw from his report that the organization built up by him and the manner of distribution of funds are in excellent working order. Rabbi Schneerson has an excellent supervision over every distributor, knows every city, town and hamlet, and also knows how much the local citizens have contributed in addition to the moneys given by the JDC. In brief, he is so thoroughly versed in the subject and so reliable, that I consider it highly desirable that the direction remain in his hands, and that the moneys continue to be distributed from Riga (obviously through the office of Dr. Bernhard Kahn). Rabbi Schneerson has spent several days recently in Berlin, holding conferences with Dr. Rosen, at some of which I was present. To my greatest joy I have learned that in all probability about $50,000 will also be granted for cultural work for the coming year. If I may be permitted to express my opinion, I may say that this sum has had a very beneficial result; the individual localities have added to the sums allotted from the above mentioned $50,000 to the extent of five and six times that amount…

Can The Frierdiker Rebbe Do It?

On January 6, 1928 [13 Teves 5688] Dr. Cyrus Adler (Philadelphia) responds to Dr. Joseph Rosen (JDC – Russia), acknowledging his recommendation that the Frierdiker Rebbe continue to head the educational activities in Russia, and at the same time asking whether the Frierdiker Rebbe can actually fulfill this job:

Dear Doctor Rosen:

I received your letter of December 2, 1927 in which you gave an account of your conference with Rabbi Schneerson, Doctor Kahn, and of your meetings with Doctor Hildesheimer, and I noted the advice which you all gave that the work in Russia could be best concentrated in Riga and supervised by Rabbi Schneerson. I have since had a letter from Doctor Hildesheimer in which he gives the same advice independently and incidentally suggests a larger appropriation.

As you know, this fund has never gone through the hands of the Cultural Committee and was therefore a function, so to speak, of the Executive Committee itself, and so it became a subject of serious deliberation and earnest discussion at a meeting of the Executive Committee held last week. The opinions of the members were very much divided as to whether it was really in the best interest of all of our work, if this particular task were placed under the supervision of Rabbi Shneerson in Riga. I am sure that it is not necessary for me to tell you how much weight your opinion carries with the Committee and since Doctor Kahn and Doctor Hildesheimer agree with you, under ordinary circumstances, there would be no doubt in our minds at all. You, however, yourself, in your letter of December 2 wrote, “As soon as I can get in touch with the religious committee in Russia I will advise you whether this arrangement meets with their approval.”

Even aside from this consideration, however, very important members of the Committee had a serious doubt as to whether a person who had been in difficulty with the Government, for whatever reason, who had even had some trouble in leaving Russia and was now settled in an adjacent and possibly not over-friendly locality, would be the most advisable person, either from the point of view of the Jews in Russia or of our work as a whole, to deal with in this matter. You know that I raised this question with you before you left and other members of the Committee raised it with me. Some of the questions that were asked were these: If it became known that the Joint Distribution Committee was dealing in any way with Russia through a person in Riga who had been once imprisoned and then virtually exiled, might it not react unfavorably on all or our work?

Assuming that your reply to this question would be that there is no danger at all in the matter and since you speak of the more favorable rate that Rabbi Schneerson could get in the transmission of money, would this be then in some secretive manner or openly through reliable banks, and if either be the case, would there not be some danger involved? You speak of the religious committee in Russia. Have they organized themselves since Rabbi Schneerson left and could they be able to carry on the work in Russia? …

I am sending this as an open letter to you through Doctor Kahn and I am asking him to be good enough to read it; and I assume that if the opportunity can at all be made, you will seek his advice, because you know how much a matter of concern this subject is to our constituents, a matter of concern far out of proportion to the sum of money involved.

A month later, on February 6, 1928 [15 Shvat 5688] Dr. Adler wrote a letter to Rabbi Dr. Meir Hildesheimer (Berlin) expressing similar concerns:

Dear Doctor Hildesheimer;

I had your letter of December 14 and have postponed a reply in the hope that I could make a definite reply, which I cannot do yet. It is the intention of the Joint Distribution Committee to continue to aid the cultural work in Russia as heretofore, and of course I was very glad to hear from you on this point … I have, however, written a lengthy letter to Doctor Joseph Rosen, to be delivered by him to Doctor Kahn, and until I receive a reply to that letter the Committee will not reach a definite decision as to the way in which our appropriation will be expended.

We all have complete confidence in Rabbi Schneersohn but we were a little in doubt as to whether, in view of the fact that he had been virtually forced to leave Russia, it would be to the best interest of the Jews in Russia if they should receive their help for this purpose through Riga. Until this doubt is resolved and you realize that it is purely in the interest of the Jews of Russia, and to prevent any political complications, we cannot very well reach a definite decision…

“Rabbi Schneerson is the only one”

A few weeks later, on February 29, 1928 [8 Adar 5688], Dr. Bernard Kahn (JDC – Europe) responded to Dr. Cyrus Adler, reporting on a meeting he had with Dr. Joseph Rosen and concludes that although he tried to find an alternative, he hasn’t found anyone else other than the Frierdiker Rebbe who can do this job appropriately, and therefore recommends that the work in Russia should continue secretly, directed by the Frierdiker Rebbe:

During Dr. Rosen’s last stay in Berlin we thoroughly discussed the question of transfer of monies for cultural purposes to Russia and of distribution of such monies in Russia. I know that you hesitate to send these amounts to Russia through the intermediation of Rabbi Schneerson who is at present staying in Riga.

In the meantime, I have tried in Germany as well as outside of Germany, to organize a committee which could take charge of these amounts and transfer them to Russia, etc. In spite of all my endeavors, I have not succeeded in establishing such a committee.

There seems to be no other way, but to send the money through Rabbi Schneerson as heretofore. I discussed this matter with outstanding people who admitted that they could not make any acceptable suggestions.

It is necessary for the work in Russia to be continued illegally and secretly. It seems that Rabbi Schneerson is the only one who knows really reliable and skillful people, in Riga as well as in Russia, whom he needs for this kind of work. Then too, he is the only one who gets all the information from Russia through a net of people, and he is in a position, although he is staying in Latvia, to obtain new people in Russia to replace others who can no longer be useful to the work for various reasons.

I would therefore suggest that we continue to send our monies through Rabbi Schneerson. Thus, we are at least sure to get reports on what is done with the funds and on the status of cultural affairs in Russia.

Under the present circumstances it seems very dangerous for Dr. Rosen himself, to distribute such funds. All that he could do would be to hand the amounts over to some trustworthy person and to charge such person with their distribution. It also seems that the Russian people who formerly distributed the money in cooperation with Rabbi Schneerson, do not know any other way of securing it from us.

Although a certain number of Russian rabbis is opposed to Rabbi Schneerson, they cannot be of any help to us in this matter.

For these reasons, I believe that you will agree, with me that we should continue to send the money through Rabbi Schneerson in Riga.

A total amount of $50,000 has been appropriated for this work from October 1927 until September 1928 incl. which means a monthly subvention of $4,166.66.

With Dr. Rosens’ consent, the instalments for the months of October, November and December 1927 have already been transferred to Rabbi Schneerson, because at the time we did not know of any objection on your side.

I will, however, transfer any further amounts only upon receipt of your permission. Kindly let me know your viewpoint on this matter by cable.

 

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