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May 06, 1966 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1966-05-06

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Leon Blum--Fascinating Saga of Great Statesman

(Continued from Page 2)
but dealt fairly in relation to Communists
in his governments, always aiming at good
relations with Russia.
Blum had only gratitude and high praise
for de Gaulle's historic role as the leader
in the anti-Nazi movement and in the organ-
ization of the military forces who fought
against Germany. But he was the present
French president's bitterest opponent when
de Gaulle began propagating the American
presidency system for his country. Blum's
view was that the American idea was inap-
plicable to France.




There is great tribute to him in Colton's
biography, and there is a valid explanation
that while he had weaknesses "as a revolu-
tionary leader, it is unfair to portray him
as seeking fulfillment of his image as a
`just man.' There is a deeper explanation.
Blum was unwilling to isolate the cause he
served from the mainstream of civilized
progress, to isolate his party from the cause
of republican democracy, to isolate 'the
revolution' from considerations of human
In his two concluding paragraphs, Colton
especially honors Blum by stating:
"He always considered himself an
amateur in politics. Poet, literary critic,
jurist, humanist, it was chance that pushed
him into political life in his mature years,
and then into national leadership. 'The
leadership of a great modern nation de-
mands so many qualities and talents,' he
wrote a few months before he died. 'So
many kinds of knowledge and skill, so much
reasoning power and so much imagination,
So much caution and so much energy, that
no one would dare claim himself equal to
such a task and one would require much
presumption to assume it without a certain
anxiety about oneself.' He possessed to an
excess the soul searching and self-con-
ciousness of the intellectual in politics. His
diffidence and humility in the face of
power, despite his unassailable courage and
strength of conviction, were not the strong-
est equipment for statesmanship.
"Thus Blum had his share of weaknesses
and shortcomings as a political leader. His

unbounded optimism, his passion for in-
tegrity, his faith in human beings, his
desire for wide esteem, his eagerness to
serve as concilliator, his sentimental at-
tachment to the effectiveness of an en-
lightened public opinion, were not the best
assets for leadership in any age; in his
age, they were fatal flaws. He could not
be lion and fox; he could be only a human
being placing his high intellectual, humane,
and moral qualities in the service of his
ideals, his party, his country, and hiiman-
In relation to his family background,
there is an especially telling account in
Colton's description of Blum's Jewish train-
ing and his religious instruction. Colton
wrote in the earliest portion of his bio-
"His mother was pious: she observed the
Orthodox ritual and dietary laws in the
household and lit candles and said prayers
on the Sabbath. Her husband, although
somewhat less pious, observed the high holy
days and arranged for his sons to receive
some religious training. Leon himself was
not deeply affected either by his mother's
piety or by his religious -training. He re-
ceived the elementary and rather perfunc-
tory religious instruction that enabled him
to say his prayers in Hebrew and, at thir-
teen, to be confirmed in the traditional
services. His religious instruction did not
involve close study of the Bible. It dis-
turbed Andre Gide, who as a good Pro-
testant read the Old Testament avidly and
found creative inspiration in it, to find that
French Jewish intellectuals, in their eager-
ness to achieve assimilation, sometimes
vaunted their ignorance of the Bible. He
meant to ask his friend Leon Blum about
that phenomenon, he recorded in his diary.
"Although Blum always retained a re-
spect for the faith of his fathers, he took
the path of many other assimilated French
Jews. At an early age he considered himself
`emancipated,' heir to the rationalism and
anticlericalism of the Enlightenment. In
the 1890's he was writing: 'Among ordinary
people, religion is only a collection of fam-
ily superstitions, to be obeyed without con-
viction and only out of respect toward one's

ancestors who have conformed to them for
twenty centuries; for enlightened people, it
no longer means anything.' In 1900 he
referred to 'religious beliefs of which I do
not retain the slightest trace.'
"Blum's indifference to the Jewish faith
in which he was reared did not mean that
he rejected 'being Jewish.' He always re-
mained a Jew in the face of anti-Semitism,
which he despised in all its forms. And no
one ever let him forget that he was a Jew,
either in his early literary career or later
during his political life. In 1914 Gide petu-
lantly raised the suspicion that Blum, as a
literary and drama critic, showed partiality
to Jewish writers and vaguely accused him
of philo-Semitism. Many years later Gide
apologized; Blum had always been, he said,
a superb example of `semitism and human-
ism.' Once involved in national political life,
Blum was subjected to constant calumny by
Right extremists. Though he never went out
of his way to identify himself as Jewish, he
nonetheless responded with vigor to public
attacks. To an anti-Semitic outburst in Par-
liament in 1923, he replied from the ros-
trum: 'I am a Jew indeed . . . one does
not in any way insult me by recalling the
race in which I was born, a race which
I have never denied and towards which I
retain only feelings of gratitude and pride.'
On the other hand, he disdainfully ignored
the many broadsides, pamphlets, and scur-
rilous private notes of an anti-Semitic nature
that singled him out as a target.
"In Blum's mind, a special importance
derived from being a French Jew. One
could be proud of the role played by the
Enlightenment and the French Revolution
in the political and civic emancipation of
European Jewry. He belonged, he said, in
1936, "to a race which owed to the French
Revolution human liberty and equality, some-
thing that could never be forgotten." Jewish
emancipation was one link in the chain that
bound him all his life to the traditions of
the French Revolution and republicanism.
"There was a link also between his Jew-
ish heritage and his socialism. As a religion
which did not accept "personal immortality,"
Judaism, as he saw it, stressed salvation on
this earth; it held out the "optimistic

dream" of a "harmonious and just society"
in this world. "The race from which Judith
springs," he wrote in reviewing a play by
Maurice Donnay in 1903, "having limited
our existence to this life, wishes to estab-
lish justice on this earth." Here was a "ra-
tional" and "secular" faith that he could
accept. In one of his early writings, his
fictionalized dialogues between Goethe and
Eckermann, written when he was already
a socialist, he has Goethe, the philosopher-
poet of the Enlightenment, say:
" 'The Jew has the religion of Justice . .
in the same way that the positivists have
had the religion of "facts" or Renan the
religion of science. Only the idea of inevi-
table justice has sustained and united the
Jews in their long tribulations. Their Mes-
siah is nothing but the symbol of eternal
Justice which can undoubtedly abandon the
world for centuries but which cannot fail
to reign there one day. It is not at all, as in
the case of the Christians, from another life
that they await reparation and equity. The
ancient Jews did not believe in the immor-
tality of the soul. It is this world'. . . which
must rearrange itself someday according to
the rule of Reason, make the rule of Rea-
son apply to all, and render to each his due.
It that not the spirit of socialism? It is the
ancient spirit of the race. If Christ preached
charity, Jehovah desired justice. The Old
Testament says a 'just man' when the New
says a 'saint.'
"And one of his characters 'smilingly but
gravely' remarks: "It was not by an inadver-
tency of Providence that a Marx and a Las-
salle were Jews.' The idea of justice (and
social justice) haunted Blum all his life. A
complete secularist, he found a rationaliza-
tion of his beliefs in the faith of his
What an interesting commentary on the
life of a great statesman who was not de-
tached from his people but who neverthe-
less did not have the proper roots as an
inheritor of Jewish ideals! And what a
lesson this has for our time.
The entire Blum story is a remarkable
lesson for all time. Joel Colton has pro-
duced a truly great biographical sketch of a
very great man.

Israel's Lone UN Vote a Factor in India


(Copyright, 1966, JTA, Inc.)

NEW DELHI — In the wake of
Indo-Pakistan conflict, the policy
that India should adopt toward the
Arab states has become a hot topic
for discussion in the Indian Parlia-
ment and press. As the political
commentator of the Statesman
"Seldom before have so many
complained so bitterly about the
fact that, to be friendly with the
Arabs, the Arab countries have, by
and large, failed to reciprocate the
sentiment, and have, indeed, back-
ed our adversary Pakistan. And it
is a measure of the resentment felt
by the MPs that never before have
so many amendments been moved,
as during the recent debate, to de-
mand the establishment of diplo-
matic relations with Israel. There
can be no gainsaying the fact that
India's position about Israel,
judged by the principles of justice
and fair play, is anomalous. But
that is precisely where the clash
between wholesome principles and
national self-interest comes in."

Can we afford to antagonize 13
Arab nations just for the sake of
winning the support of one coun-
try? Is such a consideration in ac-
cord with the policy of nonalign-
ment that we are never tired of
talking about? Such are the ques-
tions that the Indians ask and de-
bate in the national press. Needing,
as Indians do, moral support from
and enduring friendship with every
country, it would be folly on our
part to overlook Israel. It is clearly
imperative in the national interest
of India to establish diplomatic re-
lations with Israel, said an Indian
in the Hindustan Times.
Israel is a tiny state, he wrote,
which had made tremendous prog-
ress in the economic sphere within
a short time. She has done it within
the framework of democracy under
which man is treated not as a cog
in the big wheel of the state, but is
given the respect that is due to an
individual. Contrast this with the
regimes in most of the Arab states.
All of them are examples of one
kind or another of dictatorship.

Soviet Union Postpones Visit of Israelis

Union notified Israel Monday that,
due to "technical difficulties," the
scheduled visit of the Israeli Phil-
harmonic Orchestra to Moscow
must be postponed.
At the same time, Israel was
notified that there will be a "de-
lay" in the scheduled arrival here
of two Soviet women athletes
scheduled to _participate in the
Hapoel athletic games.
Israeli circles expressed fears
here Monday that the two related
Moscow actions might indicate a
reversal of the recently-noted So-
viet-Israel rapprochement, possibly
motivated by political considera-
The reasons given for the de-
sire to postpone the visit of the

48—Friday, May 6, 1966

Philharmonic to Moscow seemed
mysterious, in view of the fact
that the negotiations for the trip
by the Israeli musicians had been
concluded two months ago, after
18 months of talks between Is-
raeli representatives and Goskon-
zert, the Soviet organilation that
deals with exchanges of musi-
cians with foreign countries.

As for the scheduled athletic
participation here by two Soviet
women, it was pointed out that
negotiations for that event had also
been going on for several months,
and had been successfully con-
cluded only a month ago. Incident-
ally, both Soviet women to have
participated in the Hapoel games
are Jewish. Moscow notified Israel
that it has been found that both
women had "p revious engage-

Merely because these Arab states
nurse an unreasonable grievance
against the Jews, should India fol-
low them in her attitude towards
Israel? This is not nonalignment
but a mockery of it, he wrote.
An Indian Foreign Office official,
who desires not to be named, said
that India greatly values Israel's
friendly overtures to establish . dip-
lomatic relations but, he said,
India's position about Israel should
be compared with that of China
and Pakistan, and not that of Nepal
or Burma. And then, he said, there
is the real consideration that,
against Israel's lone vote, the
Arabs have 13 votes in the United
Nations, and these votes are badly
neded by India in her dispute with

Hebrew Corner

Where Are You Going!

Two hundred years ago, an eminent
Rabbi, named Jonathan Aibschitz, lived
in the city of Prague, in , Czecho-Slo-
vakia. Everyone greatly respected the
Rabbi for his wisdom, his knowledge
of the Torah and his relations with
human beings.
One day, in the early hours of the
morning, the Rabbi left his house and,
behold, the Mayor of the city came
towards him. Rabbi Jonathan greeted
the Mayor, "Good morning, Sir."
"Good morning, Sir, Rabbi," replied
the Mayor, and asked, "Where are you
"I do not know," answered Rabbi
"Why are you hiding your destina-
tion?" said the Mayor angrily.
"If 1 knew exactly- where I was going,
I would tell you," apologized Rabbi
"If you behave like this towards
me," said the Mayor angrily, "I shall
let you know where you are going."
And the Mayor took the Rabbi to the
In the afternoon, the Mayor regretted
what he had done and went to the
"Rabbi, why did you make me angry
and not answer my question?" asked
the Mayor.
The Rabbi quietly replied, "Mr.
Mayor, Sir, now, too, I repeat and say,
in the morning I did not know where
I was going. I wanted to go to the
synagogue to pray, and behold, you
brOught me to the jail. Did I know,
Sir, where I was going?"
After a short pause, the Rabbi added,
"Next time, don't ask me where I am
going, but where I want to go."
• (Translation of Hebrew column pub-
lished by the But Ivrit Olamit with
the assistance of the Memorial Foun-
dation for Jewish Culture, Jerusalem.)

• •



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