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September 25, 1970 - Image 38

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1970-09-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



Eclipse of Yitzhak Gruenbaum

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By MOSHE RON
Jewish News Special
Israel Correspondent
TEL AVIV — Yitzhak Gruen-
baum carried to his grave the pain
of three heavy blows which his
career had suffered following the
establishment of the State. Only
his close friends knew how much
he cared about the slights, the un-
gratefulness, which he believed
had been the yishuv's return for
all his years of effort on its behalf.
The first blow was, to some ex-
tent, self-inflicted. It was indeed
strange that Gruenbaum, perhaps
the most experienced parliament-
arian in the new State, was not
elected to the country's first Knes-
set. But in a sense he "rigged the
election" against himself. As in-
terior minister in the provisional
government when the elections law
was adopted, he had insisted, in
the service of democratic prin-
ciples, on pushing through a clause
which he knew quite well might
spell his own undoing.
The principle of proportional
representation had been accepted
and it was further agreed that in
the event of surplus votes two
parties might settle between them-
selves in advance, that the surplus
would go to the other. But Gruen-
baum proposed and carried a
clause whereby if neither of two
parties attained even one per cent
then they could not put claim to

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"surplus votes" — their failure to
obtain even one seat indicataing
the absence of public support.
Gruenbaum, who ran on his
own list, had a surplus vote
agreement with the list of Daniel
Auster, former mayor of Jeru-
salem. The minimum number of
votes required for a Rnesset seat
was 3,592. Gruenbaum received
less than 3,000 and Auster 1,000.
On that day in January 1949, he
is reported to have told friends:
"The legend of Yitzhak Gruen-
baum, leader of Polish Jewry, is
dead."
The second lasting hurt in Gruen-
baum's life was the wound left by
the failure of his candidacy for
president following the death of
Chaim Weizmann, Mapai's candi-
date was Izhak Ben-Zvi. Herut pro-
posed Yosef Klausner and Mapam
— Yitzhak Gruenbaum. In the
Knesset ballot no one candidate
received the necessary majority.
The Mizrachi was prepared to sup-
port Klausner, and he might well
have been elected. Mapam then de-
cided to drop Gruenbaum's candi-
dacy and switched to Ben-Zvi, who
was duly elected. Gruenbaum was
always deeply grieved that Ma-
pam's leaders had not seen fit to
consult him before taking this step.
At his 89th birthday celebration
two years ago he had bitter things
to say about Moshe Snell, then one
of the leaders of Mapam.
Gruenbaum's deepest and most
constant regret, however, was the
persistent references to him as
"the leader of Polish Jewry." He
felt that people in Israel neither
recognized nor appreciated the
work be had done here in Israel
for the Zionist cause. He was a
member of the Jewish Agency Ex-
ecutive, he had been director of
the agency's immigration depart-
ment, and he had been Israel's
first minister of the interior. "This
has been my lot in the World Zion-
ist Movement," he wrote. "After
my work for the Jews of Russia
and Poland came my decline . . ."
To the last Gruenbaum remained
staunch in his antipathy towards
religion. He made sure that there
would be no cantor, no rabbi, no
religious ceremony at his funeral.
And yet he fought fiercely in the
Polish Sejm for Jewish religious
rights. When, 50 years ago, there
was a proposal afoot in Poland to
make Catholicism the state reli-
gion Gruenbaum counter-proposed
that Catholicism should be de-
clared the premier religion among
other religions in the state, all
however with equal rights. In his
speech to the Sejm he declared:
"The truth is that I would support
the separation of religion from the
state. But that will be something
for me to demand in our state of
Israel when it is established. There
I shall fight for the separation of
synagogue and state." And he was
true to his word.
After his 90th birthday celebra-
tion, I would visit Gruenbaum at
Gan Shmuel and bring him news-
paper cuttings reporting the event.
He was happy that Jews abroad
had not forgotten him. He showed
me files of material on the Holo-
caust which he was editing for
publication.
Recently he had been .planning
action to improve absorbtion of
new immigrants from Poland. As
chairman of the loans committee
at the Jewish Agnecy, he was hop-
ing to raise increased funds for
this end. "I shan't be afraid," the
old warrior told me, "of banging
on doors and banging on tables
as I _used to do in Poland." But it
was not to be.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Boon for Bookworms

JERUSALEM—The 1,000th child
reader was enrolled in the John
F. Kennedy Memorial Library here
in ceremonies marking the open-
ing of the new year.
The library, established by the
Mizrachi Women's Organization of
America as a tribute to the late
president, is now operated jointly
by the American women's organ-
ization and the municipality of
Jerusalem in the congested Bakka
quarter of the city.

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