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July 27, 1979 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1979-07-27

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2 Friday, July 21, 1919


Purely Commentary

`Gemilut Hassodim' Regains
Status as Act of Benevolence

Increased allocations made by the Detroit Jewish Wel-
fare Federation to aid in the settlement of the hundreds of
Russians coming to this community include a very special
item. For the first time in many years it was found neces-
sary to make a special grant to the Hebrew Free Loan
Association. Newcomers who will be in need of loans to
establish themselves in business, to pursue studies for
trades or professions, to furnish their homes, will be able to
reach out to the traditional agency. In Hebrew, in the origin
of granting loans without interest, the basis for this noble
effort is Gemilut Hassodim.

Traditionalists will recall that in the years when
securing a loan without interest was a necessity in life,
those seeking such assistance asked for a Gemilut Hesed.
It is the highest form of benevolence. In "A Book of
Jewish Concepts," (Hebrew Publishing Co.), the noted
scholar, Dr. Philip Birnbaum, defined "Gemilut Hassodim"
as "Benevolence," as follows'.
Gemilut Hassodim (practice of kindness) is a
virtue which includes every kind of help: visiting
the sick, comforting those who mourn, escorting
the dead to the'grave. The Mishna counts it among
the things for which no limit has been prescribed
by the Torah (Peah 1:2). Since Gemilut Hassodim
consists of personal acts of kindness, it can be
practiced by rich and poor alike.
Commenting on Genesis 47:29, where Jacob
asks Joseph to deal kindly and truly with him
after death, the Midrash Tanhuma points out that
kindness shown to the dead is indeed an act of
true love, since there is no prospect of repayment
or gratitude: a poor man may one day be in a
position to repay his benefactor, but the dead man
cannot repay. According to the Talmud, whoever
is merciful is certainly of the children of Ab-
raham. The Jewish people are characterized by
modesty, mercy, and benevolence (Betzah 32b;
Yevamoth 79a).
In his Mishneh Torah, Maimonides writes: 'The
quality of mercy is characteristic of the Jewish
people. They are like brothers . . . and if a brother
shows no mercy toward a brother, who will? On
whom, then, should the poor of Israel depend? .. .
Alas, their help must come only from their breth-
ren . . . The highest degree of righteousness
(tsedaka) is to aid a man in want by offering him a
gift or a loan, by entering into partnership with
him, or by providing work for him, so that he may
become self-supporting."
Gemilut Hassodim finds expression in' all ef-
forts of goodwill, and is exemplified by receiving
all men .cheerfully, by loving peace and striving
for peace (Avoth 1:12,15).
There was nothing more sacred, more noble, more hon-
orable, more helpful than a "Gemilut Hesed." Now it is in
practice again. The need of the hour re-created the instru-
ment for benevolence on the highest scale, since those in
need will be able to get help without being burdened with
interest charges. It is to the credit of the Jewish Welfare
Federation that it serves as the agency to revive a great

The Boat People, the Humanism
in Assisting Refugees and
the Evil Record of World War II

By Philip

Tragic Refugee Tactics of World War II Recalled in Current
Efforts to Assist the Boat People . . . Tradition of `Gemilut
Hassodim' Revived With Aid of Free Loans to Russian Arrivals

generally (and erroneously) accorded Mr.
Roosevelt by humanitarians. The facts indicate
that, far from being a crusader for the rights of
refugees, Mr. Roosevelt's plea was too little too
The inten s ifying pace of persecutions of Ger-

man Jews during 1938, increasingly apparent
after the annexation of Austria, prompted a surge
of immigration applications to foreign consulates
- in Germany, the largest number since 1933. The
American consulate was invaded by literally
thousands of panic-stricken Jews.
President Roosevelt was under strong public
pressure to do something about the refugees. He
accepted a proposal for an international confer-
ence, but the agenda for what was known as the
Evian Conference declared that the United States
could not change its immigration laws.
Mr. Roosevelt insisted on living up to the letter
of the immigration law, maintaining the restric-
tionist elements in Congress would block any re-
form. As James McDonald, a specialist in interna-
tional affairs, who had been chairman of the
Foreign Policy Association observed: "Just as
President Hoover, by administrative interpreta-
tion, in effect instructed the consuls to block im-
migration so now President Roosevelt could
make easier the admission of a few thousand
additional Germans a year." (letter of Oct. 29, 1935
to Felix M. Warburg). But there was no relaxation.
On Nov. 10, 1938, the Nazis burned 195
I synagogues in Germany, hauled 25,000 innocent
people to concentration camps and shattered the
windows of more than 800 Jewish establishments
in a fit of rage and destruction which came to be
known as Kristallnacht.
Five days later, at a White House press confer-
ence, a reporter asked the President, "Would you
recommend a relaxation of our immigration re-
strictions .so that Jewish refugees could be re-
ceived in this country?" The President's response:
"That is not in contemplation. We have the quota
system." (N.Y. Times, Nov. 16, 1938)
On Nov. 23, 1938, President Roosevelt sent
Myron Taylor, head of the American delegation at
Evian, a confidential letter instructing him to
renew immediately the efforts of the Inter-
governmental Committee for Refugees (the Evian
Committee): "I do not believe it either desirable or
practicable to recommend any change in the
quota provisions of our immigration laws."
(President's Secretary's File, Confidential File:
State, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park,
I share Mr. Ferencz's hope that the Indochinese
refugees be offered a haven, but his recommenda-
tion that "President Carter follow the Roosevelt
precedent" is an invitation to disaster the likes of
which we should never have to live through again.
It is not pleasant to recall the indifference of a genera-
tion that could have rescued millions. It is unfortunate that
the guilt of an otherwise great President must be kept on
the record. The guilt is inerasable. The memory of it should
be an inspiration for expiation by this and future genera-

Leonard N. Simons at Seventy-Five:.
Dynamic Leadership Acclaimed

Wayne State University academicians and heads of
the Wayne State University Press, together with their
associates in the community, are honoring Leonard N. Si-
mons on his 75th birthday. They are not alone in the large
circle of his admirers who are thinking of him and are
expressing appreciation for his multiple services to every
cause of merit.
Wayne State University, the Detroit Historical_
Museum, Wayne State University Press, Hillel Founda-

A new era of humanism is being experienced by this
generation. The Vietnamese tragedy, the plight of In-
dochinese refugees, has resulted in a spurt of decency, in
expressions of kindness, in the opening of many doors to
those in flight. Israel's Prime Minister Menahem Begin
was among the first to advocate an open-door policy for the
refugees and Israel provided refuge for some of them.
In tracing the history of refugee wanderings, the plight
Washington was under
of the Jewish victims of Nazism was forgotten. Some even
credited the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration with siege that Sunday night of
the compassion that was missing in the 1930s and 1940s. the famous address by the
True, some recalled incidents like the St. Louis ship . President. Now it is recover-
tragedy in which hundreds of escapees from Hitlerism were ing from the Potomac Mas-
denied admission to Cuba, although their fare was paid for.
The record of the July
They were ignored by the United States and were returned
to their homeland to perish as Nazi victims. It was one of 1979 events poses some puz-
the inexcusable evidences of guilt which was shared by this zles for the future and espe-
cially into 1980.
The political indentations
Our nation's guilt under FDR was exposed in a letter to
the New York Times by Mitchell Weiss of Cambridge who are towards the balloter.
refuted the claims of humanism for the Roosevelt Adminis- Will he ask:
If the wholesale discharge
tration by stating:
of notables from the
Benjamin Ferencz's letter extolling President
President's Cabinet was
Roosevelt's call for a haven for World War II's
overdue (quoting Jimmy
refugees (June 24) is symptomatic of the esteem

tions, Hebrew University, Jewish National Fund, Weiz-
mann Institute, Detroit Historical Society, Fresh Air
Society, Michigan Cancer Society, Detroit Round Table of
the National Conference of Christians and Jews, National
Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, United Negro College
Fund, American Jewish Committee, Allied Jewish Cam-
paign, Jewish Publication Society of America, Jewish
Home for the Aged, Brandeis University . . . all are move-
ments and causes in whose behalf Leonard has written
enriching pages recording his contributions and services.
If a cause has a human
aspect, Leonard Simons re-
encouragement to the Asso-
ciation for the Jewish
tarded was as spontaneo
as soon as he learned
merits, as his assistance to
the Hebrew University,
JNF, the causes in Allied
Jewish Campaign.
He was the inspirer of ac-
tivities for the Hillel Foun-
dations in Detroit and Ann
Arbor. He helped people iii-
dividually and movements
He was born in
Youngstown, Qhio, July 24,
1904, and he came here young enough for Detroit to claim
his as if he were a native of this community.
Perhaps the best way to honor him is to quote a piece he
had written as "Reflections at 75:"
THAT there is much more to life
than "begin, beget,
and be gone" .. .
THAT the most important words
in the dictionary are Love,
Respect, and Generosity . .
THAT if I do well in business,
I should never forget
to share because a shroud
_ has no pockets .. .
THAT essential to happiness
is something to do,
someone to love,
something to hope for .. .
THAT life's greatest satisfaction
comes. from realizing
your -own capabilities
as fully as possible
for the benefit of others . .
THAT there is a difference
between putting your nose
into other people's business
and putting your heart into
other people's problems .. .
THAT schools of higher learning
should be assisted because
the salvation of the world
lies in the education
of young men and women.
* * *
AND, if I had a chance to
live my life over again
I would try to do the
very same things because
I believe in-them.
His sense of history and his sensitivity to Jewish ex-
periences is expressed in the excellent article he had writ-
ten on the Jewish role in Egypt, that country's attitude
towards Jewry and the Jewish community of Cairo. This
newspaper welcomed the article with appreciation. It is
another evidence of his abilities and his communal and
historic perceptions for which he is being admired on his
75th birthday.

to the Historian: Wh ither the Memories of 1.979?

Carter), is it forgivable if
1980 won't bring panacea?
And if memories play
their role in politics, does
one now reconstruct Chap-
paquidick as a reminder in
1980 of what happened in
If memories are to be
tested by time, why not
draw upon Shakespeare's
<,. . . the evil lives after
them, the good is oft inter-
red with their bones . ."
But for a religious man
there is prophecy in mem-

Perhaps the Devotional
President may search for
guidance in Nehemiah 5:18.
"Remember unto me, 0 my
God, for good that I have
done for this people."
Memory will be put to the
test in the year to come.
Now it is Calculation
enforced by Power. For the
voter it will be a choosing of
judgment between Politics
of Power and Power of Poli-

Prophecy is a debatable
subject. Why anticipate the

future when the present is
strewn with obstacles? .
Therefore, the wise, in
Jewish tradition, draw upon
the code which asserts
"Barukh haShem yom yom
.," blessed be the Lord
from day to day . .. on a
daily basis. It is today that
counts and if we make it
good and productive, the
morrow will benefit.

Will the White House
staff learn from this admon-
ition and carry it forward to
the Chief?

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