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January 24, 1986 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-01-24

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

2 Friday,tknuaryt24, 1986

THE DETROITiJEWISHi NEWS

PURELY COMMENTARY

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Watchman, What Of The Night? 71 1,617:0 1j:t

Isaiah 21:11

A noteworthy Isaiahan prophetic as-
sertion was reiterated by two of the most
distinguished world Jewish personalities
during the past six decades. Over a lapse
of 62 years, "Watchman, what of the
night?" was utilized, first by Israel
Zangwill in 1923 and by Elie Wiesel at
the commencement of the new year
1986.
Israel Zangwill identified Isaiah as
the source. Wiesel didn't.
It would have been so much more
powerful if Elie Wiesel had given the
source. Yet the editor of the Op-Ed Page
of the New York Times, in its issue of
Jan. 5, emphasized a special brief essay
by Elie Wiesel, entitled "Welcoming
1986," by placing it in a two-column
boxed space.
The spirit of Isaiah nevertheless was
retained by Wiesel when he wrote:
Watchman, what of the night?
Years come and go. Prayers are
offered and forgotten, resolutions
made and repudiated. Will there
now be an end to violence? Will
fear be vanquished and hate dis-
armed? Will death yield to hu-
manity and hope?
In an equally impressive conclusion
to his article, Wiesel added this submis-
sion to hope with a dependence on
Isaiah's "Watchman, what of the night?":
Watchman, what of the night?
Humankind needs peace more
than ever, or it has, more than
ever, been saturated with vio-
lence and war. Now the entire
planet is in danger. But peace is
not God's gift to His creatures. It
is our gift — to each other.
Israel Zangwill based a famous
speech he delivered before the American
Jewish Congress in Carnegie Hall, New
York, Oct. 14, 1923 on the Isaiah asser-
tion. The text of that address was re-
printed by the American Je\vish_ Con-
gress under the title "Watchman What
of the Night?" It was an address that
served to analyze existing world condi-
tions and the status of world Jewry in
the post-World War I era.
Zangwill indicated when he com-
menced that historic speech that he rec-
ognized the assignment that had just
been given him as intended "to give a
summary of the Jewish situation such as
(Max) Nordau supplied at the Zionist
Congresses." It was a most appropriate
description of the role he was invited to
play as a distinguisiried guest of Ameri-
can Jewry- with the message of a guest
from British Jewry.

Zangwill's summation of world Jew-
ry's status in the first two decades of the
century was truly in the Max Nordau
style of the end of the last and the be-
ginning of this century. It probed Jew-
ry's status and was truly Zionistic, al-
though it was uttered by the founder and
for years propagator of the Jewish Ter-
ritorial \ Moyement. Zangwill emerged in
those earry4\ years as an adherent of the
later views of David Ben-Gurion that a
true Zionist must live in the Jewish
Homeland, and he stated in that famous
speech that his wife was an even
stronger adherent of that view.
Like Nordau, Zangwill was critical
of Jewish leadership. He referred to
those who stood in the way of Jewish
self-redemption, of Zionism, as the
Grand Dukes. He,was firm, although
less blunt than Nordau who, referring to
Jewish leadership of that time, which
shunned, resisted, even sought to
undermine the Zionist effort, was never-
theless Jewish when it came to cuisine.

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Elie Wiesel

Israel Zangwill

They loved Jewish food in their ritualis-
tic fashion and Nordau said of thenr,Sie

crushing burdens. Herzl alluded
to Zangwill in the terms of "der
guter Zangvvill." I present to the
American Jewish Congress "der
guter Zangwill."
Zangwill took into account the
American problems as well as the
Jewish. He dealt with the views of the
then popular Arthur Brisbane and
analyzed the issues at hand. He exposed
the inhumanities of the Ku Klux, Klan.
His warnings vis-a-vis the blacks are as
relevant today. The following is a
lengthy but vitally important Zangwil-
lian declaration well to take into account
at this time:
Here, for once, you may be
legitimately more American than
the Americans. For the great
American ideals are Jewish
ideals, and their destruction
would be more tragic for the
world than even the destruction
of the Jews. Bryce, in his great
work on your Commonwealth,
applies to your country Dante's
famous simile of the lampbearer
whose lamp guides and lights
others over the road she has
passed ahead.
But alas! the lamp, after
cheering all humanity with the
radiance of a nobler world,
threatens to leave a darkness
that will be only the more tragi-
cally and tangibly felt; and in-
stead of that great vision of
world peace which President
Wilson lit up for us, America's
lamp now shows only her own
road veering back to the old
malarious swamps of European
nationalism — nationalism in that
fanatical form which made a
Balkan patriot recently lament
that there was no chance for his
Christian country unless its Jews
and Moslems were killed off. In
this backward course your Ku
Klux Klan has not yet arrived at
full European blood-thirstiness,
but its falsification of American
history and its bigoted campaign
menace the America of Washing-
ton and Lincoln with a reversion
to the medieval which Europe
has never really shaken off.
Prof. James Taft hatfield has
amusingly shown that the whole
idea of the Ku Klux Klan is ulti-
mately of German aspiration,
coming from Goethe through
Walter Scott. you must fight this

sind auch Juden? Sie sind bauch-juden!

— "Are they also Jews? They are
stomach Jews!"
Zangwill also was the prophet for
man4ind in his "Watchman, what of the
nightr–'
Zangwill's speech of 63 years ago
was advice to America to take "the right
turn" while Europe was taking the
wrong one. He stated that the spirit of
America, as he interpreted it, was to
range "with those who believe not in
Might but in Right." Thereupon
Zangwill, concluding his speech, turned
to the Prophet Isaiah:
When Isaiah asks "Watch-
man, what of the night?" there is
a wonderful answer, "The morn-
ing cometh and also the night."
Nothing in human history is fi-
nally secured. In every age the
fight must be renewed. The
morning cometh but also the
night. It may be, therefore, that
here, too, the wave of Christian
madness will spread from the
shambles of Europe. But for
God's sake stand openly and as-
sertively for something worth
dying for. That you will find will
make life worth living, and if die
you must, go down like your
forefathers, flag in hand.
It is important to note that Dr.
Stephen S. Wise, who really was the
founder of the World Jewish Congress,
commented on an introduction to
Zangwill that the famous guest from
England, addressing the American
Jewish Congress, was "speaking not for
Israel but for Israel Zangwill." Neverthe-
less, Zangwill made a strong endorse-
ment of the World Jewish Congress idea,
asserting it would have been better for
Zionism and world Jewry if it were a
World Jewish Congress rather than a
World Zionist Congress as means of
enlisting in the cause more or all Jews.
While admonishing caution in wel-
coming the anticipated Zangwillian criti-
cisms, Dr. Wise offered an historically
interesting reminder of Zangwill in the
early years of his association with
Theodor Herzl. Wise thus introduced
Zangwill:
Just before he died in April,
1904, the outstanding Jew of cen-
turies, Theodor Herzl, spoke to
me in the city of Vienna of what
Zangwill had done in the effort to
help bear his — Herzl's — heavy,

.

grotesque Klan, not because it is
a menace to Jews, but because it
is a menace to America. You
must fight it by all moral
weapons, not so much because of
impugned Judaism, but because
of its insults to the Catholic
Church, which, when all is said,
has to its credit more noble and
beautiful achievements of the
human spirit than anything the
Klan can boast of.
But the antics of the Klan are
not the only sinister phenomenon
in your environment. The recent
refusal of nationalization to Hin-
doos is as significant as the limi-
tation of European immigration
at the moment of Europea's
greatest misery and by a method
still crueller in the working,
though this. last will, I gather,
soon receive a merciful modifica-
tion. There is a hardening to a
sort of Nordic nationalism, based
on pseudo-scientific theories;
theories that utterly ignore that
the savage North has always
gone to the sunny South — to
Athens and Rome, ay, even to
Jerusalem, for its art, its legisla-
tion, its religion.
Just as France has turned
into Prussia, so America, misun-
derstanding the richness pro-
duced by the diversity of her
peoples, as of her scenery, and
forgetting that she is rather a
Continent than a country, seems
itching to turn into a China, in-
habited by monotonous millions
of hundred-percenters. Mr. Bris-
bane tells us, when Columbus
landed in America he thought he
was in China. Perhaps he was
only premature. America still
calls herself God's own country,
but let her beware lest God emi-
grate. He does not need her
passport. Hamlet defines the
politician as "one who would cir-
cumvent God."
But God is not to be mocked,
and for every white you keep out,
a black will migrate North leav-
ing the South economically for-
lorn and will finally multiply
against you. Already the colored
populations of the world are 115
millions to 500 millions, and now
that we are teaching them all the
deviltries of our science, unless
the white man behaves as such,
-this day will soon be over.
All this Nordic nonsense, of
which the only alleviation is that
it-rehabilitates the great German
people, comes from the attempt
to fill the gap left by the collapse
of Christianity, which its priests
have failed to maintain. It is a
seeking to create a National God
and of the most primitive species.
It is time we Jews reasserted the
Universal God, and the unity of
civilization. It is time we stopped
this attempt to make polities reli-
gion and helped make religion
politics.

The day after his Carnegie Hal
"Watchman, what of the night?" speec
Israel Zangwill was guest of Natha
Straus, then president of the America
Jewish Congress, at a luncheon at Ne
York's Hotel Commodore, Oct. 15, 1923
In that speech he reiterated warnings h
had made the day before not to misjudg
the Arabs, not to treat them as unle

Continued on Page 18

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