The ‘Montor Mindset’ That Is Still With Us

The attitude of Jewish communal leaders towards Jews living in distressed lands, as in the Ukraine and Syria, as well as regards non-Jews such as Darfur, the new boat people refugees from the Middle East and others, is one that is driven by a Jewish underpinning of seeking justice and morality.

We could argue about how smart is that policy in the long run but I agree, it is better to be sensitive rather than callous although do wish that certain “leaders” would consider the fact that some programs can be wrong in the sense of a road paved with Jewish liberalism could lead to unexpected places and results.

On this contemporary background, I want to recall one Henry Montor who was active in Zionist affairs from the 1920s on and eventually, from 1939 until 1950 was executive vice president of the United Jewish Appeal.

Montor willingly, even exuberantly, went along with Chaim Weizmann’s “selective” immigration policy even in the matter of rescuing Jewish refugees who were fleeing Europe. In 1940 Montor, as executive vice president of the United Jewish Appeal, refused to intervene for a shipload of Jewish refugees stranded on the Danube. That that boat was a Revisionist one, with Eri Jabotinsky in command, made it all the more easy, or, perhaps, enjoyable.

He wrote a letter to a rabbi in Maryland stating that

“Palestine cannot be flooded with … old people or with undesirables.”

He circulated thousands of copies of the letter, which asked Jews not to support illegal immigration to Palestine. Other material of the time is here.

But Montor went, to pun it, overboard:

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Here is Yitzhaq Ben-Ami’s recollection (yes, J Street’s Jeremy’s father):

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Jewish leaders could be so callous and spiteful?  Sure. Here is Rafael Medoff’s article.

Joseph Agassi explains:

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Times have changed – except for those Jews belonging to the wrong political persuasion at the time.

Nevertheless, I fear the Montor mindset – once an official gets into power, that power is what guides his activities – is still with too many Jewish officialdom or those who self-appoint themselves as the Jewish community’s intellectual elite, as we discuss “boycotting the settlements” a la Beinart or anti-Zionism a la Jewish Voice for Peace.  Their liberalism is just a security pillow for their existence within a non-Jewish world.

They will sentence fellow Jews to calumny, derision and harm – quite liberally.

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About the Author
Yisrael Medad, currently is a Research Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem and Deputy Editor of the English Language Anthology of Jabotinsky's Writings. American-born, he and his wife made Aliyah in 1970. He resides in Shiloh since 1981. He was a member of the Betar Youth Movement World Executive and is a volunteer spokesperson for the Yesha Council. He holds a MA in Political Science from the Hebrew University and is active is many Zionist and Jewish projects and initiatives.
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