Monday, December 27, 2021

Avukah versus Revisionism

Is today's progressivism a reincarnation, but worse, of what happened to student Zionists in the 1930s?

From a study of Avukah by Tal Elmaliach, Avukah: American Zionist Students Between Culture and Politics, 1925–1936 in The American Jewish Archives Journal volume lxxii . 2020 . numbers 1&2:

Under [Zelig] Harris,* Avukah also inaugurated a fierce campaign against the Zionist Revisionist right, led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, which was gaining support from young Jews in both Europe and the United States. Jabotinsky’s followers were on a collision course with the labor movement in the Diaspora and in Palestine. As early as 1932, progressive Zionists, Avukah included, perceived the Revisionists as a real threat, especially in light of what they saw as Revisionist sympathy for fascism. Itzkowitz argued, for example, that Avukah needed to choose sides in the bitter battles among Zionist factions. Supporting the Revisionists was unthinkable, Itzkowitz wrote, and the bourgeois General Zionists were “opportunists.” As such, he maintained, Avukah had to lend open political support to socialist Zionism.66 Under Harris, the organization began pushing Revisionist sympathizers out.67 In an open battle at Avukah’s ninth convention, in December 1934, the movement decided that Revisionists would not be permitted to act under the aegis of Avukah.68 An exchange of letters in 1935 between Harris and Albert Einstein, published in the Avukah Bulletin, testifies to just how vicious the struggle was. Einstein encouraged Avukah’s fight against the Revisionists, whom he claimed were “as much of a danger to our youth as Hitlerism is to German youth.”69


66 Benjamin Itzkowitz, “Avukah, American Student Labor-Zionist Federation,” Avukah Bulletin, April 1932. 

67 Isadore Solkoff, “Letters to the Bulletin,” Avukah Bulletin, December 1934.

68 Lawrence Cohen, “History of National Avukah Reveals 15 Years of Growth,” Avukah Student Action, 28 July 1939.

69 “A Letter from Einstein,” Avukah Bulletin, March 1935.


* A signee on the infamous anti-Menachem Begin letter in the NYTimes of December 2, 1948, along with Albert Einstein:


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