The Blaustein–Ben-Gurion Agreement: A Milestone in Israel-Diaspora Relations Part 2

Posted on April 12th, 2018 by

Written by Mark K. Bauman. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel. To order a print copy of the magazine, see details here.

Part II: A Formal Declaration of Statehood

Missed the beginning? Start here.

The formal declaration of statehood in May 1948 and Israel’s success in securing its borders in the war that ensued transformed and intensified, rather than ended, ongoing debates over Israel’s relationship with diaspora Jewry – and, in particular, American Jewry. Fundamental difficulties over the role of diaspora Jews in forming the new nation and ultimately their relationship to it and its relationship to them can be traced to the pre-state era. For decades American Jewry had been divided as well as energized by the dream of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. From the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries, Zionists, non-Zionists, and anti-Zionists supported varied philosophies and rallied behind specific organizations, fighting for power and influence. Zionists, although divided over theories (as examples, the nature of the new country and the relationship between Jews and Arabs within it) and tactics, were largely united in their desire for a Jewish state. Through the American and World Zionist Organization they strove for that aim while helping run the Yishuv.[1]

For their part, Jewish non-Zionists and anti-Zionists had long aided Jews in Europe and Palestine for humanitarian reasons and as part of their opposition to international antisemitism. Nonetheless anti-Zionists opposed the creation of a Jewish state. They believed that Jews had found welcome in many of their present countries and that creation of such a state would foment dreaded charges of dual loyalty that fostered antisemitism. Non-Zionists believed that they held a middle ground. Although withholding support for political Zionism, they refrained from actively opposing it.[2]

Jacob Blaustein boarding a TWA plane bound for Israel, February 11, 1952.

Non-Zionists and anti-Zionists had dominated the AJComm since its inception. Leaders like attorney Louis Marshall comprised an American elite raised in Classical Reform congregations that defined Judaism as a universalistic religion of social justice. They opposed antisemitism at home and abroad as part of the fight for human rights and to secure their positions without jeopardizing them.[3] Paradoxically, their financial aid and advocacy for Jews at home and abroad reflected a sense of ethnic identity that extended the definition of Judaism beyond religion.

With the establishment of Israel in 1948, attitudes toward the new state that derived from these former stances became problematic, as all sides adjusted to a new reality. Now an elected government ran an independent nation. The creation of Israel fulfilled the Zionists’ fundamental mission. They re-directed their efforts toward assisting in the defense and prosperity of the fledgling country and also toward influencing its nature and policies. With the Holocaust and establishment of Israel, non- and anti-Zionists grappled with the existence of a Jewish state. Except for recalcitrant members of the American Council for Judaism, they accepted the new nation but, like the Zionists, needed to negotiate their relationship to it. Jacob Blaustein had to unite the different factions within the AJComm even as he sought to secure its place in the pantheon of American Jewish organizations. He simultaneously mediated with other Jewish organizations, with the American government and public opinion, and with Israeli and other world leaders.

Continue to Part III: Visions of Zion

[1] See for example, Urofsky, We Are One; Ganin, An Uneasy Relationship.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Cohen, Not Free to Desist

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

The other JMM

Posted on April 11th, 2018 by

A blog post by Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

Almost exactly one year from now, we will be opening an exhibit we’re borrowing from the Jewish Museum Milwaukee (the other JMM), called Stitching History from the Holocaust.

We’re pretty excited about this show, which brings to life the innovative dress designs of Hedy Strnad, a soul and a talent lost to the Holocaust.

The other JMM is also very excited about this exhibit, and they are re-mounting the exhibit, with some enhancements, this spring. Coincidentally my sister, Emily, lives in Milwaukee with her family, and she invited me and my family to visit for Seder.

Beshert, I thought. I could go visit the exhibit IRL, and not just the link I shared with you above. I was to be in Milwaukee from March 29 through April 2. The other JMM opened the exhibit on April 8.

Womp womp.

I didn’t get to see Hedy’s dresses in real life. However, I did get to visit the other JMM, and meet some of my colleagues there.

They shared some of what they’re working on for future exhibits. I told them about some of our plans. We shared impressions of the recent CAJM conference in Washington, DC. I also had the opportunity to enjoy their core exhibition.

Since I was there with my 6-year-old daughter and my nephews who are 7 and 4, I wasn’t able to linger the way I might have (though my sister did an admirable job of keeping the kids occupied so that I could peruse. Thanks, Em!).

Even in my somewhat abbreviated time in the exhibit, I was struck by a few things:

I was reminded that Harry Houdini (with whom this JMM is currently deeply involved, as our original exhibit Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini comes together) spent some of his youth in Milwaukee.

I was surprised to read all about the German-Russian divide in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Milwaukee Jewish community. I am well aware of the same divide that beleaguered the Baltimore Jewish community (my family’s stories include the tales of my grandmother’s grandmother who immigrated from what was then Prussia and refused to speak a word of Yiddish, referring to the language as “cussing”). Somehow I naively thought that it was a past that was unique to Baltimore.

And I was taken with a visual family tree/timeline that the other JMM did about the Jewish congregations in the city, visually representing how different schuls splintered and splintered again.

Marvin often tells visitors about how many active congregations in the Baltimore area can trace their roots back to the Lloyd Street Synagogue. The other JMM created a kind of map of those connections (spoiler alert, I’ll be looking into creating our map in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned).

In short, from JMM to JMM, it’s worth the visit!*


*Did you know that Premium-level JMM Members get free reciprocal admission to the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee, as well as at 11 other Jewish museums around the country? Become a premium-level member today!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Once Upon a Time…07.28.2017

Posted on April 10th, 2018 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church by email at

JMM 2006.13.2772

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: July 28, 2017

PastPerfect Accession #: 2006.013.2772

Status: Unidentified – do you recognize any of these participants from the JCC Senior Camp, 1967?

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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