Meyer Wolf Weisgal: The man who brought Reinhardt, Weill and Werfel to New York (4)

Mrs. Dunkelman, there is no one like me; you can have the original, if you like.

Meyer Weisgal


The young Mr. Weisgal becomes newspaper boss and goes to Canada

Von Thomas Ziegner

His military superiors soon learned that the young soldier did not particularly enjoy receiving orders (see part 3). For service purposes he was once granted a riding horse; because he liked it well, Weisgal remained riding for a while, although the official reason had long since disappeared. The sergeant raved. And because the war in 1918 was already foreseeably over, the brave soldier sent a telegram from the holiday to the regiment: It certainly would not matter if he stayed away a few days longer. If you need me urgently, you can just telegraph. The army could do without him and did not telegraph. But when he condescended to go back to the barracks:

"My reception was warm, but hardly cordial, in fact my sergeant was livid.‘Where the hell have you been?’ he roared. I looked at him
 uncomprehendingly: ‘But I sent you a telegram.’ From the convulsive expression on  his face I judged that he could not decide whether I was
 a fraud or an idiot. Then he found his tongue, and in ten minutes of army eloquence made it clear that he considered me both."

He quickly rushed back to work after the war. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was a significant concession: for the first time, a major power declared
its support for the settlement of Jews in Palestine. Text of the Balfour-Declaration Two completely different conceptions were now passionately
discussed. The group led by Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court judge, thought, the goal were reached. Now it would be necessary to plan carefully
and scientifically how many people should immigrate to Palestine; Entrepreneurship, the "free enterprise" they wanted to promote, forms of the
non-profit economy or cooperative associations they prognosticized were not viable in the long run. The faction led by Chaim Weizmann, on the other
hand, did not consider the Balfour Declaration a goal but a springboard, an encouraging start. Weisgal supported Weizmann from the beginning,
which resulted in a lifelong cooperation and friendship. Weizmann appreciated the tireless energy of his compatriot, his ingenuity, his strategic vision.
Often the anecdote is told, as Weizmann in London once inquires, what's up with the loud monologue in the next room. "Weisgal speaks to Jerusalem,"
is answered in. Then Weizmann: "Why does not he just use the phone?"

Both men understood themselves according to the testimony of many employees lightning fast, without needing many words. Like Weisgal,
Weizmann came from a Shtetl, from Motol, and enjoyed talking Yiddish to his adjutant, occasionally to the displeasure of his aristocratic wife.

Weizmann’s concept reached the majority in 1921. He was the head of a European delegation whose most prominent member was the then world-famous Albert Einstein. The Brandeis group had set the monthly “The Maccabean” after the resignation of Louis Lipsky and Weisgal. Weisgal then founded “The New Maccabean”, and soon switched to weekly publishing. Almost around the clock he and his colleagues were active. His journalistic commitment is seen as a significant contribution to the success of the Weizmann Group.  The Special Edition of “The New Maccabean” for the  establishing of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (March 1925) and that of the successor journal, “The New Palestine” for the 25th anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl (1929), gained important renommee and are highly coveted collectibles.

For the Herzl special edition Weisgal won authors like Martin Buber, Max Brod, Georges Clemenceau … etc. There was an address from Ferdinand I, King of Bulgaria too. Thanks to the internet, no news for today scholars, one does not have to make library-interlibrary loan to read in this meritorious publication. It’s instructive and delightful: Weisgal’s legendary Herzl-Edition


Weisgal hires Winston Churchill

Albert Einstein, Leon Blum, representatives of every Jewish association in Europe, Scholem Asch, Chaim Nachman-Bialik and many others took part in the Zionist Congress in 1929 in Zurich. Weisgal, of course, both as a delegate and as a journalist. After its official end, many participants had joined a stay in the spa towns of Marianske Lazne and Karlovy Vary. There they herad bad news:, The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (a Nazi friend) incited riots in which about 150 settlers were killed and considerable assets were destroyed. In Mariánské Lázně (Marienbad) a protest memorandum was formulated that Weisgal brought to Weizmann, who had already returned to London.

Back in New York, he felt an urgent need for an encouraging statement and heard that Winston Churchill was lecturing in California. So he telegraphed his request for an article and heard from his agent that he could have one for a dollar a word. Without asking anyone for permission he ordered 1000 words and received a fabulous text. He immediately offered it to the New York Times, which printed it at a prominent place.

On all sides, text and New York Times placements were praised until the bill came. The publisher and editor-in-chief Weisgal was told by the officials that he threw the money out the window. Who is this Churchill? May be, a former Chancellor of Exchequer of the British Empire, and, alright, a brilliant journalist and lecturer; but why spend $ 1,000 when any Zionist writer could have provided a similar text for five dollars?

Such questions, lack of momentum and élan, and some other reasons as well, led to Weisgal resigning as Secretary of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and publisher of “The New Palestine. At the end of 1929 he was sitting in his office, thinking about the next steps when a lady appeared and introduced herself as Rose Dunkelman. She came from Toronto, Canada, and wanted a capable editor for her newspaper. The new rabbi in Toronto did not care about Zionist goals; she wanted a qualified opposition, and Weisgal should recommend someone as capable as himself. “Can you recommend someone like you,” Ms. Dunkelman asked. And Weisgal replied,

With my usual restraint and modesty, I said: >Mrs. Dunkelman, there is no one like me; you can have the original if you like.< She was nonplussed, but she seemed to like the idea.”


Meyer Weisgal: …So Far, an autobiography, London 1971, pp 47-92