What I keep thinking of on the 65th anniversary of the Founding of the Jewish state is a phrase Ariel Sharon used to offer to his friends in the diaspora. Israel, he would say, is a “world wide project of the Jewish people.” It was his way of welcoming. As the anniversary nears, I’ve been re-reading the diaries of Herzl and essays of Jabotinsky and enjoying both their personalities that have done so much to inspirit the state they envisioned.
It happens that this week I am also putting the finishing touches on my biography of the Founding Editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, Abraham Cahan. It includes a telling of the events in the spring of 1940, when Jabotinsky gave, at the Manhattan Opera House, his speech calling for the evacuation of 6 million Jews to Palestine from Europe. He was promptly mocked in a column by Cahan. It filled a full page of the Forward, and Cahan sneered that Jabotinsky knew nothing of practical problems.
My own sense of it is that Cahan knew he was wrong even as he wrote those words. When, four months later, Jabotinsky died, Cahan couldn’t find any of his senior staff willing to go to the funeral. He assigned a youngster. Then he sat down in his own office to write the editorial that began by asserting the death of Jabotinsky, at such a grim time for the Jewish people, was “ in the true sense of the word, a national catastrophe.”
He proceeded to laud Jabotinsky as a person, a writer, and an orator. When Jabotinsky spoke, Cahan wrote, “even the deaf could hear.” What has always struck me about that editorial was Cahan’s prediction that Jabotinsky would be missed not only then, “in the middle of the storm,” but “also later, when the storm is over and the time comes to heal the wounds and rebuild Jewish life on new foundations in a new time.”
How prophetic those sentiments were. And how much fans of AFSI appreciate the work it is doing—its programs, its yahrzeit gatherings for Jabotinsky, its celebration of the writings and life of Shmuel Katz, and its publication of the Outpost. I believe I have read, front to back, every issue that’s reached me. So on this anniversary I send this note of congratulations and appreciation, which I look forward to conveying personally the next time we get together, in either New York or Jerusalem.
Seth Lipsky is founder and editor of The New York Sun. It ceased its print edition in September 2008 but continues as an online publication.