Ben Gurion Blaustein Agreement

In the years following the establishment of the State of Israel, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion repeatedly expressed his desire to see young American Jews immigrate to Israel. Ben-Guion`s statements gave rise to a public dispute with Jacob Blaustein, chairman of the American Jewish Committee, which was eventually resolved by the Blaustein Ben Gurion agreement. This agreement established that Alija`s option “is left to the discretion of every American Jew himself; It is a matter of his own free will. The memory of these developments was still fresh in 1951, when Hayim Greenberg gave the speech from which the following excerpt is taken before the twenty-third World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem. Greenberg has publicly called on the Zionist movement and American Jews to reconsider the nature of the relationship between Israel and America, as well as the place of the Jewish state in modern Jewish life. To make his point of view clear – and in an ironic turn given his role as head of the Jewish Agency`s Department of Education and Culture – he deliberately spoke Yiddish before the Zionist Congress. The first agreement between the AJC and the State of Israel was reached in 1950 following a series of exchanges of letters between AJC President Jacob Blaustein and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Blaustein Ben-Gurion`s deal centered on the fact that Israel would do nothing to intrude into American Judaism, attempt to serve as authority for world Judaism, question the political loyalty of American Jews to the United States, or demand large-scale immigration of American Jews to Israel. For his part, Blaustein agreed that American Jews would continue to support Israel, but that they would not interfere in Israeli politics or internal politics. This agreement was reconfirmed in 1956 and 1961. For the AJC, the agreement has become a federal document, a declaration of mutual responsibility and respect between the world`s two greatest Jews. The seriousness of Ben-Gurion`s deal is probably more controversial.

The late Charles Liebman cited the deal as perhaps the first successful example of Diaspora Jewish pressure on Israel.13 Ben-Gurion reportedly joked as he then addressed Blaustein`s son-in-law, David Hirshhorn, saying, “Nude, David – When will you come to live in Israel?” 14 Nevertheless, during that decade, American Jews seemed to be separating themselves from Israeli politics on several fronts, even though they were defending Israel on the international stage. As early as the 1970s, there were serious disagreements over Soviet Jewish immigration. Soviet Jews who left the USSR on Israeli visas, but chose to settle in the United States, became known as Noshrim (abandoned). Israel claimed that American Judaism was unfairly competing with it by offering Soviet Jewish immigrants benefits that went far beyond what they had in Israel. Jewish-American-Jewish leaders, especially Jewish associations, insisted on maintaining freedom of choice for immigrants, where they were to settle. The AJC, which was the most prestigious among Jewish organizations, reported that the jewish-American secular elites were now wholeheartedly with Israel.