Elmer Berger, 88, A Foe of Zionism As Well as Israel
Rabbi Elmer Berger was president of American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism for over 50 years. During that time he refused to travel to Israel, saying he would do so only when Israel acknowledged its theft of Palestinian lands, allowed refugees who wanted to return to do so, and paid reparations to others for the land and property they had lost.
Rabbi Elmer Berger, a critic of Zionism and of the state of Israel.
From 1943 to 1967 he was executive director and then executive vice president of the American Council for Judaism, with headquarters in New York. The group was set up in 1942 to act in opposition to Zionism and to combat the founding of a Jewish state in what was then Palestine.
At the time, the council’s provisional chairman, Rabbi Louis Wolsey of Philadelphia, said it had ”the purpose of combating nationalistic and secularistic trends in Jewish life” and would seek to identify and define the Jew as a member of a religious community and nothing else.
Murray Polner, a historian of American Judaism, has written: ”The Council comprised wealthy, acculturated, Reform German Jews. By 1948, with the establishment of an independent Israel, the council had earned the enmity of the vast majority of American Jewry, who viewed the group as indifferent, if not hostile, to Jews who had lived through the Holocaust and had nowhere to go.” The organization is said to have had about 14,000 members in 1948.
In 1968, Rabbi Berger became president of American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism. He still held the post in 1990, when, in a letter to The New York Times, he contended that both Zionism and opposition to it ”are still very much with us, although they are now more often identified by different labels.”
His many writings included ”Memoirs of an Anti-Zionist Jew” (1976).
His wife, Ruth, died in 1979. He is survived by a sister, Adelaide Mendelsohn, of northern California.