Back to course catalogue

Golda Meir: Speech to the Assembly of the Jewish Federations

Date: February 4th
Time: 7:00 PM EST
This seminar is now closed.

On January 22, Meir flew to New York, landing in a snowstorm. Shortly afterwards,
she met with Henry Montor, the executive director of the United Jewish Appeal, the
major fundraising organization of American Jewry, and together they decided she
should attend the annual General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations,
which was to be held in Chicago two days later. Palestine was not on the agenda of
the Assembly, which was dominated by the routine issues of inter-faith relations and
the situation within the Jewish federations. At the last moment Montor was able to
get Meir included, but she was warned to make a short speech, not to be emotional,
and not to make demands. In her characteristically independent fashion, she spoke
at length (though without any notes), gave an emotional speech, and made
enormous demands, telling her listeners they needed to provide at least $25
million—an astronomical sum at the time—to ensure that the Jews would win the
war and establish a state. Montor, in describing the effect of her speech, said that
“Sometimes things occur, for reasons you don’t know why. You don’t know what
combination of words has done it, but an electric atmosphere generates. People are
ready to kill somebody or to embrace each other. And that is still vivid in my mind,
that particular afternoon…She had swept the whole conference.”

That speech had an enormous impact on the listeners, and since they headed the
Jewish federations around the United States, they in turn played a crucial role in
bringing Meir to their communities and assisting her in raising funds. Within a
month she had secured $25 million, a week later she had commitments for $30
million, and by the time she came back to Israel in mid-March after a whirlwind,
two-month visit, she had raised $50 million, double the seemingly impossible target
she had set. This money was crucial as it was used to purchase weapons, especially
from the Soviet Union’s satellite, Czechoslovakia, which played a decisive impact on
battles as early as April. A second visit in May and June yielded an additional $50
million. Meeting her shortly after her return to Israel from the first trip, whose
success stemmed in large measure from her speech in Chicago, Ben-Gurion told her:
“Someday when history will be written, it will be said that there was a Jewish
woman who got the money which made the state possible.”

-Dan Polisar

Excerpt:

“You cannot decide whether we should fight or not. We will. The Jewish
community in Palestine will raise no white flag for the Mufti. That decision is
taken. Nobody can change it. You can only decide one thing: whether we shall be
victorious in this fight or whether the Mufti will be victorious. That decision
American Jews can make. It has to be made quickly within hours, within days.

And I beg of you—don’t be too late. Don’t be bitterly sorry three months from
now for what you failed to do today. The time is now.

I have spoken to you without a grain of exaggeration. I have not tried to paint the
picture in false colors. It consists of spirit and certainty of our victory on the one
hand, and dire necessity for carrying on the battle on the other.”

Full text of speech.