Thursday March 27, 2008
In the beginning, the Torah tells us, God created heaven and earth. The oceans were made to teem with life and the land blessed with seed-bearing fruit. God said,
Let there be light, and there was light.
This is a clean and efficient way to do business. God, notably, did not say, Let there be a modern Jewish state. The creation of that, 60 years ago, required immeasurable toil, guile, sacrifice and blood.
Many Bay Area men and women put their lives on the line for
There are countless stories.
Names, places and dates. It was Johnny Cash who sang Ive Been Everywhere, but
With startling alacrity, the 95-year-old Rossmoor resident rattles off the play-by-play from Zionist meetings on several continents or recalls long, windswept walks along the
It has been an improbable life for a man who would have been content simply carrying on his fathers
The entire Torczyner clan fled
And we made such a big mistake! he says. We had cousins who asked us to buy land on
Silver told Torczyner to join the Republican Party there were no Jews there. And that suited Torczyner fine. Along the walls of his flat are photographs of him in various stages of life with every major Republican figure from Sen. Robert Taft to President George H.W. Bush.
Silvers name is not as well known as the men and woman currently pictured on, say, Israeli currency. But the
It was Torczyner who oversaw the North American delegate election for the World Zionist Congress in December 1946. On the table were two courses of action: Should Israel declare statehood, or hold off in exchange for
This election was all about rounding up the most delegates. Torczyner had delivered the plurality of delegates to the plenum, and the vote went the ZOAs way: A declaration of Jewish statehood was recommended. The decision came at 4 a.m., and Torczyner still remembers how future Israeli President Chaim Weizmann and his moderates slumped off into the night after losing the day to Silver and David Ben-Gurion.
It was a major day in Torczyners life, and for more than the obvious reasons. Silver had said, Jacques, in your campaign for the World Zionist Congress, if you dont succeed, Ill chop your head off.
Yet the groundwork for a declaration of Israeli statehood and the inevitable war to follow was long in the making.
On July 1, 1945, Torczyner, Ben-Gurion and 16 others filed into the
For nearly seven hours, Ben-Gurion spoke. At the end of the day, the Haganah had been founded. Sonneborn would soon be running weaponry to
Ben-Gurion said something that nobody in
And he explained how we must be able to defend ourselves because dont forget,
Torczyner recalls walking the streets of
When asked where Kollek made his purchases, Torczyner gives a wicked grin.
I dont know, he didnt take me there. This was illegal, dont you forget.
On Nov. 29, 1947, Torczyner sat in the stands at a former skating rink in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., that had been converted into a United Nations building. By a vote of 33-13 with 10 abstentions, the U.N. voted
Let me tell you, I know we had the votes and Ill tell you why. On Thursday, it was Thanksgiving. On Wednesday, we didnt have the votes. So we forced the U.N. to observe Thanksgiving and because of the weekend, they postponed [the vote] until Saturday, he recalls.
Spotted a few days, Torczyner and his ZOA allies began working individual delegates. When asked what methods of persuasion they employed, he grins again.
I wont tell you. I dont want to corrupt you. But the only way for some of them you know how.
He rests on his couch, surrounded by books and maps and photos of Silver, Weizmann and Ben-Gurion. His more youthful self stares out from many of the photos as well.
I think I can tell you that this was a historic moment in Jewish history. So I was part of Jewish history, he says with a nod.
And now, 60 years later, I am worried about the future.