Dr. Israel Goldstein (1896-1986), a Conservative rabbi, served as president of the Synagogue Council of America, and co-chairman of the American Jewish Conference, during the Holocaust years.
Although Goldstein was close to Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, he sometimes took a more forthright stance than Wise on policy issues. At meetings of the Joint Emergency Committee for European Jewish Affairs in the spring of 1943, Goldstein urged his colleagues to press their “maximum demands” in their contacts with U.S. officials. Goldstein was the first mainstream Jewish leader to publicly criticize the outcome of the Bermuda conference, denouncing it as “not only a failure, but a mockery.”
Under Goldstein’s leadership, the Synagogue Council of America carried out a nationwide campaign, in April and May 1943, intended to galvanize protests by Jewish communities. Based on proposals by a group of Jewish Theological Seminary rabbinical students, the Synagogue Council provided several thousand local rabbis with materials for educational programs to raise public awareness of the plight of Europe’s Jews and the need for U.S. rescue action.
In his address at the American Jewish Conference in August 1943, Goldstein charged that American Jews, in responding to news of the mass killings, “have not been stirred deeply enough, have not exercised ourselves passionately enough, have not risked enough of our convenience and our social and civic relations, have not been ready enough to shake the bonds of so-called amicability in order to lay our troubles upon the conscience of our Christian neighbors…”