Gary Schubach, Ed.D.
I recently came into possession of several letters, written in 1938, to my grandfather, Rabbi Joseph Jasin (1883-1968), by a group called NAI Judah, whose objective was “to unite the Jews of the world into one movement; to secure an undisputed territory for a sovereign Jewish State.” These letters indicate a passionate interest by prominent Americans in the evacuation of European Jews to a Jewish state to be located in Baja California. Three settlements were actually built and I also found photographs showing young men undergoing paramilitary training.
My Grandfathers Letters
My grandfather was a real hero to me. He was an imposing man of great presence and wisdom. In addition to being a Rabbi, he had a Ph.D. in Philosophy and was a practiced magician. He was a man of goodwill and of universal brotherhood. He was equally comfortable in a Mosque, Buddhist temple or Catholic church and took me to all of them. He was a Reform Rabbi in the early years of Reform Judaism in the U.S. and yet was a fervent Zionist, and served from 1908 to 1910 as the full-time secretary of the Federation of American Zionists. Zionism was not popular among Reform Jews at that time and I never could understand his seeming inconsistency.
In terms of NAI Judah and the establishment of Jewish settlements in the 1930’s in Baja California, I have not been able to find any other documentation, other than these letters and photos. Wikipedia’s Proposals for a Jewish state page does not mention Baja California, although it does document a number of other efforts to locate a Jewish homeland in places other than Palestine.
While it is an interesting mind exercise to think about “what if”, the reality is that Israel is located in Palestine and there are still catastrophic possibilities for Israel and the whole world unless Israel can find a way to make peace with the Arab Palestinians.
To me, the problem comes down to the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a substantial minority of Israelis believe that the West Bank of the Jordan River, which they refer to as Judea and Samaria, belongs to Israel and should be annexed. I have no idea what they plan to do with the 5,000,000 Arab inhabitants, but the only logical conclusion to this folly would seem to ultimately be ethnic cleansing and a nuclear Holocaust that would follow.
The idea that Israeli settlements might exist in the middle of an independent Palestinian State is foolish. Our experience with the American Indians, as well as in other foreign settlement situations within a sovereign state or territory, is that it is a set-up for trouble between the locals and the settlers, with the army (the IDF in this case) ultimately needed to protect the settlers.
I recently became aware of a new documentary film, The Gatekeepers, in which six living former Shin Bet (Israel’s secret service) chiefs recount their long war on terrorism, call it and the Israeli occupation of Judea and Samaria a failure and advocate peace talks.
In conclusion, I believe that as Jews, God has given us a special obligation to be fair and just with the Palestinians. This a critical moral test for us, with dire consequences if we fail.