Abba Hillel Silver

  • Issue: March 1981
  • Designer: A. van Ooijen
  • Stamp size: 25.7 x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 12
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Photolithography

Abba Hillel Silver personified the decisive political contribution of American Jewry to the State of Israel's struggle for independence. He was a Jewish statesman who earned his place in history through his work in mobilising the support of America and the rest of the world for the restoration of Jewish sovereignty.

Abba Hillel Silver was born in Lithuania intheyear 1893. From his youth he was an active Zionist in New York, where his parents settled when he was 10 years old. Even before the first World War he belonged to the group, headed by Judge Louis Brandeis, whose members were committed to the idea of the revival of the Jewish nation. He soon earned a name for himself as an impassioned orator. From 191 7 until his death in 1963 he was a Reform Rabbi in Cleveland, Ohio, where he devoted himself to working for religious and social causes, Never ceasing to emphasise the importance of Jewish nationhood within the framework of the American melting pot - in striking contrast with the attitude of most of his fellow Reform Rabbis of those days. He had a well-developed political sense and was one of the first to oppose the prevalent policy of the Jewish leaders' offering their one-sided support to the Democratic party, being a convinced Republican on both pragmatic and idealistic grounds.

During the critical years between 1938 and 1948 he held important positions both in the life of the community and in Zionist circles, including the Presidencies of the Zionist Organization of America, the United Jewish Appeal and the Rabbinical Council. His outspoken opposition to the policy of "restraint", the manner in which he stood up for his opinions, his support of the Jewish underground movement, his uncompromising demands for the termination of the British mandate and for the establishment of a Jewish state involved him in stormy debates with the more moderate and less activist members of the Zionist movement, and on two occasions he went so far as to resign out of protest.

It was during the second World War that Abba Hillel Silver put forward the idea of transferring the centre of Zionist political activity from London to New York and proved the correctness of his view that it was vital to mobilise the resources of the millions of American Jews and to exploit to the full their political influence at this time when the opportunity of realising Herzl's vision presented itself.

The most dramatic moment in the life of this diplomat-fighter came on May 8th, 1947, when, as president of the Jewish Agency Executive in New York, he appeared before the United Nations on behalf of world Jewry. But for him, his impressive appearance before the international forum was not the end of the road - the main fight still lay ahead. As the fateful day of November 29th approached, he took upon himself the heavy burden of lobbying the members of both parties in the United States Congress, the Administration, waverers in the Jewish camp and delegates to the United Nations.

His friend Dr. Emmanuel Neumann had this to say about the results of Abba Hillel Silver's political fight "Were it not for the War of Independence, the State of Israel would never have come into being; but without the international seal of approval represented by the victory in the General Assembly, the war might have continued indefinitely". The credit for ensuring a majority in that crucial vote will always be remembered as the outstanding achievement of Abba Hillel Silver's personal and political life.

Kefar Silver was established 25 years ago by the Zionist Organization of America as an agricultural school for children of settlers and for pupils who came from all parts of the Jewish world to live in Israel. The institution has expanded over the years and has recently been converted into a comprehensive 6-year agricultural school with some 600 pupils, one half of whom are boarders. The school consists of two streams - academic and technical - and boasts well-equipped laboratories and workshops.

Kefar Silver has a large farm which is wholly maintained by the pupils. The broad social education provided for the pupils includes enrichment courses and student councils in the spirit of the Jewish and Zionist teachings of Abba Hillel Silver.

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Abba Hillel Silver