Thursday, April 12, 2012

Readers Send a Picture from Rabbi Kook's Meeting at the White House

The caption reads "Central Relief Committee at the White House"
"Yitz" and "Menachem" sent the following comment and photograph:

I actually have an original of photo of Rabbi Kook and his committee including my Great-Grandfather who served as a translator outside the White House after meeting the President. I had never seen this image until recently when I found it among his son's possessions when I cleaned out his apartment.

Thank you Yitz and Menachem.  I'm not sure I can identify Rabbi Kook in the photo under any of the top hats.  If you have more photos please send them!  Please let us know who in the picture is your great-grandfather.

Was your grandfather Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum who played an important role in the meeting, according to this account?

At the meeting, Rav Kook thanked the President for his government’s support of the Balfour Declaration, and told him that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land will benefit not only the Jews themselves, but all mankind throughout the world. He quoted the Talmudic sages as saying that no solemn peace can be expected unless the Jews return to the Holy Land, and therefore their return is a blessing for all the nations of the earth. Rav Kook also expressed the gratitude of Jews throughout the world towards the American government for aiding in relief work during the war. He said that America has always shown an example of liberty and freedom to all, as written on the Liberty Bell, and that he hoped that the country will continue to uphold these principles and render its assistance whenever possible.

The speech, written in Hebrew, was delivered in English by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, executive secretary of the CRC. Rav Kook answered “Amen”, and explained that since he wasn’t fluent in English, he had Rabbi Teitelbaum read his message. By answering “Amen”, he indicated that he consented to every word that had been read. The President responded that the American government will be glad to assist Jews whenever possible. Before leaving Washington, Rabbis Kook and Teitelbaum held a meeting of local rabbis and community leaders to raise money for the Torah Fund.


  1. a) i don't think Rav Kook is there.

    b) Rav Kook's English was more than passable. He lived in London for three years and as the story goes, read the Bible in English on the train across Europe from Switzerland to take up his new position at Machzikei HaDat. We know from this site that he attended various events with British Mandatory authorities. He probably was hesitant about his accent.

  2. Our great-grandfather was Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum who served as translator even though Rav Kook spoke English perfectly well. My sense was he still felt a desire for someone who was more of a native English speaker than himself. Rabbi Teitelbaum who traveled with him extensively with him on this trip was a friend, intimate and distant relative of Rav Kook. He can be seen in the back row 3rd from the right and is the tallish gentleman with the black beard. I have been told that he was an excellent orator with a deep very polished speaking style. At one point as part of his work with the Near East relief Commission he received an American Naval Officers Commission so he could travel aboard an American battleship which apparently was forbidden to civilians. He was an American citizen though he was frequently on and off living in New York and Jerusalem as well as wandering the world on a variety of "shlichot" good works. He was a founder of the Joint Distribution Committee serving as its first Secretary as well Vaad Ha Hatzalah amongst other endeavors.

  3. The news story from JTA

    Rabbi Kook is not on the picture posted here, see link below for full details on the picture: