The 1939 New York World’s Fair was an exciting moment for the world at large. It was a work of optimism whose planning took place in the midst of the Great Depression and was intended to make people see how bright the future could be. It was a counterweight to the mushrooming gloom about the likelihood of war. It converted a garbage dump in Flushing Meadows into a glowing display of man’s progress in science, technology and industry. Actually, it was the first world exposition showcasing what the future could be.
Albert Einstein gave a speech at the opening ceremonies. The Fair also showed the diversity of humanity through more than 60 national pavilions. One of them was for Jewish Palestine, profiling life in British Mandatory Palestine.
While the Fair lasted only two years, it left an enduring legacy. The enthusiasm it generated carried over the decades and New York City staged another world exposition, the 1964 World’s Fair, at the same site. But the legacy of optimism and a can-do philosophy also clung to the site. The newly formed United Nations used the site for its General Assembly meeting before its showcase headquarters building was completed in Manhattan. It used the old New York City pavilion, the only 1939 World Fair building not demolished, which after 1940 had been converted into an ice skating rink.
Many historic moments occurred in the UN General Assembly during its years at Flushing Meadow. The 70th anniversary of one of these moments just passed. On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted for the partition of Mandatory Palestine and the establishment of what came to be known as Israel. It was an unlikely outcome. Up until the last , one of the Great Powers whose assent was necessary - the Soviet Union - had been opposed to the creation of Israel. With Cold War animosities rapidly worsening, it seemed unlikely that the US and the USSR could agree on creating a Jewish State. But Fate was kind to the Zionist efforts. The vote was warmly celebrated by Jews and supporters of the Zionist cause throughout the world. In many ways, it was a miracle - like Chanukah It could have turned out another way. Supporters knew they were skating on thin ice in the former ice skating rink.
Imagine listening by radio on November 29, 1947 to the roll call vote. Imagine how those in Mandatory Palestine or those Holocaust survivors in the Displaced Person (DP) camps in Central Europe heard the broadcasted proceedings. Eight days after the UN vote, the first candle for Chanukah was lit. Its celebration in 1947 took on a new level of meaning.
Chanukah is a time of wonder and light. It is also a time for thanks and recognition of the miracles big and small in our lives. The IJC will celebrate Chanukah on Saturday December 16th. Details are provided in this newsletter. Please join us.