Monsky, Henry

views updated


MONSKY, HENRY (Ẓevi ; 1890–1947), U.S. communal leader, organization executive, and lawyer. Monsky was born in Russia and taken as an infant to Omaha, Nebraska. Of Orthodox background, as a matter of principle he belonged to Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogues. In 1921 he founded the Omaha Community Chest and Welfare Federation, serving as its first vice president and later as president (1929); he was a trustee of Boys' Town, a member of the National Board of Community Chests and Council, Inc., president of the Nebraska Council of Social Work, and chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Conference of Prevention and Control of Juvenile Delinquency. Monsky was elected president of the Omaha lodge of B'nai B'rith in 1912 and eventually served as national president of the organization (1938–47). In 1941 he was invited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to plan for the Office of Civilian Defense.

A lifelong Zionist, Monsky succeeded in enlisting the support of non-Zionists in protests against the British White Paper, Cyprus internment, and restrictions of immigration to Palestine. On Dec. 8, 1942, he led a delegation of representatives of Jewish organizations to the White House to call Roosevelt's attention to the plight of the Jews of Europe and to request firm action against the Nazis. Monsky collaborated with Zionists as the principal organizer of the all-inclusive *American Jewish Conference of 1943 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at which the U.S. Jewish community endorsed the Zionist program of a Jewish commonwealth. In April 1945, as consultant to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Organizing Conference in San Francisco, he effectively helped influence the un leaders to guarantee the rights of any states or peoples living under international bodies such as the Palestine British Mandate. He testified before the 1946 Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry in favor of this demand and also served as a member of U.S. Attorney General Tom Clark's Juvenile Delinquency Board. Monsky's Jewish communal interests included leadership positions in the Council of Jewish Federation and Welfare Funds, the Joint Distribution Committee, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Jewish Welfare Board, the American Friends of the Hebrew University, and the United Palestine Appeal. A moshav in Israel, Ramat Ẓevi, is named in his memory.

[Benjamin Kahn]