Peter Bergson was a pseudonym. It was the name chosen by Hillel Kook, a nephew of the great rabbi and first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook. Hillel Kook changed his name in order to protect his family and to preserve the reputation of the illustrious rabbi.
Bergson was a 20th century hero, and a militant. Peter and his “boys” — all fervent believers in the Jewish cause and dedicated to a Jewish homeland — left Palestine and came to the United States with the intention of raising money for a Jewish battalion within the Allied forces in order to help fight the Nazis.
The Nazi effort escalated while Bergson and his boys were in the United States. When the news of the mass murder of the Jews of Europe reached them, Bergson decided to change his mission. Now his purpose was to influence American Jewry to save European Jewry.
Rather than rally by his side, the majority of Jewish leadership in the United States did not want to make waves. American Jewry was so shocked by Bergson’s tactics that they even attempted to have him deported back to Palestine. But Bergson was tenacious; he refused to give up. He organized protests and staged pageants to draw attention to the plight of Europe’s Jews. He enlisted the help of Ben Hecht, one of Hollywood’s greatest screen writers, and took out full-page ads in major newspapers.
This work is long overdue. The Bergson Boys deserve to be lauded. Author Judith Tydor Baumel tells a tale of heroism, a story of young men who dared to challenge the establishment and who helped bring the plight of Europe’s Jews to the public eye.
Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Terror, and maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com.