The American Delegate(s)* at the First Zionist Congress Part 6

Posted on September 20th, 2017 by

Written by Avi Y. Decter. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel

Sidebar III: “The Time is Now!” – The Editor of Ha-Ivri Publishes a Diatribe

Missed the beginning? Start here.

The Ha'Ivri Masthead, August 1897. Courtesy of Yeshiva University, Mendel Gottesman Library.

The Ha’Ivri Masthead, August 1897. Courtesy of Yeshiva University, Mendel Gottesman Library.

In August 1897, Katriel Hirsch Sarasohn, the publisher of the Hebrew-language newspaper Ha-Ivri in New York City, used his lead article to attack the New York Hoveve Zion [Lovers of Zion] Society for failing to send a delegate to the first Zionist Congress, soon to convene in Basel, Switzerland. Sarasohn contrasted the commitment of the Baltimore Zion Association with the ineffectiveness of its New York counterpart and employed the embarkation of Rabbi Schepsel Schaffer as a club with which to beat New York’s Zionist leaders.

Sarasohn was a highly critical and contentious publisher. In 1892 he had printed an attack on Shavei Zion by S. W. Natelson, denouncing the leaders of New York’s Shavei Zion and Hoveve Zion organizations in such inflammatory terms that Adam Rosenberg, an officer of Shavei Zion, felt compelled to sue for libel. Rosenberg accused Sarasohn of “publishing the most scandalous libels against the officers of Hoveve Zion charging them with swindling, humbugging the poor and embessling the Society’s funds.” The case achieved sufficient notoriety to be reported in the New York Times, and Sarasohn appears to have been compelled to cease his attacks on Rosenberg.[1]

This document is notable not only for what it can tell us about the state of Zionist organization in New York and Baltimore on the eve of the Congress, but also for what it says about the role of personality and politics in the Zionist movement. Soon after the first Zionist Congress adjourned a new Federation of American Zionists was organized, giving the Zionist movement in America greater coherence nad strength. But debate, dissent, and conflict persisted nonetheless.

The article, Ha'Ivri, August 1897. Courtesy of Yeshiva University, Mendel Gottesman Library.

The article, Ha’Ivri, August 1897. Courtesy of Yeshiva University, Mendel Gottesman Library.

The Article (in translation)

The learned Rabbi Dr. Schaffer of Baltimore has been chosen as a trusted delegate by the Zion Association of that city to represent them at the Zionist Congress in Basel. This organization, by choosing to send this distinguished and beloved rabbi to the Congress, revealed both its good taste and its true love of Zion and its adherents; and, aside from the honor it will gain by being the only organization in America that will have its name mentioned among the participants in the Zionist Congress, it will also enjoy the honor bestowed upon it for choosing such a distinguished delegate, as our Sages said: “A man’s agent is a reflection of himself.”

Of all the nationalist [i.e. Zionist] organizations in our country – at least in name – only the Baltimore Zion Association has sent a special delegate as its representative to the Zionist Congress in Basel. Instead of bombarding the world with loud proclamations and fliers, only this group quietly discharged its responsibility and duty, while New York’s Hovevei Zion created a tempest in a teapot and blew its horn about the Zionist Congress, but, when the time came to send even one delegate, they were overwhelmed with the pangs of childbirth like those of a woman in labor who wasn’t strong enough to give birth, unable to collect $100 to send the delegate on his way and acting as if they hoped to be rewarded for talking and not doing.

Isn’t it a laugh and an amazement to all who hear it, that the Hovevei Zion in New York – the city with the largest Jewish population in the world – let such a small amount as $100 prevent their sending a representative to show their love and commitment to the national goal. Indeed, it is a heartbreaking joke, but the surprise quickly dissipates with the realization that in reality this organization barely exists. The truth is that it is almost extinct, fading from the world with only its name still inscribed on its charter, while a few individuals who lack the spirit of the real Hovevei Zion have appropriated its name to crown and adorn themselves.

We say “genuine Hovevei Zion” because it is our strong belief there are many true lovers of Zion in our city, particularly those who founded this organization, those who supported it when it was doing well, and those who were devoted with all their being to the national goal: however, they don’t want to be affiliated with this current organization, which they left and which has turned away from its purpose. Why don’t the nationalists [Zionists] in New York City create a new society of select members that is managed in better order?

Is it because Hovevei Zion did not turn out well and they saw its disintegration, making them fearful about launching a new society that is true to the cause? Even G-d created and destroyed many worlds until he built this world, which He saw was good. Experience from past failures will show them how to be more cautious in the future. Arise and unite all you in New York who are true and honest lovers of Zion, because the time of redemption is now!

~The End~


[1] Klausner, “Adam Rosenberg,” 25 lff. Sarasohn also carried on a lengthy feud with Wolf Schur, the publisher and editor of Ha-Pisgah. See Kabakoff, “The Role of Wolf Schur,” 431.

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Revolutionizing Experiences: Henrietta Szold’s First Visit to the Holy Land Part 3

Posted on August 21st, 2017 by

Letter by Henrietta Szold. Originally published in Generations 2007-2008: Maryland and Israel

Part III: Epilogue

Miss the beginning? Start here.

Despite Szold’s remark that her trip to Palestine would amount to nothing more than a “stimulating memory without much noticeable result in action,” both she and the letter’s recipient knew that something important had happened to her. Judge Sulzberger, recognizing the letter’s significance, returned it to her for safekeeping. She promptly sent it back to him, with this response, written February 24, 1910 (JMM 1995.206.2).


Dear Judge Sulzberger:

You are right, vanity (or self-consciousness) is next door neighbor to my humility. But I assue you, I did not remember how much emotion I put into the letter I wrote to you – I only remembered that it was the first I wrote about the Holy Land and the longest, and I supposed it to be the fullest of these accounts.

Now that I have seen it and some of those I wrote later on to others, I conclude that if it made itself worthy of a better fate than the waste basket, it must have been due somehow or other to the correspondent I was addressing.

Here is some more pride – outspoken pride. I have felt so complimented by your having kept it, that I am returning it to you in spite of your waiving your rights in it. I have made a copy of it, for I may want to use some of its points in a book, which I am inclined to think, will get itself written.


Yours very truly,

Henrietta Szold

In 1920 Henrietta Szold returned to Palestine, settling there for the rest of her life. JMM 1992.242.7.43b

In 1920 Henrietta Szold returned to Palestine, settling there for the rest of her life. JMM 1992.242.7.43b

~The End~

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JMM Insights: Welcome to the Team

Posted on August 18th, 2017 by

This month’s JMM Insights is from our newest team member, Lorie Rombro.

Hi! My name is Lorie Rombro and I am the JMM’s brand new archivist.

Hi! My name is Lorie Rombro and I am the JMM’s brand new archivist.

I have always enjoyed museums and, after college where I studied Archaeology and Anthropology, I went for a Masters in Museum Studies from George Washington University. That was an incredible experience; many of our classes were at the Smithsonian. Getting a chance to explore behind the scenes in the museums after they closed to the public really sparked my love of collections and archives.

I have spent the majority of my career until now working in historic house museums as well as assisting a donor in starting a museum in San Antonio, Texas.  My free time is spent with my husband, my two boys and our dog, Bowzer, which keeps me very busy!

The JMM Archives Room, where I've been spending a lot of my time!

The JMM Archives Room, where I’ve been spending a lot of my time!

This is my third week as the Archivist at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and so far this has been an amazing experience. I didn’t have a chance to physically see the JMM archives before I accepted the job, and now that I’ve had a chance to dive in I’m overwhelmed by just how much information is housed here! Our archives cover the rich and vibrant history of the Jews in Maryland, and there is a lot of it.

So I am exploring, which has always been one of my favorite parts of working in a museum. I am from Baltimore and, although I think I know my own history, I have been learning so much about the Jewish history of Maryland and the institutions, organizations and people who built our community.

So many things to see in our online collections!

So many things to see in our online collections!

As an explorer, of course I had to look up my own last name in the Past Perfect Collection Database (which is available online).   I wasn’t expecting to find anything, so I was pretty excited when a Bluefeld Caterers receipt from my father’s Bar Mitzvah in 1958 came up!  It seems like such a small thing but that one piece of paper led to an amazing conversation with my father.

A humble receipt leads to so much more!

A humble receipt leads to so much more!

My father showed me his Bar Mitzvah photo album, which I had never seen before. It was the first time I had ever seen a photo of his great grandmother and some of my own great grandparents. I learned more about my history from a catering receipt then I thought possible. It’s why preserving the past is so important and shows how much one piece of paper may mean to future generations. (Also as a parent of a 12 year old boy and planning a Bar Mitzvah myself I was really impressed with the $4 dollar a person catering price.)

I can’t wait to see what else I will discover as the archivist at the Jewish Museum of Maryland!

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