First Zionist Congress: Introduction (04:22)
After publishing "The Jewish State," Theodor Herzl organized a worldwide conference. Dr. Daniel Polisar discusses why Herzl chose to continue leading the project. Alternatives included letting others take over, deepening his ideas, or responding to criticisms of his book.
First Zionist Congress Invitees (03:40)
Herzl invited Hovevei Zion members and non-Jews; most prominent Western Jews chose not to attend. Max Nordau gave a keynote speech. Although he lacked Jewish leaders, Herzl created the impression that attendees were forming a political base for Jewish statehood.
First Zionist Congress Agenda Highlights (03:07)
Attendees discussed anti-Semitism, Edmond de Rothschild's sponsorship of settlements in Palestine, and how to phrase the call for a Jewish homeland in the Basel platform.
What Next? (03:56)
Many Eastern Jews supported Herzl's "The Jewish State." The publication's success created a dilemma of how best to proceed in building a movement. In this lecture, Polisar will examine Herzl's strategic environment, decision-making, and consequences of the First Zionist Congress.
After Publication of "The Jewish State" (05:32)
Herzl's work was translated into key languages. He received invitations to address student groups and met with individuals interested in supporting the movement, including Grand Duke Frederick I. He also began diplomatic relations with the Ottomans and met the Grand Vizier.
Proposing a Zionist Congress (02:26)
Hibbat Zion had organized a Jewish conference upon foundation. Student groups in Vienna and Galicia called on Herzl to follow their example.
Herzl's Strategic Dilemma: Step Aside (02:44)
Herzl had indicated that his role was to raise the idea of sovereignty; Jewish people would carry it out if they desired. However, he could not relinquish leadership due to pride and concern that others would not meet his standards.
Deepen Ideas (02:01)
Herzl could have decided to continue writing about "The Jewish State," including refuting criticism. However, he had time constraints and worried that the movement might suffer under the wrong leadership.
Engage in Diplomacy (01:49)
Herzl was already meeting with senior officials in the Ottoman and German empires, but had not yet established a Jewish support base to represent.
Why a Zionist Congress? (02:28)
Holding a conference would increase message effectiveness, create an international movement, and increase Herzl's diplomatic influence. However, conference attendees and outcomes were unpredictable.
First Zionist Congress Challenges (05:44)
Most of Herzl’s attendees were Russian Jews who feared harassment by Russian authorities. Zurich was a haven for Russian revolutionaries; Berlin's Jewish community opposed the conference. Herzl moved location to Basel. Despite ideological differences, he formed an alliance with Hovevei Zion.
First Zionist Congress Details (04:00)
Herzl founded Zionist newspaper "Die Welt" for publicity. The conference was planned for Elul, the Jewish month of repentance. Polisar reads from Herzl's announcement calling on Russian Jews and assuring their safety from the Russian government.
The First Zionist Congress (03:26)
Approximately 70 of 200 participants represented Zionist organizations; the remainder were allies or journalists. Drawing on his dramatist background, Herzl rented a Basel concert hall and required formalwear. His opening speech stated the conference mission was to found the Jewish state.
First Zionist Congress Consequences (05:01)
Participants decided to convene an annual Zionist conference and form committees to work toward goals. Herzl was elected movement leader. Polisar cites the Basel Program goals and discusses Herzl's compromise on language around Jewish settlements in Palestine.
First Zionist Congress Impact (05:15)
Herzl privately wrote that he founded the Jewish state at Basel. He saw this as an abstract entity and national consciousness, rather than a territory. Publicly, he expressed the existence of a Jewish power base working toward a homeland.
Meeting Challenges of Establishing a Jewish State (02:06)
Polisar explains that the First Zionist Congress confirmed the existence of a national Jewish consciousness, began institution building by creating the Society of Jews, and provided Herzl with a political entity for diplomatic purposes.
First Zionist Congress Takeaway (03:53)
Herzl believed he had founded the Jewish state in terms of national consciousness. Additionally, he established an annual conference with actions committees and gained a political entity to use in diplomatic relations.
Credits: The First Zionist Congress and the Establishment of the State-in-the-Making (00:08)
Credits: The First Zionist Congress and the Establishment of the State-in-the-Making
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