Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Leaders of Secular Zionism
6 Lectures

Item #: S319

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Item Description:

The Zionist movement, like all historic movements, was led and directed by people. People possess greatness and pettiness, faults and merits. This series of lectures presents an analysis of a number of the primary leaders of secular Zionism in the twentieth century. It provides fascinating details and judgments about them, all as seen through the prism of later Jewish history. Knowing about these people, their lives and the policies they formulated, provide insight into today's modern State of Israel and its internal and external struggles. History can only be understood by knowing about the people who made it. This is certainly true regarding the Zionist movement, with its accomplishments and disappointments.

Individual lectures:

Theodore Herzl - Though Herzl faced ardent criticism both during and after his lifetime, his dedication to the creation of a Jewish homeland cannot fail to impress. From his negotiations with emperors, kings, and world leaders to his attempts to unify warring factions within the Jewish people, he proved himself a superb diplomat. His life story, summarized in this gripping lecture, is full of irony, optimism, and uncannily accurate predictions of the future.

Max Nordau - Born to a religious family with the name "Simcha Sudfeld," Max Nordau left Judaism as a teenager and lived the life of a secular intellectual. Joining forces with Herzl in his middle age reconnected him to the Jewish people, and though he rose to prominence in the Zionism movement, his outspoken views also earned him enemies. Whether or not he deserved them is a matter for debate, but there can be no doubt that this complex man was a force to be reckoned with.

Chaim Weizman - The most triumphant diplomatic negotiations of Weizman's career gain a human angle in this captivating lecture. From the story of his personal friendship with Lord Balfour of England, we see his unselfish devotion to the Jewish people, and his eleventh-hour success in winning the support of President Truman is a testament to his diplomatic skill. Though he was not without opponents within the Zionist movement, there is much to admire about Weizman, the chemist turned statesman.

David Ben Gurion - A highly controversial figure until today, Ben Gurion shaped the modern State of Israel more than any individual leader in its history. An idealist with a fiercely pragmatic side, his long-standing political career was marked by outstanding achievements militarily and diplomatically. Rabbi Wein details these accomplishments and captures the commanding personality that was Israel's first Prime Minister.

Menachem Ussishkin - Of all the leaders in this series, Ussishkin had the most “traditional” background, and with his power of oratory, was able to be a peace-maker between the left and right wings of the Zionist movement. But when Herzl came up with the Uganda proposal, Ussishkin stood up as a strong opponent. With that story, as well as the stories of the birth of modern Hebrew and the compromise over shmitta, we get a picture of the accomplishments and values of the founder of the JNF.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky - Labeled as "the right winger" of the Zionist movement, Jabotinsky was an advocate of strong Jewish self-defense, a position he put into practice in the 1920's when the Arabs went on a rampage of rioting. This landed him on the outs with the established Zionist leaders, so he founded his own break-off movement. A genius caught in discordant times, his contribution to Israeli history cannot be denied.

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