The Political World of American Zionism

By Samuel Halperin | Go to book overview

2
american zionism in its world setting, 1929-48

Only fifteen years after many of its leaders viewed American Zionism as moribund and ineffectual, a muchpublicized "Zionist-steam-roller" was advancing with inexorable momentum toward its goal. In place of the 18,031 paid Zionist Organization of America members in 1929, there were approximately 250,000 in 1948. Instead of $2,000,000 remitted to Palestine in 1929, almost $100,000,000 was volunteered in 1948. Sympathetic expressions and material assistance for the Zionist goal were given in every sector of the community. Virtually every formerly hostile and neutralist national organization was constrained to move into a working alliance with the Zionists on a practical, if not on an ideological, basis.

The chronicling and explanation of these changes is the task of this book. But first we shall attempt an overall, historical view of some of the major events contributing to the eventual emergence of an American Jewish community so favorably disposed toward the Zionist program in Palestine. We shall reconstruct as far as possible the social context, the tone and temper of American Jewry as it was constantly modified by the effects of external events and threats to the Jewish people. In this way, we may be able to glimpse certain tendencies to action which existed in significant sectors of the American Jewish community. The admittedly impressionistic historical survey which follows is not offered as an exact and certain guide to the thinking of American Jewry one to three decades in the past. Rather, it is intended as a supplement to, and partial explanation of, the marked changes in Jewish attitudes toward Zionism to be studied more intensively in forthcoming chapters.

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