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Letter as Chairman of the Zionist Action Committee Mentioning Tschlenow, Ussischkin and Mandelstamm

Item: 22799
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HERZL, THEODOR. (1860-1904). Hungarian-born, Austrian Jewish writer; founder and leader of the organized Zionist movement. TLS. (“Herzl”). Written as Chairman of the Zionist Action Committee to his colleagues. Additionally signed by Herzl’s close associate, Austrian Zionist politician and lawyer OSER KOKESCH (1855-1905, “Kokesch”), as secretary of the Zionist Action Committee. 1½pp. 4to. On two sheets. Vienna, March 15, 1901. A circular letter in German with translation.

“The ‘United Bureau of the Russian Confidence Team of the J.C.T.’ sends us the following letter: ‘Warsaw, March 10, 1901. To the reputable five-member committee of the Supervisory Board of Vienna. As a result of a copy of the decisions of a recent conference of Russian members of the A.C. held in Odessa, we allow ourselves to remark ad punctum II ‘All members of the A.C.’, etc.: It is impossible to let the members of the A.C. act as trustees of the bank. Firstly, because these gentlemen would also be heavily used in party matters anyway and would not be able to promote the interests of the bank with their best efforts. Then and mainly, the most important members of the A.C. are not banking professionals and lack this special knowledge and routine. As much as they may otherwise be respected today, it is very doubtful whether they would offer the world, the great masses, the necessary confidence, the indispensable safety in banking matters. As proof of the correctness of our words, we may mention the fact that when we had applied for Dr. Tschlenow to represent the Moscow Rayon [an administrative district in Moscow], he refused, expressly for lack of time to entrust the Urysohn brothers’ bank. But if it is only a question of members of the A.C. being on the trust team, then there are already 2 on it, namely Mr. Mandelstamm and Mr. Ussischkin. A paragraph could still be inserted in the ‘Statutes for the Russian Confidence Team,’ stating: “In places which are at the same time the seat of a trustee and a member of the A.C., the latter is a member of the Bank Commission,” as this has already been introduced in Warsaw.’

We would like to ask you to express your opinion and to sign. With special respect and Zion’s greeting…”

Herzl portrait

Theodor Herzl

As the Paris correspondent for the Neue Freie Presse, Herzl was strongly affected by the infamous Dreyfus Affair, the 1894 conviction and exile of an innocent Jewish army officer, which Herzl covered for his paper. As an eye-witness to the rise of anti-Semitism in France, Herzl wrote The Ghetto, a drama that focused on Jewish-Christian relations, and it was during this same period that he became committed to the formation of a Jewish state. His most influential work, Der Judenstaat, a practical outline for the realization of a Jewish homeland, was published in early 1896. His ideas were eagerly embraced, and the First Zionist Congress met in Basel in 1897, where it established the World Zionist Congress under Herzl’s direction. The congress also created the Jewish Colonial Bank, incorporated in London the following year, to amass the necessary capital for establishing a Jewish homeland through the National Fund. “It was to take more than three years before the share capital was sufficiently subscribed by Jews from all over the world for the bank to begin operation. To ensure maintenance of political control, founder shares were held by the World Zionist Organization. Herzl headed the list of the bank’s council members,” (Israel: A History, Gilbert). It is to these financial matters that our letter refers. Written the same year that the Fifth Zionist Congress organized the Jewish National Fund to purchase land in Palestine.

In the same way that French antisemitism galvanized Herzl, the ongoing pogroms against Russian Jews led them to embrace Ḥibbat Zion, the Lovers of Zion movement that preceded Zionism. As Herzl made contact with Jews all over the world, “he was particularly energetic in persuading the Lovers of Zion, with their more modest aims of settlement in Palestine without sovereignty,” (Israel, Gilbert).

Among the supporters of Ḥibbat Zion was Jehiel Tschlenow (Yefim Vladimirovich) (1863-1918), a Ukrainian physician from Moscow who, after representing Ḥibbat Zion at the Second Zionist Congress, was elected vice president of the Zionist Organization. Beginning in 1908, he headed the Zionist Movement in Moscow and was a board member of the Jewish Colonial Trust. Tschlenow later participated in the negotiations that led to the Balfour Declaration.

Menachim Ussishkin (1863-1941) was one of the founders of Bilu, an outgrowth of Ḥibbat Zion and the first modern Aliyah movement whose goal was the agricultural settlement of Palestine. After serving as secretary of the First Zionist Congress, he vigorously opposed Herzl’s plan to establish a Jewish homeland in Uganda. Ussishkin fled the 1917 Russian Revolution for London and became a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference. He made his Aliyah to Palestine in 1919, where he soon became head of the Zionist Commission in Palestine. From 1923 until his death, Ussishkin led the Jewish National Fund during which time he acquired major tracts of land for Eretz Yisrael.

Russian physician Max Emmanuel Mandelstamm (1839-1912) was a founding member of the Ḥibbat Zion movement and later became such a close associate of Herzl and prominent Zionist that he inspired Herzl’s fictional depiction of the first president of a Jewish state in his 1902 utopian novel Altneuland. A supporter of emigration as the solution to the persecution of Jews in Russia, Mandelstamm supported the Uganda Scheme as well as a plan to relocate Russian Jews to Galveston, Texas.

Folded with staining and wear. In very good condition.

Letter as Chairman of the Zionist Action Committee Mentioning Tschlenow, Ussischkin and Mandelstamm

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