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TLS Raising “Zionist Sheckels” for “Our Holy Cause”

Item: 22989
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HERZL, THEODOR. (1860-1904). Hungarian-born, Austrian Jewish writer; founder and leader of the organized Zionist movement. Printed Letter Signed. (“Herzl”) and countersigned by the secretary, Austrian Zionist politician and lawyer DR. OSER KOKESCH (1855-1905). 1p. 4to. Vienna, August 30, 1900. Circular letter (“Circular No. I.”) addressed to his colleagues. In German with translation.

Experience has shown that in the first period after the Congress our comrades are in a better mood and more suitable for work for our holy cause than usual; however, this favorable period has so far been used poorly or not at all. The collection of shekels and donations, as well as the agitation for the Bank’s shares, began much later. It is time for things to change. As a result of the delayed collection of the shekel and the transfer of the same to the Centralcasse, we were forced in the early days to take on a floating debt (operating fund) mainly for discrete expenses, but also to cover the necessary agitation and administrative costs. On August 31 of this year, we must pay an installment of this debt in the amount of 12,000 crowns. We will then have very little left for further business. If we continue to work at our present slow pace, we may be forced to suspend our activities for lack of the necessary funds. We therefore ask you to do everything in your power to ensure that this time the shekel collection is started immediately and that the incoming sums are sent to us every month. Should you not be sufficiently provided with shekel paper, i.e., shekel and donation blocks, we kindly ask you to inform us of your wishes in this regard, stating exactly to whom such blocks are to be sent…”

Herzl photo

Theodor Herzl

As the Paris correspondent for the Neue Freie Presse, Herzl was deeply affected by the infamous Dreyfus Affair, the 1894 conviction and exile of an innocent Jewish army officer, which Herzl covered for his paper. As a firsthand 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 founding 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,” and it is to these financial matters that our letter refers (Israel: A History, Gilbert). Written two weeks after the end of the Fourth Zionist Congress in London.

In 1898, the Zionist Congress began fund raising by issuing certificates known as “shekels” to donor members. The number of Zionist shekels issued dictated the number of delegates each country was allotted.

With an ink stamp of the Action Committee in the bottom margin and in fine condition.

TLS Raising “Zionist Sheckels” for “Our Holy Cause”

$950 • item #22989

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