A history of zionism in Houston 1897-1975



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Zionism or Jewish nationalism is the attempt to secure for the Jewish people a national homeland. The terms Zionism and Jewish nationalism are misleading because Zionism differs from other nationalistic movements. Zionism is not only a modern secular movement in its goal of a political state for the Jewish people, but it is also a traditional religious movement in its messianic language and its Biblical roots. Zionism is not a monolithic movement, far from it. A large number of people from a variety of backgrounds representing differing ideologies compose the Zionist movement. They unite on only one goal, the establishment and continued existence of a homeland for the Jewish people. Any discussion of the growth of Jewish nationalism among Jews in modem times must be preceeded by an examination of its decline from its earlier peak in the sixth century B.C. The Jewish people were exiled from their country twice, once by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and again in 70 A.D. by the Romans. Even in the diaspora Judaism promoted nationalism, constantly reminding the Jew that Jerusalem was the focal point of his religion. Traditionally Judaism and Zionism were inseparable. The distinction between Zionism and Judaism developed in modern times from the concept of European secular nationalism. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries western European countries granted citizenship to their Jewish residents. For the first time it became possible for a Jew to be Jewish in his religion and French or German in his nationality. Both eastern and western European Jews in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries strove to solve the continuing problems of anti-Semitism. As a rule, eastern European Jews found their answer in Jewish nationalism while western European Jews found theirs in cultural assimilation. American Zionism before World War I closely resembled European Zionism, but later it developed a unique ideology. This thesis focuses on the development of the Houston Jewish community in the twentieth century and its interaction with the Zionist movement, including both supportive and opposition elements in the Jewish community. The reaction of the Houston Jewish community to Zionism was typical in many ways to that of other large southern Jewish communities. The most striking deviation was the ferocity of the resistance to Zionism by the German element of the Jewish community, which made Houston a national focal point of Jewish anti-Zionism in America. It was this resistance which dominates any discussion of Houston Zionism, not because of its breadth but because of its intensity. Houston became the epitome of Jewish opposition to Zionism. Any study of local history is futile without attempting to place local events and movements within their historical context. By integrating local history into the framework of world history, what might otherwise have passed as an isolated event often takes on greater significance. By viewing local occurrences as part of a national experience, the historian can compare events in different localities with each other as well as with the Gestalt. This thesis discusses Zionism in one community but necessarily deals with the Zionist movement as a whole. The first chapter deals with the World Zionism movement before 1917. A discussion of American Zionism follows in chapter two. These chapters, together with the social history of the Jewish community of Houston presented in chapter three, provide a framework for the body of the thesis, a history of the relationship between the Zionist movement and the Houston Jewish community both before and after 1948.



History, Texas, Houston (Tex.), Twentieth century, Zionism, Jewish nationalism