A Eulogy for Theodor Herzl

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Israel Zangwill on Herzl.
from an article in the Jewish Herald, Houston, Texas,
dated October 16, 1908





Israel Zangwill was an English humorist and writer. He was born in London on January 21, 1864 to a family of Jewish immigrants from Czarist Russia (Moses Zangwill from what is now Latvia and Ellen Hannah Marks Zangwill from what is now Poland). He dedicated his life to championing the cause of the oppressed.

Zangwill wrote a very influential novel Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People (1892). The use of the metaphorical phrase "melting pot" to describe American absorption of immigrants was popularized by Zangwill's play The Melting Pot, a hit in the United States in 1908 – 1909.

Theodor Herzl was an Austro-Hungarian journalist and the father of modern political Zionism.

In April 1896, in Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews) Herzl wrote:

"The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. Wherever it does not exist, it is brought in together with Jewish immigrants. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution. This is the case, and will inevitably be so, everywhere, even in highly civilised countries—see, for instance, France—so long as the Jewish question is not solved on the political level. The unfortunate Jews are now carrying the seeds of anti-Semitism into England; they have already introduced it into America."


On July 3, 1904 Theodor Herzl passed away in Edlach, Austria-Hungary at the age of forty-four. He was subsequently buried at the Döblinger Friedhof (Döbling Cemetery) on July 7. On August 16, 1949 his body was disinterred, reburied in Jerusalem on Mount Herzl.

Here is the transcript of the eulogy given in London by orator Israel Zangwill the day of Herzl's funeral.

At the memorial meeting held in the Great Assembly Hall, London, on Thursday, July 7, the day when Herzl was laid to rest, Israel Zangwill, who was the principal orator, spoke as follows:

"This summer we had confidently expected to see our beloved leader upon this platform. This very night he might have been speaking to us. And this morning he was buried. Buried at the age of forty-four, in the prime of his princely manhood! But is there one of us who cannot see him upon this platform? He has not broken his word. He is with us, speaking to every heart; he will never leave us again. Nicht gestorben weil unsterblich--not dead because undying. Of Moses we are told that no man knew the place of his sepulcher. And who can say where Herzl will lie buried, since his living influence is everywhere? It could easily be traced, even in the withdrawal of the Athens Bill, anent which he gave evidence--the withdrawal which, by a cheering coincidence, comes to diminish the darkness of his funeral day. My friends, you cannot bury a great man still less can you bury a great cause. Our opponents have, perhaps, imagined that Zionism would be buried in Herzl's grave. Of Zionism, too, it can be said, Nich gestorben weil unsterblich. Herzl had from the first provided against the event we mourn tonight, just as he provided in his will that his body should some day be borne with us to Palestine. He knew too well that he might only gaze upon the Promised Land, and he has laid his hands upon the head of more than one Joshua, and filled them with the spirit of his wisdom to carry on his work. And though there will never arise one like unto him, tough there is no one with his fiery energy, his magnificent dash, his inspired impatience, yet our cause, as he said at the first Basle Congress, our cause is too great to rest upon an individual.

"And so he leaves behind him not only disciples but a Constitution. If some of the machinery he had bequeathed to us, constructed in the early stages of our movement, will be unworkable without him, the loss of him forces us more than ever to reorganize our institutions and to try to make up in system for what we have lost in genius. But the Congress will always retain a lasting creation of Herzl. Nicht gestorben weil unsterblich. Our Congress supplies a Jewish parliament, and our Jewish parliament will one day supply a Jewish State. No, Zionism is not buried in the grave of Herzl. Far more likely anti-Zionism will be buried there. Anti-Herzlism at least assuredly lies cold beside him. Death, which makes clear the great outlines of his life must silence his bitterest enemy.

"Think of the sacrifices this man made, who in the full tide of his literary popularity in the gay Austrian capital, in the flush of youth and success, put aside everything to take up the cause of his oppressed brethren, and found for reward his position in society lost, his plays hissed, his health broken, his motives questioned or jeered at, and his character besplashed with mud from every Jewish gutter. And yet never a word of complaint. On the contrary. "I wish,' he said at a recent Congress, 'I wish our enemies could understand what a happiness Zionism is.' Yes, the happiness that comes of doing one's highest works.

"And think of the work he did--in those few brief years--in the teeth of all the practical men who have so long misgoverned our people and mishandled our problems. It seems only the other day since a black-bearded stranger knocked at my study door, like one dropped from the skies, and said, 'I am Theodor Herzl. Help me to rebuild the Jewish State.' Since that day he has gone from miracle to miracle--from impossibility to impossibility. What a figure he might have made upon the stage of European politics, he who could create the politics, he who could create the politics of a State unborn! And how did the majority of the Jews receive him? They said Israel was too scattered and torn for any common action--and he gathered together a Congress from the four corners of the earth. They said that the Congress was all empty talk--and he established a Bank and a Trust. They said that the poor would lose their money--and the Trust paid a dividend. They said, 'You are making Zionism a sordid, material thing, a thing of money'--and 300,000 shareholders refused the divided. They said, 'But what is the use of money? The Sultan will not treat with you.' And the Sultan made Herzl his guest of honor, and had the practical men been at Herzl's back the charter would have been ours. They said, 'Oh, but the Sultan wants money; no solid Power will consider you.' Al lo! The greatest empire on earth offered him a soil for his ideas. They say, 'But your ideals are lacking in religious impulse'--and he gave to Jewry the greatest spiritual impulse since the Goluth began. He has saved and guided thousands of men and women who were drifting amid the mists and cross currents of modern Jewish life.

"And while the Jews were saying all this, what were the others saying? The Pope, the Catholic, said, 'My sympathies go with you.' The German Emperor, the Protestant, said, 'To me, as to you, it seems quite natural that the Jews should return to Palestine.' The Sultan, the Mussulman, said to his Ministers, 'So, I picture to myself, the Hebrew Prophet of Galilee must have looked.' Mr. Chamberlain, the Unitarian, on seeing a land flowing with milk and honey, said to himself, 'Here is a land for Dr. Herzl.' M. de Plehve, the Greek churchman, the man of iron--what did Plehve say? 'Till Dr. Herzl came to me,' said de Plehve to one of our Russian friends, 'I did not know there were Jews who did not crawl. I have hitherto had to do only with two classes of Jews--those who came to beg I should not do something against their community, and those who came to beg I should not do something against their community, and those who came to beg I should do something for themselves. But with Herzl there was no fear and no favor.' Think of that! Russia has six millions of Jews, and till Herzl came Plehve did not know the Jew was not a crawling creature. Can we wonder that, as Herzl passed through Russia, passed fearlessly through that land wherein our practical men are forbidden to travel, our brethren waited by thousands at every station, as for the Messiah? Are we not entitled to believe that if the Jews of the world would stand upright like Herzl, and ask the world for justice, nay, for Palestine itself, the world would some day give us both?

"All those terrible risks that Zionism brings on the Jew are the bogeys conjured up by cowards afraid of their own shadows. Zionism brings to the Jew only the world's respect. The Zionist peril forsooth! I will tell you what the Zionist peril is, and why Jews shrink from Zionism. Zionism is a terrible searchlight, searching out all that is false and feeble in Jews and Judaism. There are spiritual anti-Zionists, but the great majority of anti-Zionists are those who have neither God above or a man's heart within. It may be that Dr. Herzl's death will effect more than even life. Now--at last--O, bitter mockery! he will enter the synagogues, whose preachers have been gagged by purse-proud presidents, his name will be mentioned respectfully, if critically, to comfortable congregations. I call upon them, one and all, to make amends to the dead for their derision of the living, and to bury their anti-Zionism in Herzl's grave. We, too--we Zionists--have something to bury in Herzl's grave--all that venom of factions and foolish accusations which divided brother from brother and embittered our leader's last days. There are not two Zionisms; there is only Zionism, the Zionism that was laid down in Herzl's 'Judenstaat'--the Jewish national idea, associated, indeed, with Palestine by history and tradition and the hope of generations, but even greater than Palestine itself, since Palestine without Jewish rights would be the Goluth, the exile, in its most mocking form. Palestine without Jewish rights is already enjoyed by some 100,000 Jews, and what sort of a spectacle do they present?"


Photos and adapted text courtesy of Wikipedia.





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