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Our tradition of gathering together on Monday nights
continues with a new series. Led by Rabbi Freundlich.

Modern Jewish History: Part I

Laying The Groundwork


From the Mussar Movement to the First World War (1800s to 1918)

Monday, November 23


The Mussar Movement

In Jewish Lithuania and Russia during the 1800s there were various reactions to the coming of the Enlightenment/Haskalah. The Yeshiva Movement was one response. Another was the Mussar Movement, which had deep roots within the Jewish people and whose influence continues today. Mussar means ethics or values. It was a movement to improve the Jewish people from within. The founder of the movement and its greatest protagonist was one of the great men of Israel, Rabbi Yisroel Lipkin, better known as Rabbi Israel Salanter (1810–1883).

Monday, November 30


Chovevei Tzion

Also known as Hibbat Zion, a variety of organizations which were founded in 1881 in response to the Anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire and were officially constituted as a group at a conference led by Leon Pinsker in 1884. The organizations are now considered the forerunners and foundation-builders of modern Zionism. Many of the first groups were established in Eastern European countries in the early 1880s with the aim to promote Jewish immigration to Palestine, and advance Jewish settlement there, particularly agricultural. Most of them stayed away from politics.

Monday, December 7


The Dreyfus Affair

A scandal that rocked France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Dreyfus affair involved a Jewish artillery captain in the French army, Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935), who was falsely convicted of passing military secrets to the Germans. Dreyfus was court-martialed, found guilty of treason and sentenced to life behind bars on Devil’s Island off of French Guiana. In a public ceremony in Paris following his conviction, Dreyfus had the insignia torn from his uniform and his sword broken and was paraded before a crowd that shouted, “Death to Judas, death to the Jew.”

Monday, December 14


Political Zionism

Political Zionism stressed the importance of political action and deemed the attainment of political rights in Palestine a prerequisite for the fulfillment of the Zionist enterprise. Political Zionism is linked to Theodor Herzl, who considered the Jewish problem a political one that should be solved by overt action in the international arena. His aim was to obtain a charter, recognized by the world leadership, granting the Jews sovereignty in a Jewish ­owned territory. The Basle Program, drawn up in accordance with these principles, states that Zionism aims to establish “a secure haven, under public law, for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.” Organizational and economic mechanisms were established to carry out this program.

Monday, January 18


First Aliyah Wave

The First Aliyah followed pogroms in Russia in 1881-1882. The first group of 14 Biluim arrived at Jaffa port on July 6, 1882. Most of the immigrants during this period came from Eastern Europe; a small number also arrived from Yemen. Members of Hibbat Zion and Bilu, two early Zionist movements that were the mainstays of the First Aliyah, defined their goal as “the political, national, and spiritual resurrection of the Jewish people in Palestine.” The First Aliyah settlers encountered many difficulties, including an inclement climate, disease, crippling Turkish taxation and Arab opposition.

Monday, January 25


Uganda and Palestine

When Theodor Herzl began his quest to establish a homeland for the Jewish people, he sought out the support of the great powers. In 1903, Herzl turned to Great Britain, who agreed in principle to Jewish settlement in East Africa. At the Sixth Zionist Congress at Basel (1903), Herzl proposed the British Uganda Program as a temporary refuge for Jews in Russia in immediate danger. Following an expedition to examine the territory proposed, the British released an official document allocating a “Jewish territory” in East Africa “on conditions which will enable members to observe their national customs.”

Monday, February 1


The Great War

The First World War, the most savage international conflict in all preceding history, had a profound impact on world Jewry. This was due to the existence of a large concentra­tion of Jews within one of the principal arenas, the enlistment of unprecedented numbers of Jews to the armies of the belligerent nations and the success of Jewish leaders in influencing the political policies of the major powers. Furthermore, increasing tensions during the war years deepened the hostile attitudes towards the Jews, particularly in Germany and in Eastern Europe.

Monday, February 8


The Treaty of Versailles

After the devastation of World War I, the victorious powers imposed a series of treaties upon the defeated powers. Among the treaties, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles held Germany responsible for starting the war. Germany became liable for the cost of massive material damages. The shame of defeat and the 1919 peace settlement played an important role in the rise of Nazism in Germany and the coming of a second “world war” just 20 years later.

Monday, February 15


The British Mandate

In July 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the Mandate for Palestine. Recognizing “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” Great Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine-Eretz Israel. Shortly afterwards, in September 1922, the League of Nations and Great Britain decided that the provisions for setting up a Jewish national home would not apply to the area east of the Jordan River, which constituted three-fourths of the territory included in the Mandate and which eventually became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Monday, February 22


Third Aliyah

This Aliyah, a continuation of the Second Aliyah, was triggered by the October Revolution in Russia, the ensuing pogroms there and in Poland and Hungary, the British conquest of Palestine and the Balfour Declaration. Most members of the Third Aliyah were young halutzim (pioneers) from Eastern Europe. Although the British Mandatory regime imposed Aliyah quotas, the yishuv numbered 90,000 by the end of this period. The General Federation of Labor (Histadrut) was established, representative institutions for the yishuv were founded (the Elected Assembly and the National Council), and the Haganah was formed.

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