Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Zionism


Chicago's Zionists claim the first organized Zionist group in the United States, the Chicago Zion Society (later the Knights of Zion), which first met in 1895. Although the Knights resisted affiliation with the Federation of American Zionists, they finally joined a national umbrella organization in 1918, when the Zionist Organization of America was created by Louis Brandeis and Judge Julian Mack of Chicago.

Bernard Horwich, the first president of the Knights of Zion and a leader long into the 1930s, was a proponent of this new organization, which was dedicated to the compatibility of Jewish nationalism and Americanism and also provided a unified fundraising framework. Other, more radical Zionists in Chicago chose to affiliate separately in organizations such as the Poalei Tzion (Workers of Zion). While numerically small, these organizations and their leaders continued to exert influence on Zionist policy in America and abroad. Golda Meir, a member of the regional Poalei Tzion, went on to become prime minister of Israel.

In the early period, Zionism faced opposition within Jewish Communities from both Orthodox and Reform leaders, including Rabbi Emil Hirsch of the Chicago Sinai Congregation. That opposition began to fade with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and all but disappeared in the wake of the Six Day War in 1967.

Cutler, Irving. The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to Suburb. 1997.
Fishbein, J. I., ed. The Sentinel's History of Chicago Jewry, 1911–1986. 1986.
Siegel, Beverly. “Chicago's Zionist Romance.” JUF News, 1997, 6–11.