Over 200 people gathered at the Herzl Center in the capital on Thursday evening to honor Julie Naschauer, the often overlooked wife of legendary Zionist pioneer Theodor, who went bankrupt funding the visionary’s cause, despite not believing in it.
The event, which also honored leading deceased female Zionists, including prime minister Golda Meir, Leah Rabin, paratrooper and poet Hanna Szenes, and parachutist Haviva Reik, was sponsored by the World Zionist Organization and the Herzl Center.
“Usually you don’t hear about the women’s Zionist movement, so we are here to honor them and hear their stories, with a special emphasis on Julie,” Shlomit Sattler, coordinator of cultural events for the center, said. “Herzl’s wife was never really acknowledged by the Zionist movement, because she did not believe in the cause, but she paid a very heavy price personally and financially to support her husband.”
Indeed, according to Prof. Ariel Finkelstein, who teaches Jewish history and specializes in Zionism, Herzl’s wife provided invaluable financial assistance to further his vision, despite ending up unwittingly bankrupt.
“Her money supported the Zionist movement more than anyone else,” Finkelstein said. “Without her money Herzl could not have accomplished his goal.”
The daughter of a wealthy businessman from Vienna, Julie inherited a large portion of her father’s estate and invested all of it in her husband, despite becoming bankrupt with three children after his death at 44 in 1904.
“It’s a very sad story,” Finkelstein said.
“Julie played a different part than her husband, but was just as significant as him because even though she complained, she still let him follow his vision.”
Following Herzl’s death, his widow, who was unaware of the breadth of her financial loss, was forced to sell all his furniture and books to provide for her family. To aid the newly widowed mother, Herzl’s successor David Wolfson generously paid for all his mentor’s possessions, enabling Julie to comfortably raise her children.
Tragically, she died three years later at age 39 from a heart ailment, leaving three orphaned children.
To celebrate her legacy, the organizers of the event held a ceremony by Herzl’s grave, hosted a one hour, one-woman play depicting her life, led a tour of the Herzl Museum and featured a lecture by Finkelstein.
Remarking on the late leader’s wife’s sacrifice, Osnat Dvorkin, said she deserved special recognition.
“Because she wasn’t a Zionist, she was relegated to the sidelines, but she is important because she sacrificed a lot even though she didn’t commit to the Zionist idea by donating so much and becoming an active part,” Dvorkin said. “So today we want to recognize her.”