A new Zionist canon

Here Zionism is showcased in a way that is accessible to the scroll-and-swipe cohort.

By ELIOT JAGER
May 4, 2018 00:15
Justice Louis Brandeis

Justice Louis Brandeis. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

THERE COULD not have been more than a handful of undergraduates in Arthur Hertzberg’s “Seminar on Zionism” in Brooklyn College’s Judaic Studies Department circa 1975. He would invariably arrive late with a good excuse — something like “I was talking to Henry Kissinger.” The president of the American Jewish Congress, in those days a major organization, Hertzberg (1921-2006) would enter, don a black yarmulke, bite into a sandwich, and commence.

His lectures were extemporaneous and scattershot but he had written the book — literally. “The Zionist Idea” was published in 1959 when Dwight Eisenhower was president and well before pro-Israelism swept the American Jewish community in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War. Even if he had only created the first collection of Zionism’s big-name thinkers and doers in English, dayenu. However, the book’s intellectual standout was in large measure Hertzberg’s dense 97-page introductory essay. My marked-up copy of “The Zionist Idea” came along when I moved to Israel in 1997.

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