The new Palestine

Some of the vision of American Jewry for Palestine has been realized.

Artist E.P. Sandoff (signature at bottom right) was hired to provide a visual representation of what to expect from the ‘1920 Campaign for Ten Million Dollars (photo credit: COURTESY DAVID GEFFEN)
Artist E.P. Sandoff (signature at bottom right) was hired to provide a visual representation of what to expect from the ‘1920 Campaign for Ten Million Dollars
It is interesting and instructive to see how American Jewry regarded Zionism 100 years ago.
In addition to being a major figure in American legal history, US Supreme Court associate justice Louis Brandeis was a leader in American Jewry. He nurtured in his co-religionists the spirit to assist a Jewish state to be. In 1912, before World War I, he took over as leader of the Federation of American Zionists (now ZOA). With his inspiration and tireless efforts, by 1917 the membership of that group had multiplied by a factor of 10. Now there 200,000 flying the Zionist banner.
The Jews of the US, in amazing numbers, became card-carrying Zionists. Brandeis merged the dream that had created the American nation with the Zionist dream of the reborn Promised Land.
Recently, in research published in the American History Journal, Rabbi Stuart Geller proved that the final step in the British approval of the Balfour Declaration occurred when US president Woodrow Wilson came on a state visit to Great Britain in the late summer 1917. Wilson encouraged British prime minister David Lloyd George to have his cabinet approve the declaration. Geller shows via archival correspondence that Balfour urged Wilson to help the declaration come to life in the US and to encourage other nations to do the same.
By 1920, with American Zionism at its peak and with international conferences being held to affirm the British Mandate of Palestine, Brandeis’ colleague, Judge Julian Mack, became the national president of the ZOA.
Brandeis had a vision of Eretz Yisrael becoming a thriving Jewish entity. There would be construction throughout the country, bringing schools and other educational institutions into being. There would be agricultural colonies built where all the expected new olim could live. The Brandeis-Mack team set the priorities that would be followed.
In 1919, the ZOA launched a journal titled The New Palestine, a four-page informational tool that appeared every few weeks. One key project of the ZOA was to establish a Palestine Restoration Fund. The “1920 Campaign for Ten Million Dollars” was to raise funds to advance work in four major fields: “The Purchase of Land in Palestine”; “The Preparation of Palestine for Jewish Settlement”; “Maintenance and Development Already in Progress”; “Work in the United States.” Under the four major headings, one can see the brief description of each endeavor the raised money would support.
The Brandeis-Mack team hired an American artist well versed in the goals of the ZOA to provide a visual representation of what to expect. In his drawing, he captured the pioneers hard at work, the institutions that existed, including schools, the health-care system seen via an eye clinic using Hebrew letters of course and the Anglo-Palestine Bank, forerunner of Bank Leumi. We can see pioneers hard at work, building and planting, digging trenches for water systems, and a surveyor planning future settlements. Not forgotten is the individual using horses to move his ancient plow to break the soil for future planting.
What is interesting is that everyone at work has a beard. From pictures I have seen, all those pioneer workers at the beginning of the Mandate period were clean-shaven. I checked the statistics of aliya prior to 1920 and saw that the great majority who had made aliya were Labor Zionists of various stripes. There were some religious Mizrahi types who made aliya, plus those born to haredi and Sephardi parents who broke with family and became halutzim.
I’m not sure where all the beards came from – especially since the ZOA was a middleof- the-road Zionist group.
The history of this illustration is murky. The artist, E.P. Sandoff, has not been tracked down. Maybe someone can help. In this particular issue of The New Palestine is an article that reads as follows: “An emigration bureau will also be established in New York, according to the plan proposed to handle emigrants from North, South and Central America.”
Then more evidence is added of the desire to make aliya. “There are thousands of Jews in Canada and South America, particularly in Argentina, it was said, anxious to start for Palestine at the earliest possible moment.” The strongest evidence of contemporary interest in a land reborn is, “Nearly 6,000 applicants from American technicians, engineers, executives, teachers and others willing to render service in the task of building Jewish Palestine are on file at the New York headquarters of the Zionist organization.”
As has been the case with American Jews then and throughout the last century, only a minimal number have actually come here. As an American Jewish chauvinist, I have always believed that 100,000 more American Jews could change Israel significantly.
Unfortunately, that is just my pipe dream.
The poster described here represents a major visual effort to get American Jews to leave the soil of the US and sail to Palestine.
Study every part of this poster carefully and you will find the meaningful depiction of what Brandeis and his followers believed our nation should be. They set up the campaign for $10m. to help the process of Palestine restoration gain momentum.
Some of the vision of American Jewry for Palestine has been realized. The agricultural sector has had great success; the educational institutions have offered all Israelis the opportunity to rise to heights never believed possible; in the culture sector, many avenues in art and music have been opened. I am pleased that this century-old vision of American Jewry can be revisited and reflected upon as the 70th anniversary of Israel is about to be celebrated.