The American spirit’s impact

Those sentiments led 200,000 American Jews to join the Zionist movement in the World War I period and have been the underpinning of American Jewry’s love for Israel to this day.

Louis Brandeis (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Louis Brandeis
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Growing up in the US before World War I, future prime minister Golda Meir played the role of the Statue of Liberty in a Fourth of July celebration. Meir was later devoted to ensuring that there would be a Jewish state for those who were forced to flee, and for those who chose to come.
Theodor Herzl recognized how the American dream could inspire a Zionist dream.
“The individual who labors for the creation of a home for the Jews in Palestine, a home assured by the public law and recognized by the nations, will perform his duties as an American citizen with pleasure,” said the founder of modern political Zionism.
“Jews will ever thankfully recall the noble spirit America has always manifested towards them, lately in the splendid intervention [in 1903] of president Theodore Roosevelt to further the cause of Russian Jews,” added Herzl. “Neither the American nor the non-American Jews will forget that the United States was an asylum for the persecuted.”
Novelist Allen Hoffman said, “We are beginning to realize that America was only an interlude in modern Jewish history. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those immigrants are flowing to Israel.”
Herzl wrote Prof. Richard Gottheil, the head of the American Zionist organization in the early 20th century: “The American Jews aid their beloved fatherland when they aid an unhappy people from whom they spring. That is not disloyalty, as some American Jews had argued, but a double measure of loyalty.”
Justice Louis Brandeis expanded on this: “Let no American imagine that Zionism is inconsistent with patriotism. Multiple loyalties are objectionable only if they are inconsistent. A man is a better citizen of the United States for being also a loyal citizen of his state, and of his city, for being loyal to his college or his lodge.
“Every American Jew who aids in advancing the Jewish settlement in Palestine, though he feels that neither he nor his descendants will ever live there, will be a better man and a better American for doing so.”
Those sentiments led 200,000 American Jews to join the Zionist movement in the World War I period and have been the underpinning of American Jewry’s love for Israel to this day.
To use the soil of the Land of Israel to dramatize the American dream, settlements were founded by American Zionist groups; some were even named for American Jews. On this July 4, visit Kfar Blum, founded in 1943 by American Habonim pioneers. Go to Moshav Beit Herut, founded in 1933 by 35 American immigrants from Midwestern states.
Visit Kfar Silver, named for Abba Hillel Silver, an American Reform rabbi who gave the opening speech at the UN when the debate on the partition plan began in 1947. Kibbutz Ein Hashofet was named for justice Brandeis when it was founded on July 4, 1937.
For me, since my father was a judge advocate in the US Army in World War II and I was a US Army chaplain in the Vietnam War, the Fourth of July is a celebration of the American/Israeli dream. My mother’s parents, my father’s parents and my wife’s grandparents came to American shores more than a century ago – enabling my wife and me to be alive today.
We are doubly blessed. Israel, first recognized by the US on May 14, 1948, has opened its doors to us. Our “interlude” – and we thank God for it – is complete.
The writer dedicates this article to Miriam Lifshutz, widow of chaplain Oscar Lifshutz, and her twin sister in Jerusalem, Shoshana Dolgin-Beer.