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ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA CONVENTION

ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA CONVENTION

The ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA CONVENTION (June 1921) in Cleveland was a turning point in American Zionist history, with the leadership of the ZOA changing from Louis Brandeis to a group led by Louis Lipsky and Emanuel Neuman that supported the European ideological Zionism of Chaim Weizman. Brandeis, leader of ZOA since 1914, believed that political Zionism became obsolete following issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917. He supported practical upbuilding work in Palestine and efficiency in managing Zionist funds. Weizman contended that Zionism demanded the primacy of ideology over pragmatism and that Jews in the diaspora had to become nationalists both culturally and politically. The issue spawning the bitter fight at the 1921 convention was creation of the Keren Hayesod, a general fund supporting Zionist work in Palestine. In Europe, the Keren Hayesod managed both the Zionists' general donation fund and the funds' investment. The Brandeis wing demanded the separation of the two functions, thus opposing creation of an American Keren Hayesod. In 1921 Weizman journeyed to the U.S. for the first time to campaign for the Keren Hayesod and attend the ZOA convention. Although he had no standing at the convention, his presence was a moral boost to his supporters, who were able to gain the chairmanship of the convention. A resolution establishing the Keren Hayesod in America passed 153-71. Following the vote, the national executive committee resigned. Lipsky was elected president of ZOA; under his leadership, it suffered serious administrative and financial problems and a drastic drop in membership. At the 1930 ZOA convention, also in Cleveland, a compromise was reached with the Brandeis forces. However, the disunity in the American Zionist movement following World War I, hastened by the schism at the 1921 convention, was not reversed until the late 1930s, when unrest in Palestine, issuance of the British White Paper of 1939, and persecution of European Jews united the movement.


Urofsky, Melvin I. American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust (1975).

Report of the Proceedings of the 24th Annual Convention of the Zionist Organization of America (1921).


Finding aid for the Masada, Young Men's Zionist Organization of America, Cleveland Central Chapter Records. WRHS.