Zionist Leader Max Bodenheimer Passes Away

July 19, 1940

Born in 1865 in Stuttgart, Germany, Max Bodenheimer immigrated to Palestine in 1935, where he became an attorney and a central figure in the Zionist movement. A close associate of Theodore Herzl, Bodenheimer was the first president of the Zionist Federation of Germany and was a leader in the establishment of the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

While studying law at the Universities of Tuebingen, Strassburg, Berlin and Freiburg, Bodenheimer concluded that the Jews are a nation and that only Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) can serve as their national home and refuge. After completing his degree, Bodenheimer moved to Cologne, Germany, where he practiced law until 1933, and where he published his first Zionist article in 1891.  It was titled “Sind die Russischen Juden eine Nation?”  (“Are the Russian Jews a Nation?”) and appeared in the weekly publication Die Menorah. In 1896, Bodenheimer began corresponding with Herzl after reading Herzl’s “Der Judenstaat” (“The Jewish State”).

This led to Bodenheimer’s participation in the First Zionist Congress in 1897, where he was elected to the Zionist General Council.  He served on the council until 1921. When the Jewish National Fund was incorporated in Britain in 1907, Bodenheimer was appointed its first chairman, and served as a board member until 1921. Disillusioned with the policies of Chaim Weizmann, in the wake of Arab riots in Palestine of 1929, he joined the Revisionist party led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky.  Bodenheimer eventually gave up politics.  In 1935, he settled in Jerusalem with his wife Rosa, where he began to write his memoirs five years before his death.

In the photo from 1898, Bodenheimer is standing on the far right as part of a Zionist delegation in Jerusalem. Left to right: Max Bodenheimer, David Wolffsohn, Theodor Herzl, Moses Schnirer, Joseph Seidener.