The Second Zionist Congress Convenes

August 28, 1898

The Second Zionist Congress convenes in Basel, Switzerland. 400 delegates, including Theodore Herzl’s father, participated in the Second Congress, nearly double from the First Congress held in Basel the previous year. This was also the first Congress attended by Chaim Weizmann. The Second Zionist Congress laid the foundation for the creation of the Jewish Colonial Trust, which would serve as the main financial arm of the movement in the development of Palestine. Leo Motzkin reported on his trip to Palestine and the status of the colonies that existed there.

Herzl’s opening speech was marked by a call for an end to the opposition barriers to Zionism that had been created by some Jewish leaders.

“Until now we have refused out of brotherly consideration, to bring this contrast to the fore. We can no longer stand by while agitation against Zion is carried out on the Jewish religious communities. It is an impossible, contradictory situation, and we must put an end to it. Wherever the leaders of the communities are not with us, there must begin a fight for elections. Men who have the standing and the capacity to occupy these honorable posts, and who are at one with us and our views, must be elected to the leadership, and inducted into our centers in the name of our national idea. The authority of the religious community, the means which it commands, and the persons who constitute it, must not be directed against the aspirations of the people … Our next objective is therefore the conquest of the communities.”

For more on the Second Zionist Congress, visit the Herzl Museum website