July 23, 2019
The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann
January 1907 – February 1913
Volume V, Series A
Introduction: Barnet Litvinoff, based upon the Hebrew by Hanna Weiner
General Editor Meyer W. Weisgal, Volume Editor Hanna Weiner and Barnet Litvinoff, Oxford University Press, London and Israel Universities Press, Jerusalem, 1974[Reprinted with express permission from the Weizmann Archives, Rehovot, Israel,
by the Center for Israel Education www.israeled.org.]
In the six years of Chaim Weizmann’s life encompassed by this volume, we are enabled to observe his gradual ascent to a place of authority in a movement already being faced with decisions of far-reaching importance for the future connection of the Jewish people with Palestine. The Young Turk Revolution and the Balkan Wars have brought upheaval within the Turkish Empire. Zionism is feeling the strains of personality conflicts accentuated by a general perplexity as to its next move, and is furthermore hampered in its fullest activities by repressive measures against the movement in its largest constituency, Russia.
The ensuing letters do not, unfortunately, chart Weizmann’s course through these events in all its continuity. His papers relating to this period, including all the letters from his wife Vera (always illuminating for the frank discussion of his innermost feelings) have been lost. Various archives have yielded a rich harvest of original letters, but we know from Weizmann’s 1912 diary of the despatch of many that have not come to light. We have sought to fill in the narrative from other sources, but there are gaps nevertheless.
The account here opens when he is 32 years of age, still a junior lecturer at Manchester University though a figure of some prominence on the Zionist scene. Weizmann’s ambitions were to achieve high academic status as a scientist and to consolidate his position in Zionism in preparation for his impending immigration to Palestine. He saw the two aims as complementary, and they come near to fulfillment by the time the volume concludes in February, 1913. The direction of the movement was by this time in the hands of `practical’ Zionists, and steps were being taken to foster land settlement and to create in Palestine the academic institutions he had always considered necessary for the proper development of the Jewish community there.
It will be recalled how, in Volume IV, Weizmann had been elected a Vice-President of the English Zionist Federation. He had already won membership of the Greater Actions Committee of the international body, and had found his feet at the University. His meager stipend was being supplemented through association with the Clayton Aniline Company, while marriage had eliminated his profound sense of loneliness which that volume so vividly reflects. From these beginnings in England he was now able to see his future more clearly, though there were to be frustrations in plenty still, and disappointments. The year 1907, with which this volume opens, has brought wider horizons. He undertakes a tour of Palestine—his first visit to the country—as the result of an invitation that is also a public challenge. Johann Kremenetzky, the industrialist who had been a member of Herzl’s inner circle in Vienna and been responsible for the Jewish National Fund since its inception in 1901, financed the journey, its objective being to investigate the possibilities of initiating some enterprise of agricultural industry there.
‘Dr. Weizmann’, Kremenetzky wrote in the columms of Die Welt, is a man of deeds […] and complains that he has nothing on which to base effective propaganda for Palestine […] Were he to go to Palestine and establish a small chemical industry […] I would be willing to assist him, and to raise a part of the required funds for the erection of a plant that would be capable of maintaining itself and would be efficiently managed
… ‘ No such enterprise emerged from the visit, which in fact brought acrimonious developments described in letters published here; but Weizmann was enabled to spend weeks in the country, and could now speak with first-hand knowledge of Palestine’s possibilities at that time.
Weizmann was confirmed in his frequently expressed view that though Zionism was of necessity circumscribed by the difficulties and restrictions inherent in Turkish rule, ample scope nevertheless existed for work in Palestine. He traveled there immediately after the Eighth Congress, at The Hague in 1907, where he had issued an impassioned call for a synthesis of the policies then dividing the movement: practical work, which included endeavours for the cultural revival of the people both inside Palestine and in the communities beyond, to go hand-in-hand with the pursuit of their political aims. He contended that an increase of the Jewish effort in Palestine would strengthen them in political terms more certainly than exclusive concentration on the search for a ‘Charter.’
At that Congress, Weizmann’s speech constituted the main assault of the `practicals’ against the position held by the Herzlian Zionists, now led by the formidable David Wolffsohn. These `politicals’ argued that they must first be armed with water-tight guarantees before undertaking expensive activity within Palestine. A Charter was the essential pre-condition, they said, or they would squander their meager resources in small-scale colonization and experiments of doubtful economic value. This was the last time they could make such a stand. Weizmann’s rebuttal reflected the needs created by the conditions of the Jews in Russia. Others had prepared the ground before him. The case for practical action had been given powerful voice at the Third Conference of Russian Zionists at Helsingfors the previous December, while at the Congress itself Shmarya Levin had reported on the sorry state of the Jewish educational system in Palestine, in an analysis that was acclaimed as a tour de force. Levin had demonstrated that the school system, dependent as it was on the patronage of Jewish organizations overseas, infused conflicting cultural orientations (be it German through the Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden, French through the Alliance Israelite Universelle, English through the Anglo-Jewish Association) among the children under their control. The movement had therefore to intervene lest Hebrew become an alien culture to the best educated young people in the country. Weizmann’s demand for a synthetic Zionism was now becoming apparent to Zionists of every hue. Differences between `politicals’ and `practicals’ would continue, but be of degree rather than principle, though the controversies would be no less fierce on that score, and Weizmann was to be in the thick of the debate both at home in the E.Z.F. and on the international plane at successive Congresses.
His journey to Palestine coincided with what can now be seen as the inauguration of a new and difficult era in Zionism. It is as well to recall the condition of the Jews in the country on this first visit of 1907. The Jews constituted approximately ten per cent of a total population of some 800,000 that largely comprised Muslim Arabs. Mainly, the Jews lived in the four holy cities of Jerusalem, where they were the majority, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron. A pious community subsisting on charity or petty trade, they were largely ignorant of, or apathetic towards, Zionism, and many among them abhorred the use of the Hebrew language for everyday speech. There was, additionally, a Jewish agricultural ‘presence’ extending back not further than 25 years. It had begun as a Russian migratory movement (the First Aliyah) that all but came to grief until rescued by the benefactions of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and was concentrated in various colonies principally containing vineyards and wine-making enterprises whose annual deficits were met by the Baron. The situation of these colonies had begun improving after 1900, when the Jewish Colonisation Association (I.C.A.), founded by Baron Maurice de Hirsch, took over their management. In the main they comprised a ‘gentleman farmer’ community employing Arab labour, as did also Rehovoth, which stoutly sought to keep itself free of subsidies. Other villages, mainly in Galilee, had a more varied development and lived more by their own exertions, and therefore more austerely. Here some of the settlers tilled land owned by the I.C.A., while others looked to the Odessa Committee of Hovevei Zion, led by Menahem Ussishkin, for support. These latter colonists could be found in scattered private small-holdings, training farms and crossroad hamlets.
The picture would have been completed by the host of small workshops and the rare industrial experimental plant were it not for the beginnings in 1905 of a new immigration wave, consisting mainly of young people from Imperial Russia and later described as the Second Ally. Minute in comparison with the exodus of Jews to the New World, then swelling to tidal proportions, this group was moved by a variety of reasons to make its way to the Holy Land. There was no coordinated plan nor even a welcome on the part of the official Zionist or any other bodies. Many of the newcomers were fiercely Socialist, and their Zionism involved them in what they termed the `conquest of labour.’ Truly idealist, they saw the national regeneration of their people as depending upon a personal revolt against the traditional ghetto society of the Jew, with Hebrew replacing Yiddish and the city supplanted by the soil.
Chaim Weizmann obtained a picture of all this, and much else, during his brief stay. After a period of quarantine in the north near Beirut, he landed in (and disapproved of) the hubbub of Jaffa, where all the main Jewish organizations concerned with Palestine had local offices and where everyone hostile to them voiced their complaints. He went up to Jerusalem and made a speech there, visited colonies in Judea and around Haifa, rode a horse across Galilee. There was a brief halt in Rehovoth, which he was one day to choose as the site of the Daniel Sieff Research Institute, and also his home. His conclusions on the Kremenetzky assignment will be found in the letters published here. As to his views on Palestine in general, he made them the subject of an impressive speech to a Manchester audience that was reported in the London Jewish Chronicle as follows: ‘He found it difficult to be impartial, for he had gone as a “Lover of Zion.” An opponent could find a hundred reasons to uphold his point of view, and a Zionist could find a thousand to show that their hopes not only could be, but were being, fulfilled. Palestine was continually changing, improving. These transformations in the existing colonies, this difference in the amount of Jewish soil in Jewish hands, these changes in the conditions of life and labour in the country itself, had played and would play a greater part in the realization of their aims than even the diplomacy of their leaders. Zionism’s great mistake was to place more reliance on the conditions under which colonies and institutions could be founded rather than on their actual existence. Political influence would follow in the wake of institutions already founded, not by diplomacy alone.
Regarding the Rothschild colonies, there could be no doubt that so far as actual work was concerned, the Baron had accomplished more in the country than the collective labours of the Zionist Organization. It was true that this work was not national, but was built on philanthropy and that it fostered the ghetto spirit of dependence on schnorring, all resulting in painful tragedies in the colonies; nevertheless the work of the Baron had been the work of a statesman. It had shown that Palestine was colonisable and the Jews were the proper people to colonise.
The colonies were slowly progressing, and the colonists were learning to be self-reliant. They had a love of the land, a sense of self-sacrifice, and they were laying the foundations of the coming Jewish State. However, the welfare of the colonies was seriously affected by the Arab labour question. Sixty to eighty per cent of the labourers were Arabs: in Petach Tikva 800 out of 1,000 labourers, while in Zichron Ya’acov 400 Arab labourers lived in the colony. This involved two issues: a) Arabs were being civilized at the expense of their Jewish neighbors, and b) it placed the prosperity of the Jewish colonies too much in the hands of the Arab population. The Arab retains his primitive attachment to the land, the soil-instinct is strong in him, and by being continuously employed on it there is a danger that he might feel himself indispensable to it, with a moral right to it.
`The Jewish colonies could not be regarded as really Jewish so long as Arabs formed so powerful a part of the labour force. There were Jewish labourers, but they could not be expected to enter into competition with Arabs, whose requirements were few, and whose mode of living was uncivilised. The course open to Jewish labour was to contribute superior intelligence and civilisation, which would render it more valuable to the employer. He praised Poalei-Zion and Hapoel Hatzair, especially the latter, which competed with Arab labour by better, more efficient work. He gave credit to I.C.A.: it did little, but what it did it did well, making the Jews true sons of the soil.
`The purchase of land was difficult, but much depended on how one went about it. A contract was inviolable, regarded by the Turk as having received that religious sanction that made it sacred to every follower of Mahomet. The J.N.F. was still too small for significant land purchase, but the Zionists should open an office in Constantinople to facilitate legalities. This would stimulate private initiative. And the J.N.F. should buy plots between the colonies to form a united centre belonging entirely to Jews. This strategic buying should be the basis of their practical work. As for the Bezalel School [of arts and crafts], it was doing valuable work but one should not expect too much. It was a sound kernel but needed finance for development.’
Weizmann had put the situation even more forthrightly in a letter to Vera: ‘If our Jewish capitalists […] were to invest their capital in Palestine, if only in part, there is no doubt that the lifeline of Palestine—all the coastal strip—would be in Jewish hands within 25 years.’ This seemed to him to clamor for an initiative on the part of English Zionists. But he could persuade no one in this direction, not even Moses Gaster, to whom he gave allegiance more than to any other individual on the English scene.
The causes of this inertia lay mostly in the totally demoralized state of the movement in that country. The conflict born of the East Africa scheme, which had brought the Jewish Territorial Organisation (I.T.O.) into existence in England, was proving tenacious in the extreme. Gaster was an inflexible leader, and the Federation had. in consequence, dwindled to become a small, insecure body incapable of exerting any influence on the movement’s affairs. Weizmann was the Provincial Vice-President identified with Gaster and with a following of his own, notably among a younger generation that included Harry Sacher, Leon Simon and Norman Bentwich. Joseph Cowen, the London Vice-President, had, as an unrepentant ‘political’, the support of Leopold Greenberg (and therefore of the Jewish Chronicle of which he was Editor) as well as Wolffsohn and such other Continental leaders as Max Nordau and Alexander Marmorek in Paris, and Jacobus Kann, the Smaller Actions Committee member resident in The Hague. There were disputes within the E.Z.F. Executive, but Weizmann was not a party to all the confrontations as he was rarely able to attend its meetings in London.
The outcome after two years of Gaster’s controversial Presidency was an open split at the E.Z.F.’s Annual Conference in Sheffield, 31 January, 1909. The previous year had seen Weizmann and Cowen replaced as Vice-Presidents by Herbert Bentwich and Jacob Moser, both `practicals’, but at this conference Bentwich lost his position to Greenberg, who was elected to the London Vice-Presidency in his absence. Gaster took this as both a personal affront and an attack upon his office. He resigned, and with him went all his supporters in the Executive, including Weizmann.
Many months of tortuous negotiations alternating with deadening intrigues ensued, so that the E.Z.F. was virtually nonexistent at a time when the Young Turk Revolution called for high qualities of statesmanship on the part of the Zionists if they were to benefit from the introduction of a Parliamentary regime in Constantinople. The strife in England became the object of the S.A.C.’s active concern.
Weizmann’s view was that a solution could be found in one of the following possibilities: a ‘homogeneous’ Executive composed exclusively of either the Greenberg-Cowen group or of the Gaster group; or the transfer of the E.Z.F. headquarters to a provincial city (it could only be Manchester, and thus implicitly under his own control). Wolffsohn was notified accordingly, and appealed to for guidance. But the leader would not place his authority behind any of these recommendations. He refrained from decisive intervention in a conflict that he felt could only be domestically resolved. The matter was therefore left in abeyance, and could not be settled even when a second E.Z.F. Conference was convened later the same year, 1909, in Leeds. The wounds remained unhealed by the creation there of an Executive that omitted most of the declared `practicals’ (they did not attend anyway) and the election of the ‘neutral’ Charles Dreyfus to the Presidency, with Greenberg and Jacob Moser—the latter a ‘practical’ with standing as a Zionist benefactor that put him beyond the controversy—as Vice-Presidents. Moser refused to serve.
Gaster, Weizmann and their associates now completely withdrew from the E.Z.F., and planned the re-assembly of their forces in England under entirely different auspices. In this way they could ally English Zionism to Menahem Ussishkin and the Russians for the elimination of Wolffsohn and all he represented.
They had a means of achieving this by virtue of the existence in England of the Order of Ancient Maccabeans, an organization led by Herbert Bentwich that combined the functions of a mutual benefit society with Zionist beliefs of the ‘practical’ school. The constitution of the Zionist Organization allowed for the recognition of special groups outside the national federations, and the O.A.M. could win the status of such a Sonderverband through the sale of a predetermined number of Shekels. This requirement it in fact fulfilled, and consequently the O.A.M. delegates arrived at the 1909 Congress—postponed to late in the year to enable the movement to gauge better the situation in Turkey consequent upon the counter-revolution there and the deposition of Sultan Abdul Hamid II—to press for recognition accordingly. The matter was the subject of heated discussion, the O.A.M.’s opponents from England maintaining that the movement there had not the strength to sustain two different and virtually rival Zionist Federations, and ended inconclusively.
Simultaneously, this Congress saw a full-scale assault on Wolffsohn’s leadership, the attack being largely stage-managed by Weizmann in his capacity of Chairman of the Standing (Steering) Committee. The move failed. There was protracted and confused debate, during which Wolffsohn accepted the Standing Committee’s recommendation of an S.A.C. composed exclusively of `practicals.’
However, the majority of Congress delegates expressed their displeasure with the recommendation when it was brought to the plenum and refused to vote on it. Wolffsohn was returned as President by acclaim, while in default of an acceptable alternative the existing S.A.C. (of three members only, the `politicals’ Wolffsohn and Kann, the ‘practical’ Otto Warburg) remained as the Executive.
The O.A.M. finally won a measure of recognition at the Annual Zionist Conference of June, 1910. As a mark of protest the leaders of the E.Z.F. sought to dissolve their own body. They faced a meeting of delegates which refused to endorse a resolution to this effect. The leaders then resigned en bloc, and there now existed no identifiable Zionist Federation in England, a development that Gaster had frequently foretold and for which he was largely responsible.
This situation endured for some months further, until early in 1911, when Weizmann again became the Provincial Vice-President of the E.Z.F. under Cowen’s Presidency. The immediate circumstances of their reconciliation are unknown, as Weizmann’s letters for the period have not been preserved, but he played an active part in their Annual Conference that year. There resulted a coolness between Weizmann and Gaster as a consequence, and this volume sees the virtual termination of a long and friendly correspondence, with Gaster always ready with advice or a loan to the younger man, that had begun in 1904. In any event, Gaster had been superseded in this function since 1908 by Ahad Ha’am. The latter’s arrival as the representative of the Wissotzky Tea Company brought to England a man for whom Weizmann had undiluted veneration, and we observe their relationship flourish into intimacy with the years.
The complications of the E.Z.F.’s relations with the O.A.M. are amply conveyed by the fact that Weizmann was still closely identified with the latter body even after his return to office in the E.Z.F. He continued to support its demand for full recognition when the Tenth Congress convened in August, 1911. Further discussion took place later that year at a G.A.C. meeting where an effort was made to close the schism within British Zionism by the creation of a Joint O.A.M.-E.Z.F. Council. The scheme never really came to fruition, and the paralysis endured. The weakness was reflected, inter alia, in the results of the campaign in 1912 for the Central Fund, instituted to lift the Zionist Organization out of its financial doldrums. England’s performance was miserable compared with that of Russia or Germany or Galicia, and the sale of the Shekel also dropped significantly. Weizmann wanted Gaster back in harness, and Nahum Sokolow spent a protracted period in England partly for the purpose of achieving a modus operandi there. It was not before the summer of 1913 that the slow process of healing began, with English Zionism at last shaking off the effects of its period of degradation.
As we have seen, Weizmann’s preoccupation in the years 1907-11 was to make England a base in the West, as Russia was in the East, to challenge Wolffsohn’s domination of the movement. Berlin served as an unofficial centre from which all the strands of the opposition radiated. At the Tenth Congress this activity finally achieved success, with Wolffsohn compelled to resign the Presidency he had assumed from Herzl. The S.A.C. and the headquarters organization transferred from Cologne to Berlin. But it was only a partial victory for the ‘practicals:’ Wolffsohn their bank, the Jewish Colonial Trust, and was thus still a power capable of mobilizing influential support on questions of finance, so that the movement was virtually divided into two camps still. There was room for improvement in the conduct of the affairs of the J.C.T., which operated from London, and Weizmann agitated for a thorough audit, which he saw as a prerequisite for injecting fresh blood into Zionism from among the banking community in the City. His letters echo his misgivings about Zionism in England being the monopoly of a few people committed to partisan views, with resultant absence of effect in placing its case before men of influence in politics and other fields of public life.
Weizmann had shared the opinion that the Turkish constitutional changes of 1908-09 should be regarded as the signal for Zionism to press forward with all vigor for a strengthening of the Jewish position in Palestine. As he saw it, the Revolution had rendered the quest for a Charter an anachronism. These letters bear few direct references of significance to the situation in Constantinople, except to anticipate a relaxation of all those restrictions with which the Zionists had hitherto contended. They looked forward to the easier purchase of land, the establishment of industry, the foundation of Zionist institutions. While Wolffsohn still hesitated, the Russians seized the moment and on their initiative a Press enterprise was instituted in the Turkish capital. This involved the establishment of one newspaper and the subsidizing of others, and was soon endorsed as the responsibility of the movement as a whole. Victor Jacobson, an old Weizmann comrade-in-arms from the days of the Democratic Fraction, was in charge of its day-to-day operation in Constantinople, with Vladimir Jabotinsky installed as his right-hand man. The arrangement brought additional sources of friction and further Russian criticism of Wolffsohn that hastened his downfall in 1911. We find in Weizmann’s letters for the period a prelude to the Congress battle. Wolffsohn had visited England in 1910, attacking Weizmann there in speeches of great bitterness. Once, in the course of his remarks, he gave the impression that Weizmann’s probity was in question both with regard to his campaign for a Jewish University in Geneva in 1902-03 and in the Kremenetzky-financed visit to Palestine in 1907. Wolffsohn made a public retraction in the columns of Me Welt.
One important change that came with the departure of Wolffsohn at the Tenth Congress was the release of political discussion from the closed circle of the S.A. Weizmann’s few references in his letters to political affairs prior to 1911 reflected the tradition that Zionist diplomacy, as it was termed, would be harmed by discussion in a wider forum. It will be recalled that criticism of Herzl was largely born of his predilection for secrecy, a practice continued during the Wolffsohn regime. The new S.A.C. elected at the Tenth Congress, comprising Warburg, Sokolow, Jacobson, Levin and Arthur Hantkeall men after Weizmann’s own heart—enlisted a number of confidants, Weizmann included, to help in political work. The Manchester chemist was now recognized and consulted as a man belonging to the movement’s inner leadership, and within the limits dictated by his duties to the University he traveled frequently to the Continent, both for conferences and on lecture engagements. As a consequence he no longer looked on political work (which consisted in the main of establishing Press contacts and converting men of state to Zionism) with the withering scorn of his earlier years.
Political affairs were now to require the urgent attention of all Zionists, `politicals’ and `practicals’ alike. In 1911 the Italo-Turkish War had brought the loss to the Porte of Libya and the Dodecanese, and the following year there began the Balkan Wars, which augured the loss of European territories, and possibly those of Asia also. The Great Powers were very much concerned to limit the area of hostilities, and England was playing a decisive role in discussions that culminated in the ‘watch-dog’ Conference of Ambassadors in London. It was not of course politic for Zionism to take sides in these conflicts: on the whole it suited the movement for Turkey to remain in control of Palestine, and for the Jews to seek an accommodation with her. But if Turkey’s Asian possessions were to fall then Zionism had to be ready with proposals in keeping with its interests and objectives. Weizmann was not altogether of the view, expressed by some English Zionists, such as Sucher in the columns of their organ The Zionist, that Britain should assume the succession in Palestine were the Turkish Empire to collapse. He cautioned against such `exclusive dependence on England, where antisemitism is now growing.’ But he felt nevertheless that they must indicate to the English ‘how vital it can be for England to have a friendly and “strong” element in Palestine […] that we can be the link between them and the Muslim world. England will after all have a lot to do with the Muslims.’
The assumption of political functions by the broader S.A.C., and its invitation to others to share their responsibilities, did not receive the whole-hearted concurrence of all Western Zionists. Wolffsohn gave total loyalty to the new leadership, but Marmorek and Nordau in Paris were not convinced of its competence in this regard. They endeavoured to arrogate to themselves initiatives by calling private meetings to discuss the presentation of Zionist objectives, and Nordau also wrote a letter of somewhat ambiguous phraseology to The Times. Weizmann, with the approval of the S.A.C., attended such a meeting in November 1912, and rightly evaluated it as of small significance and constituting no perceptible threat to the S.A.C.’s authority. In the event, there was little to be done by the time the period covered by Volume V ends. Turkey’s Asian empire was to survive the Balkan settlement, and Weizmann’s attempts at meetings with public figures, and to renew his earlier contact with Arthur Balfour, were to prove abortive. Such political discussions as were held in England were conducted by Sokolow.
Weizmann himself continued to emphasize that their path remained clear: intensified activity in Palestine that could transform Zionism into a concrete factor and thus act as a lever for political achievements. His reiteration of this theme in his public speeches incurred the ire of Nordau and Marmorek and brought charges of his being ‘anti-Herzlian’ in the Zionist Press.
The letters of this volume enable us to travel with their author through a period of his life that gave occasion to hopes that were sometimes fulfilled, sometimes blighted. There were times of joy in friendships won, and of pain induced by humiliations and what he saw as betrayals. There is the pleasure and pride of fatherhood, with Weizmann’s tendency to indulge his young son, and the depression and anxiety fed by a visit, his last, to his family in Pinsk—the depression soon to turn to grief in the death of his father. Weizmann is, as always, sharing the burden of educating his brothers and sisters, one of the reasons for his chronic indebtedness, and the letters frequently evidence the stresses of marriage to a young woman with career aspirations of her own. Vera suffered poor health in those years, and found her transition to a provincial English society difficult. He holds out to her the promise of perennial sunshine once they have moved to Palestine, a move that becomes a clamorous moral necessity to him when he receives the final crushing blow that he has been passed over for the professorship towards which he has so long laboured.
Little wonder, therefore, that Weizmann hung his hopes so completely on the establishment of the Haifa Institute of Technology (the `Technicum’). Fortuitously, a man closely involved in the birth of the plan and in its progress was his friend and mentor, Ahad Ha’am. The idea was given practicability through a bequest from Ahad Ha’am’s late friend and benefactor Kalonymus Wissotzky, and there was an implicit arrangement that, should the Institute include a Chemistry Department, Weizmann would be its head. Here lay the confluence of two of his aspirations: an establishment that would provide Palestine with a sound scientific base to contribute to the development of a Jewish community of high intellectual standing there, and a position for himself that would simultaneously afford him opportunities for self-fulfillment and Zionist service. He was illuminating about his ambitions in these directions in a frank letter to Hantke; but, alas, the Technicum both suffered delays in its execution and failed, because of lack of resources, to assure the early introduction of such a Chemistry Department. With his customary tenacity Weizmann sought funds elsewhere to enable his department to rise in Haifa. He appealed for help to Judah Magnes, the prominent rabbi and Zionist leader in America. Would he persuade the philanthropist Nathan Straus to allow his projected Jerusalem Health Station to be associated with the Technicum? A Chemistry Department fell easily within the orbit of its functions. It all came to nought. The volume terminates with the birth of a new campaign, or rather the resuscitation of an old one, to establish a Hebrew University—the campaign that had proffered Weizmann his first great Zionist challenge ten years earlier.
We learn more from Volume V of the Weizmann Letters than from its predecessors how the scientist battled with the Zionist in the man for possession of his soul. He gives up University vacations to undertake advanced study in Microbiology under Prof. Auguste Fernbach at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This leads him to association with the professor in new research in the field of fermentation chemistry, under the aegis of a London company that has been employing him to collaborate with his Manchester colleague and departmental head Prof. William Perkin. Weizmann has a long-term contract with a cosmetics manufacturer in Geneva, and simultaneously he is regularly publishing research papers together with associates in Manchester working under his supervision. There are complicated businesses negotiations that do not proceed smoothly but lead to a break with Perkin—the man he hoped to succeed at Manchester University. He has applied (but without success) for the coveted Fellowship of the Royal Society, to which end he has hastened his naturalization as a British subject.
The volume concludes some 18 months before the outbreak of World War I, and we find Weizmann’s struggle with himself in the process of resolution, because the synthesis he had sought for the Jewish renaissance has also become necessary to his own personality. Science must come together with Zionism as a new era dawns. It will bring graver responsibilities and lead to his greatest achievements.
B. L. (Based upon the Hebrew by Hanna Weiner)