Article - ZOA Convention
In 1818, seventy-nine years before the first Zionist Congress, an American Jew called for the re-establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine through the united efforts of the Jews themselves. His name was Mordechai Manual Noah, who was, in a sense, the first American Zionist.
Despite this early beginning, Zionism as a political movement in America actually dates from the first Zionist Congress convened by Theodor Herzl in Basle, Switzerland, in 1897.
In the beginning, the greatest interest in Zionism was shown by Jews of Eastern European origin. They came from an area of recent pogroms and of intolerance. Even while making new lives in America, they showed their commitment to the Zionist ideal. Despite this interest, the movement grew slowly.
At the outbreak of World War I, the Zionist movement in the United States was relatively feeble in number and in effectiveness. As a roof organization for local groupings, it had no strong, direct contact with its constituents. Then, Louis D. Brandeis joined. Not yet on the Supreme Court but already famous as "The People's Lawyer," his proud championship of the Zionist cause silenced the hostile and heartened the timid.
When the fighting of World War I threatened the Jews of the Yishuv, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) took the leadership in raising funds and in recruitment for the Jewish Legion. The organization's membership mushroomed. Distinguished personages joined the roster. Among them were: Judge Felix Frankfurter, Nathan Strauss, Mary Fels, Julian Mack, and Henrietta Szold.
The name Zionist Organization of America was adopted in 1918. The change, however, was more than just one of name. Individual membership replaced group affiliation and the autonomous affiliates were absorbed into a single, national structure. In the 1920s and 1930s, years of crisis between the wars, the ZOA supported the passage of a joint resolution by both Houses of the U.S. Congress. Subsequently signed by President Harding, it favored a National Home promised in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Every American President since has given public expression to support of the Zionist goals.
Rabbi Stephen S. Wise was one of the outstanding ZOA leaders of this period.
The trauma of World War II convinced even the greatest skeptic of the vital necessity of a Jewish State. In the late 1930s, as the lights of freedom dimmed in Europe, the Jews of Palestine prepared for the inevitable battle while the ZOA in America worked to ensure United States governmental support.
Under the great leadership of Dr. Abba Hillel Silver and Dr. Emanuel Neumann, the critical struggle for American support for the establishment of a Jewish state was joined. American Jews, in greater number than ever before, embraced the Zionist creed, pushed by the horror of Hitler and pulled by the achievements of the Yishuv.
The ZOA today holds firm to its position of bold leadership and uncompromising advocacy of Zionism in America. A ZOA information office in Washington serves as the Zionist voice in the Nation's capital. The ZOA reaches out to teenagers, young adults, college students, and young marrieds through its Masada youth program, as it seeks to instill a positive view of Jewish identity through Zionist idealism.
A recent development is the Garin Aliyah of ZOA's youth movement, Masada, which established a moshav in the Western Galilee region of Israel. Known as Segev Bet, it was founded by a nucleus of Masada alumni, demonstrating that Zionist education is a vital force in ensuring the goal of Jewish continuity.
The modern, 500-acre ZOA campus near Ashkelon is the home of the Kefar Silver Agricultural High School, the Sylvia and Alexander Hassan Technical High School, the David and Lilian Stern American-Israel Youth Institute, and the Mollie Goodman Academic High School for American students. The total enrollment of the campus is some 500 students.
The ZOA House in Tel Aviv is a cultural landmark and a living bridge between the people of America and the people of Israel. As the enemies of Zionism attempt to label it with an epithet of shame, for they fearfully recognize within it the forces of Jewish pride, Jewish self-respect and Jewish courage, the 120,000 members of the ZOA across the United States see Zionism as a badge of honor . . . they wear it with pride.
The image on the stamp represents the integration of the Israel and American Zionist movements with the Israel and the American flags on a forward continuum in the shape of the Star of David.