Theodor Herzl’s “The Menorah” and the Connection between Jewish Nationalism and Jewish Faith

Nov. 29 2018

In a short story published in December 1897—a few months after the First Zionist Congress—Theodor Herzl described a European Jew who, after going through adulthood indifferent to his people and to the religion of his ancestors, decides to “to return to Judaism.” He therefore, for the first time in many years, lights Hanukkah candles with his family and reflects on the holiday’s meaning. Analyzing this very short piece of fiction, titled “The Menorah,” Daniel Polisar explains that for Herzl Zionism was not only about providing an escape from anti-Semitism, but about making possible a renewal of Jewishness itself. Nor was Herzl the strict secularist he is sometimes imagined to be, but someone deeply invested in the Jewish religion, albeit in an idiosyncratic way. (Interview by Alan Rubenstein. Audio, 48 minutes. Options for download and streaming are available at the link below.)

To enroll in Polisar’s seven-part online course on Herzl, click here.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Tikvah

More about: Hanukkah, History & Ideas, Judaism, Theodor Herzl, Zionism


The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media