First international Zionist organization to be founded; established in the aftermath of the Russian pogroms of 1881 and 1882.
Hibbat Zion was formed in 1884 by Dr. Leo Pinsker, a Russian physician who practiced in Odessa. Its membership combined European Jewish traditionalists—long committed to support the growing scholarly Jewish community in Palestine—with newly recruited secular nationalists from Eastern Europe. Dr. Pinsker had been appalled by the pogroms and realized that even assimilated Jews could not consider themselves safe in their adopted lands. In his pamphlet Auto-Emancipation, Pinsker argued that Jews in the diaspora could not afford to remain passive in the hopes of either divine redemption or some voluntary ending of antisemitism. Instead Jews had to liberate themselves by reconstituting themselves as a nation in a land of their own.
Orthodox rabbis joined Hibbat Zion assuming that secular nationalists could be won back to piety. These assumptions were translated into policies: Those who wished to settle as farmers in Palestine and who received financial aid from Hibbat Zion had to observe Judaism and its traditions. For secular nationalists, like Dr. Pinsker, this was a troublesome policy. The enthusiasm initially engendered by the creation of Hibbat Zion waned as the uneasy alliance experienced financial crises and internal disputes. Nevertheless, a few colonies were established and aided in Palestine, such as Petah Tikvah (founded in 1878), and the educational aspect of the movement resulted in the Zionist thought and actions of other individuals and groups in Eastern Europe.
See also antisemitism; diaspora; petah tikvah; pinsker, leo; pogrom.
Hertzberg, Arthur, ed. The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1997.
Luz, Ehud. Parallels Meet: Religion and Nationalism in the Early Zionist Movement (1882–1904). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1988.
donna robinson divine