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Cowen, Joseph


COWEN, JOSEPH (1868–1932), a founder and leader of the Zionist movement in Great Britain. Born in Davenport, Cowen was initially indifferent to Jewish affairs. Persuaded to attend the First *Zionist Congress by his relative, Israel *Zangwill, he thereafter devoted himself to the Zionist movement, becoming *Herzl's chief associate in all matters concerning Great Britain and the Jewish community there. He was the moving spirit behind the foundation of the British Zionist Federation in 1899, and served several times as its president. Cowen accompanied Herzl during his audience with the Turkish sultan (1902), and Herzl made him a major character in his novel Altneuland, called Joe-Joseph Levy. He became director of the *Jewish Colonial Trust upon its foundation and held the post until his death. During World War i, Cowen was one of the few Zionist leaders to support Vladimir *Jabotinsky in his efforts to create a *Jewish Legion and was *Weizmann's right-hand man during the preparatory political work leading to the *Balfour Declaration. He was also a member of the *Zionist Commission to Palestine in 1918, treasurer of the Zionist Organization, a member of the Zionist Executive in 1921–22, and head of *Keren Hayesod in Great Britain. He should not be confused with his non-Jewish namesake Joseph Cowen (1829–1900), a prominent radical member of Parliament.


T. Herzl, Complete Diaries, ed. by R. Patai, 5 (1960), index; N. Sokolow, History of Zionism, 2 (1919), index; Ch. Weizmann, Trial and Error (1949), index; jc (May 27, 1932); L. Jaffe (ed.), Sefer ha-Congress (19502), 153–5, 333–4. add. bibliography: S.A. Cohen, English Zionists and British Jews: The Communal Policies of Anglo-Jewry, 1895–1920 (1982); D. Vital, Zionism: The Formative Years (1988).

[Getzel Kressel]

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