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Protestrabbiner

PROTESTRABBINER

PROTESTRABBINER ("Protest Rabbis "), phrase coined by Theodor *Herzl (in an article in Die *Welt, 1, no. 7 (July 16, 1897)), as a designation for the five German rabbis who had signed a trenchant protest letter against Zionism and the Zionist Congress in the name of the German Rabbinical Association. This association comprised two opposing wings – Orthodox and Reform (liberal) – united in their opposition to Zionism. Their attitude as formulated in the protest letter contained three postulates: the intention to establish a Jewish state in Palestine contradicts the messianic destiny of Judaism;

Judaism obligates all her believers to be faithful to their native land, serving it as best they can; philanthropic support for agricultural settlers in Palestine is permissible, since it is not connected with the establishment of a Jewish national state. The letter closes with the assertion that love for one's country obligates all those who care for Judaism to shun Zionism and in particular the Zionist Congress.

It was mainly because of this letter that the first Zionist Congress was held in Basle rather than in Munich, as was originally planned. The letter also aroused an unusual amount of agitation because of its hints about the Zionists' unfaithfulness to Germany. Herzl severely criticized the signatories (two Orthodox rabbis – M. Horowitz of Frankfurt and A. Auerbach of Halberstadt – and three liberals – S. Maybaum of Berlin, J. Gutmann of Breslau, and K. Werner of Munich) – and a great number of Zionist rabbis, Orthodox, and liberal, wrote letters and articles condemning the "protest rabbis." The protest letter was endorsed, however, by the general assembly of the Rabbinical Association, convened in Berlin a year later (July 1–2, 1898), with only one rabbi – Selig Gronemann (Samuel *Gronemann's father) – voting against it. Seventy years after the publication of the protest letter, a survey discovered that almost all the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the "protest rabbis" had settled in Israel.

bibliography:

Zionistisches A-B-C Buch (1908), 227–30; Ma'ariv (July 16, 1968).

[Getzel Kressel]

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