Schalit, Isidor

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SCHALIT, ISIDOR (1871–1953), first secretary of the Zionist Office and one of Herzl's first assistants. Born in Nowosolky, Ukraine, Schalit grew up in Vienna, where he qualified as a dentist. He was raised in an atmosphere of support for Ḥibbat Zion, joined the student Zionist society *Kadimah in Vienna (1889), and was actively engaged in establishing a network of similar organizations in Austria. He was a member of the academic circle in Vienna that offered Herzl assistance on the publication of Der Judenstaat. On Whit Sunday 1896 Herzl wrote in his diary:

Two fellows from the Kadimah, Schalit and Neuberger, called on me. They told me that a proposal was afoot to recruit a volunteer battalion of one or two thousand and to attempt a landing at Jaffa. Even if some might have to give up their lives in the attempt, Europe would start paying attention to the aspirations of the Jews. I advised them against this fine Garibaldian idea.

Herzl made Schalit a member of the editorial board of Die Welt, but shortly afterward, at the outbreak of the Turko-Greek War (1897), Schalit set out at the head of a delegation of five medical student volunteers to provide first aid on the Turkish front, a venture which was intended to gain Turkish sympathy for Herzl's proposals. Afterward Schalit was the main technical organizer of the First Zionist Congress at Basle (1897). He flew the Zionist flag from the Basle Casino and did it again at the 1937 Congress, which celebrated in Basle the 40th anniversary of the First Congress. He also signaled the opening of the First Congress by knocking with a hammer on the table of the chairman, an act which he performed at all subsequent Congresses – down to the first Congress in the State of Israel in 1951. After the First Congress he was appointed secretary of the Zionist Office, a post he filled during Herzl's lifetime. With the transfer of the Zionist center to Cologne, after Herzl's death, he was elected head of the Zionist Organization in Austria. From then on he was active in the Austrian and the World Zionist Organizations. In 1938 he settled in Palestine, where he published memoirs of the beginnings of political Zionism (in Haolam, Davar, etc.).


T. Herzl, Complete Diaries, 5 (1960), index; J. Levi, Isidor Schalit (Heb., 1951), Tidhar, 3 (1949), 1443–46.

[Getzel Kressel]