Colonisation Period II

Immigrant Societies: B’nei Zion, Agudath Achim, Dorshei Zion

Discontented with their lack of influence in the Chovevei Zion, the Jewish immigrants created several other colonisation societies so that the concerns of the Eastern Europeans could be more fully expressed. In 1891, the B’nei Zion (Hebrew "Sons of Zion") appeared with the object of fostering the religious love of Zion via lectures, debates and the establishment of a Jewish library, which contained books in both Hebrew and Yiddish. Funding was difficult, not least because the established elite disapproved of anything that tied the immigrants to their old ghetto life, such as Yiddish. After twelve months, the society was dissolved.

In 1892, a group composed of 18 young Jewish men from Manchester and 12 from Dublin decided to do what they could to settle in the Holy Land themselves. Each member of this Agudath Achim (Hebrew "Society of Brothers"), as it was called, contributed to a communal pot. Eventually, two representatives were sent to Palestine to buy land. In the event, they were to be disappointed – under Turkish law, purchase of land was impossible, and the idealistic young men did not wish to buy illegally from the black market. When they returned home without land contracts, the society was wound down and the saved monies distributed among its members.

A third colonisation society, Dorshei Zion (Hebrew "Seekers of Zion") was established in 1894, and was composed of many of the same individuals who had belonged to the Agudath Achim. A founder member, TB Herwald, was frustrated by the overly bureaucratic Chovevei Zion and its leaders’ failure to foster nationalist ideals among its members. The new society succeeded where the old one failed because house to house canvassing was vigorously undertaken (the members told their donors that they were collecting "for a poor respectable Jewish family"). As a result, Herwald and his associates were not dependent upon the Chovevei Zion. By the end of 1894, the Dorshei Zion boasted over 50 members, although not everything went smoothly. When the representatives of the Dorshei Zion group negotiated for a room to meet in and discuss Zionism, the landlord was horrified and retorted, "What! Zozallists! Clear out! I don’t want Socialists in my house!" A letter from Rabbi Dagutski of Holy Law Synagogue was required to clear matters up.


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IMAGE AND DOCUMENT CREDITS: TB Herwald (© Manchester Jewish Museum), Rabbi Dagutski (© Manchester Jewish Museum). Full reference: Sources.