This article examines the social experience of belonging to the British section of the international Socialist Zionist youth movement, Hashomer Hatzair. The study is based on interviews conducted with 10 former activists across four generations and focuses primarily on the movement in London. It will be argued that Hashomer Hatzair represented a unique alternative youth culture based on a model developed by the movement’s founders in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This model synthesized Robert Baden-Powell’s Scouting, the Jugendkultur of the German youth movements, Socialist Zionism and Marxism. Imported to Britain by young German and Austrian refugees from Nazism, this youth culture was reproduced initially in the English countryside, and after the war plugged into the pre-existing politics of Jewish radicalism in London and the general Zionist fervour that anticipated the establishment of Israel. Hashomer Hatzair emphasized autonomy from adult society. By creating autonomous youth spaces, the movement opened a portal for young Jews to shape their own identities. Through a process of politicization and education, the movement’s adherents would identify life on Israeli kibbutzim as an ideal future in adulthood. In tandem with the projection of heroic Jewish role models, this process encouraged Hashomer Hatzair’s followers to define their Jewishness in secular and existential terms, in opposition both to contemporary consumerist and urbanized capitalism, and to the traditional communal associations of the past.
This article discusses George Orwell’s attitude to Zionism and the Palestine question, a controversial and emotional subject in left-wing circles in his time and since. There have been a number of studies on Orwell’s attitude to Jews and antisemitism and some of these have touched upon Orwell’s approach to Zionism. However, his stance on the Palestine question specifically deserves further exposition. This is so, not least because on this subject too Orwell’s views—largely anti-Zionist—differed from the prevailing, passionate beliefs of most left-wing intellectuals of his time, including some of his closest friends and political allies. Furthermore, Orwell’s views were expressed at a time when the Palestine conflict peaked during the last decade of the British Mandate with results which resound to this day.
Vanessa Freedman, Librarian, Hebrew and Jewish Studies Library, UCL
Moses Gaster and the Anglo-Jewish community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
G08 Chadwick Building, November 27, 2014, 18:30-20:00
Moses Gaster (1856-1939) was born in Romania but expelled due to his political activities on behalf of the Jewish community. He emigrated to England and was appointed as Head of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community and later Principal of the Judith Lady Montefiore College in Ramsgate. He was one of the leading figures in the Zionist movement in England and played an important role in the negotiations that led to the Balfour Declaration. As well as his communal and political activities, he was a prolific scholar in both Jewish and non-Jewish fields. Gaster left behind a vast archive of over 170,000 items, which his heirs deposited at UCL. It includes correspondence, diaries, notebooks, unpublished memoirs, photographs, press cuttings and more. There is also a large collection of ephemera. This talk will use items from the collection and extracts from the memoirs to describe Gaster’s life.