Ideas for Today

Herzl—Between Theodor & Benjamin Ze’ev

How well do we know the Jewish world of the Zionist movement's most influential leader?
Regev Ben-David teaches in and directs adult Jewish learning programs, mostly with Beit Midrash Israeli – Ein Prat. Regev is an independent researcher in the fields of Religion & State in Israel, contemporary Jewish identities, and Israel-Diaspora relations. He also took part, as an entrepreneur and activist, in several projects related to Jewish culture, including Limmud Jerusalem and YOM: Workshop for Pluralism in Judaism & State. Regev obtained his MA in Political Science from Bar-Ilan

How well do we know the Jewish world of the Zionist movement’s most influential leader? Herzl was in many ways the paradigmatic example of the emancipated Jew. He only reclaimed his Jewish national identity after being disappointed by the European Enlightenment and its failure to live up to the promises of emancipation. Some recent writers, however, have offered a more Jewishly-traditional portrait of Herzl, highlighting the tension between his Western (Theodor) identity and his traditional Jewish one (Benjamin Ze’ev). In this session we study Herzl’s Jewish biography and philosophies and ask what we can learn today from his understanding of Jewish identity.

In this three-part series, Essential Texts of Zionist Thought and Modern Jewish Identity, Regev Ben-David explores the ideas of three highly influential Zionist thinkers of the early 20th century: Herzl, Ahad Ha’am, and Rav Kook. We examine their views on what it means to be a Jew in the modern world and the impact of their philosophies on the discourse about Jewish identity today.

This program is part of Ideas for Today, curated courses by Hartman Institute scholars on the big Jewish ideas we need to think better and do better.

Other classes in the series:

  • Ahad Ha’am & Cultural-Secular Judaism
  • Rabbi Kook & The Religious-Zionist Aspiration

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