Israel Zangwill: Wikis


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Israel Zangwill.jpg

Israel Zangwill (January 21, 1864 - August 1, 1926) was an English humourist and writer.



Zangwill was born in London on January 21, 1864 in a family of Jewish immigrants from Czarist Russia (Moses Zangwill from what is now Latvia and Ellen Hannah Marks Zangwill from what is now Poland), he dedicated his life to championing the cause of the oppressed. Jewish emancipation, women's suffrage, assimilationism, territorialism and Zionism (understood as a national liberation movement) were all fertile fields for his pen. His brother was also a writer, the novelist Louis Zangwill,[1] and his son was the prominent British psychologist, Oliver Zangwill.

Zangwill received his early schooling in Plymouth and Bristol. When he was nine years old Zangwill was enrolled in the Jews' Free School in Spitalfields in east London, a school for Jewish immigrant children. The school offered a strict course of both secular and religious studies while supplying clothing, food, and health care for the scholars; today one of its four houses is named Zangwill in his honour. At this school young Israel excelled and even taught part-time, moving up to become a full-fledged teacher. While teaching, he studied for his degree in 1884 from the University of London, earning a BA with triple honours.

In later life, his friends included well known Victorian writers such as Jerome K. Jerome and H. G. Wells.

The writer

Theatre Programme for The Melting Pot (1916)

Zangwill wrote a very influential novel Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People (1892). The use of the metaphorical phrase melting pot to describe American absorption of immigrants was popularised by Zangwill's play The Melting Pot,[2] a hit in the United States in 1908 – 1909. The play received its most recent production at New York's Metropolitan Playhouse in March 2006.

When The Melting Pot opened in Washington D.C. on October 5, 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt leaned over the edge of his box and shouted, "That's a great play, Mr. Zangwill, that's a great play."[3] The hero of the play, David, emigrates to America in the wake of the Kishinev pogrom in which his entire family is killed. He writes a great symphony called "The Crucible" expressing his hope for a world in which all ethnicity has melted away, and falls in love with a beautiful Russian Christian immigrant named Vera. The dramatic peak of the play is the moment when David meets Vera's father, who turns out to be the Russian officer responsible for the annihilation of David's family. Vera's father admits his guilt, the symphony is performed to accolades, David and Vera live happily ever after, or, at least, agree to wed and kiss as the curtain falls.

"Melting Pot celebrated America's capacity to absorb and grow from the contributions of its immigrants."[4] Zangwill, who had already left Zionism, was writing as "a Jew who no longer wanted to be a Jew. His real hope was for a world in which the entire lexicon of racial and religious difference is thrown away."[5]

His simulation of Yiddish sentence structure in English aroused great interest. He also wrote mystery works, such as The Big Bow Mystery, and social satire such as The King of Schnorrers (1894), a picaresque novel. His Dreamers of the Ghetto (1898) includes essays on famous Jews such as Baruch Spinoza, Heinrich Heine and Ferdinand Lassalle. Jules Furthman adapted one of his plays for the 1931 Janet Gaynor film Merely Mary Ann, about an orphan and a composer.

The Big Bow Mystery was the first locked room murder novel. It has been almost continuously in print since 1891 and has been used as the basis for three commercial films.[6]

Another widely-produced play was The Lens Grinder, based on the life of Spinoza.

In politics

Zangwill supported the feminist and pacifist movements,[6] but his greatest impact may have been as a writer who popularized the idea of the melding of the races into a single, American nation. The hero of his widely-produced play, The Melting Pot, proclaims : "America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming... Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians - into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American."'[7]


Jewish politics

Zangwill was also involved in specifically Jewish issues.....politics as an assimilationist, an early Zionist, and a territorialist.[6] Zangwill left the Zionist movement in 1905 to lead the Territorialist movement, advocating a Jewish homeland in whatever piece of land might be available. [8]

Zangwill is incorrectly known for coining the slogan "A land without a people for a people without a land" describing Zionist aspirations in the Biblical land of Israel. What Zangwill actually wrote, in the New Liberal Review in December, 1901, was “Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country.” Zangwill, who had visited Palestine, knew that it did contain a population, although a relatively small one. What he meant by calling it a land without "a people" is that there was at that time no people or ethnic group identifying itself as any particular national group and that it was underpopulated as most travelers at the time (i.e. non-Palestinians) agreed. The people then living in Palestine under the rule of the Ottoman Empire thought of themselves as Arab, Greek, Circassian, and so forth. Those identifying as Arabs identified with their cities, villages or tribe, or with the wider region of Syria, Bilad al-Sham, encompassing what are now Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories.[9]

Zangwill, however, did not invent the phrase, he acknowledges borrowing it from Lord Shaftesbury.[10] During the lead-up to the Crimean War in 1854, which signaled an opening for realignments in the Near East in July 1853, Shaftesbury wrote to Foreign Minister Aberdeen that Greater Syria was “a country without a nation” in need of “a nation without a country... Is there such a thing? To be sure there is, the ancient and rightful lords of the soil, the Jews!” In his diary that year he wrote “these vast and fertile regions will soon be without a ruler, without a known and acknowledged power to claim dominion. The territory must be assigned to some one or other... There is a country without a nation; and God now in his wisdom and mercy, directs us to a nation without a country.”[11] Shaftesbury himself was echoing the sentiments of Alexander Keith, D.D.[9]

After having for a time supported Theodor Herzl and the main Palestine-oriented Zionist movement, Zangwill, a British Jew, broke away from the established movement and founded his own organization, called the Jewish Territorialist Organization in 1905. Its aim was to create a Jewish homeland in whatever possible territory in the world could be found (and not necessarily in what today is the state of Israel). Zangwill died in 1926 in Midhurst, West Sussex after trying to create the Jewish state in such diverse places as Canada, Australia, Mesopotamia, Uganda and Cyrenaica.

"At the centennial of his birth, even some of those who recognized the continuing relevance of his efforts to define the Jew in the modern world separated the compelling nature of his struggle from the Victorianness of his writing and the insufficiency of his solutions: territorialism, universal religion, assimilation into an American 'melting pot.' As John Gross wrote in Commentary Magazine "one honors the writer, and puts aside his books."[6] This quote appears to be directed toward his break from mainstream Zionism, which out-lived the Territorialist movement that Zangwill established.

In others' fiction

  • Israel Zangwill features as a recurring character in the novels of Will Thomas.

See also


  1. ^ Louis Zangwill in Jewish Encyclopedia
  2. ^ Werner Sollers, Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture (1986), Chapter 3 "Melting Pots"
  3. ^ Guy Szuberla, "Zangwill's The Melting Pot Plays Chicago," MELUS, Vol. 20, No. 3, History and Memory. (Autumn, 1995), pp. 3-20.
  4. ^ Kraus, Joe, "How The Melting Pot Stirred America: The Reception of Zangwill's Play and Theater's Role in the American Assimilation Experience," MELUS, Vol. 24, No. 3, Varieties of Ethnic Criticism. (Autumn, 1999), pp. 3-19.
  5. ^ Jonathan Sacks The Home We build Together, Continium Books, 2007, P. 16
  6. ^ a b c d Rochelson, Meri-Jane, review of Dreamer of the Ghetto: The Life and Works of Israel Zangwill, Joseph H. Udelson; AJS Review, Vol. 17, No. 1. (Spring, 1992) Accessed 2008-02-04
  7. ^ As quoted in Gary Gerstle American Crucible; Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press, 2001, p. 51
  8. ^ Israel Zangwill, Joseph Leftwich, Yoseloff, 1957, p. 219
  9. ^ a b “A Land without a People for a People without a Land; An oft-cited Zionist slogan was neither Zionist nor popular,"Diana Muir, Middle Eastern Quarterly, Spring 2008, Vol. 15, No. 2 [1]
  10. ^ Garfinkle, Adam M., “On the Origin, Meaning, Use and Abuse of a Phrase.” Middle Eastern Studies, London, October 1991, vol. 27
  11. ^ Shaftsbury as cited in Hyamson, Albert, “British Projects for the Restoration of Jews to Palestine,” American Jewish Historical Society, Publications 26, 1918 p. 140; and in Garfinkle, Adam M., “On the Origin, Meaning, Use and Abuse of a Phrase.” Middle Eastern Studies, London, October 1991, vol. 27). See also Mideast Web: British Support for Jewish Restoration


  • Elsie Bonita Adams Israel Zangwill (New York: Twayne, 1971)
  • John Gross, "Zangwill in Retrospect," Commentary 38 (December 1964)
  • Jacques Ben Guigui, Israel Zangwill: Penseur el Ecrivain 1864-1926 (Toulouse: lmprimerie Toulousaine-R. Lion, 1975)
  • Edna Nahshon, From the Ghetto to the Melting Pot: Israel Zangwill’s Jewish Plays, (Wayne State University Press)
  • Joseph H. Udelson Dreamer of the Ghetto: The Life and Works of Israel Zangwill (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990)
  • David Vital "Zangwill and Modern Jewish Nationalism," Modern Judaism, Vol. 4, No. 3. (Oct., 1984), pp. 243-253.
  • Maurice Wohlgelernter, Israel Zangwill: A Study, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964)

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Jack Dempsey
Cover of Time Magazine
17 September 1923
Succeeded by
John Pierpont Morgan, Jr.


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Israel Zangwill (February 14, 1864August 1, 1926) was an English humorist and writer.



  • No Jew was ever fool enough to turn Christian unless he was a clever man.
    • Children of the Ghetto, bk. 1, ch. 7.
  • Scratch the Christian and you find the pagan — spoiled.
    • Children of the Ghetto, bk. 2, ch. 6.
  • No... the real American has not yet arrived. He is only in the Crucible, I tell you—he will be the fusion of all races, perhaps the coming superman.
    • The Melting Pot, act 1.
  • America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming!
    • The Melting Pot, act 1.
  • Oh, for the simple life,
    For tents and starry skies!
    • Aspiration.

Poem: Blind Children

  • An Edward's England spat us out - a band
    Foredoomed to redden Vistula or Rhine,
    And leaf-like toss with every wind malign.
    All mocked the faith they could not understand.
  • How full and rich a world
    Theirs to inhabit is—
    Sweet scent of grass and bloom,
    Playmates’ glad symphony,
    Cool touch of western wind,
    Sunshine’s divine caress.

    How should they know or feel
    They are in darkness?

    But, oh, the miracle!
    If a Redeemer came,
    Laid finger on their eyes—
    One touch and what a world,
    New-born in loveliness!
  • What a dark world—who knows?—
    Ours to inhabit is!
    One touch and what a strange
    Glory might burst on us,
    What a hid universe!

See also

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ISRAEL ZANGWILL (1864-), Jewish man of letters, was born in London on the 14th of February 1864. His early childhood was spent in Plymouth and at Bristol, where he received his first schooling. He was in his ninth year when his parents settled in Spitalfields, and he entered the Jews' Free School, where eventually he became a teacher. Concurrently with his teaching work he took his degree with honours at London University. He had already written a fantastic tale entitled The Premier and the Painter in collaboration with Louis Cowen, when he resigned his position as a teacher owing to differences with the school managers and ventured into journalism. He founded and edited Arid, The London Puck, and did much miscellaneous work on the London press. He made his literary reputation with a novel, The Children of the Ghetto (1892), which was followed by Ghetto Tragedies (1803); The Master (1895); Dreamers of the Ghetto (1898); The Mantle of Elijah (rigor); and other tales and novels of great interest dealing with Jewish life. Children of the Ghetto was produced in a play in New York with success in 1899, and has since been extensively played both in English and Yiddish. Others of his plays are: Merely Mary Ann, played at the Duke of York's theatre, and The SerioComic Governess; Nurse Marjorie; and The Melting Pot, all produced in New York. Mr Zangwill was the founder of the International Jewish Territorial Organization (see Zionism).

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