ZACUTO, ABRAHAM BEN SAMUEL (ca. 1450-ca. 1510).

Astronomer, scientist, professor, and rabbinical scholar. A native of Spain, Zacuto lived in Portugal after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Fleeing the Inquisition, he left Portugal for Tunis and Turkey. Zacuto perfected the astrolabe, the forerunner of the sextant, used by Vasco da Gama. He was the author of the Almanach Perpetuum, nautical tables, and works on astronomy.


See Hebrew Literature.


Linguist. Born in Bialystok, he practiced medicine in Warsaw. Intent on solving the problem of national conflicts, he thought that a simple international language might hasten the solution. He created an auxiliary language called Esperanto (literally, hopeful). Esperanto, which brought its creator world fame, uses all the letters of the Roman alphabet, except Q, W, X, and Y. It is spelled as pronounced, its rules have no exceptions, and its guiding principle is to use roots common to the main languages of Europe. More than 10,000 publications have appeared in Esperanto; more than 100 Esperanto periodicals are regularly published.

While Esperanto did not become a recognized and widely-used international language, it continues to have thousands of devoted followers around the world who continue to pursue cultural and organizational activities.

ZANGWILL, ISRAEL (1864-1926).

Writer, satirist, and founder of the Jewish Territorialist Organization. He was born and raised in London‘s East End, amid the struggles of the East European Jewish immigrants to adjust to new surroundings. He understood the ghetto folk and saw their sorrow when the children left their parents’ way of life for the new ways of modern London. In his Children of the Ghetto (1892), he brought these people to life with realism, sympathy, and humor. His journalistic essays were cruelly witty; his non-Jewish novels brought him passing success. Children of the Ghetto was Zangwill’s first claim on lasting fame, followed closely by the King of Schnorrers and Dreamers of the Ghetto.

Theodor Herzl won Zangwill over to Zionism in 1895, and for a number of years he worked actively for the cause. When the Zionist movement rejected Uganda in British East Africa as a “temporary asylum” for the persecuted Jews of Russia, Zangwill left the Zionist organization. He wanted to rind a land in which the Jews could settle immediately and have their own state. For this purpose he founded the Jewish Territorialist Organization (JTO), which searched for a Jewish homeland in other countries, from Africa to Australia. After the Balfour Declaration, which promised “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” Zangwill returned to the Zionist fold and worked for Zionism until the end of his life.


Seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, seven.


Literally, he dwelled. Sixth son of Jacob and Leah. Zebulun was the only tribe to settle near the coast, its land a sliver in the center of Canaan.

ZECHARIAH (ca. 520 B.C.E.).

Eleventh of the Minor Prophets. Like his contemporary the prophet Haggai, Zechariah lived and preached in Jerusalem after the return from the Babylonian exile. He too urged the rebuilding of the Temple and prophesied the coming of the Messiah. His visions are mystic revelations replete with symbolic figures: horses, craftsmen, a golden candlestick, a flying scroll, and Satan in the role of an accusing angel.

ZEITLIN, HILLEL (1872-1942).

Hebrew and Yiddish writer and thinker. Born in a small town in White Russia, his early youth was steeped in the study of the Talmud and Hasidism. He later contributed to the Hebrew and Yiddish press and became editor of a Yiddish daily, Moment, in Warsaw, Poland. In his books and numerous articles, Zeitlin dealt with the philosophical problems of good and evil; he also wrote extensively on the Kabbalah and on Hasidism. Deeply religious, his fine poetic essays expressed his love of nature, its harmony, and beauty.

Zeitlin died a martyr’s death at the hands of the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto while absorbed in prayer. His son Aaron Zeitlin became a Hebrew and Yiddish poet and essayist.


Member of the tribe of Menasseh during the wanderings in the wilderness in the time of Moses. He had five daughters and no sons, and when he died his daughters approached Moses and laid claim to his estate. Special legislation had to be issued to allow daughters to inherit in the absence of sons, provided they married a member of their tribe. This appears to be the first time in Jewish history that women claimed their rights and were successful.


Zephaniah, ninth of the Minor Prophets, lived toward the end of the 7th century B.C.E., and prophesied the downfall of Nineveh and the Assyrian empire. He warned the people that “a great and dreadful day of the Lord, a day of darkness and obscurity” would come upon them and they would be punished for evil-doing. After this punishment, salvation would come to Israel and to all the world.


Last King of Judea. Princely descendant of the House of David, who governed Judea in the 6th century B.C.E., Zerubbabel, grandson of Jehoiachin, ended his life a captive in Babylonia. Cyrus, the Median prince, having conquered Babylonia in 539 B.C.E., permitted Zerubbabel to lead a group of returning exiles back to Judea. With the aid of the high priest Joshua, Zerubbabel set up an altar, restored the celebration of the holidays, and began the rebuilding of the city walls and the Temple. Internal difficulties and hostile neighbors interrupted this work. About 520 B.C.E., Zerubbabel was appointed governor of Judea and, encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, resumed the labor of reconstruction.

ZHIDLOVSKY, CHAIM (1865-1943).

Socialist writer in Russia who founded the Jewish Section of the Socialist Revolution Party in 1885. He advocated Jewish national self-determination under socialism, and considered Yiddish the national Jewish language. In 1908, he settled in New York where he edited a Yiddish periodical and pursued his Jewish socialist teachings. To Jews before World War II who did not consider Zionism the national solution to Jewish life, but rather espoused socialism and Yiddishism, Zhidlovsky was an ideological leader.

Robert Eringer


The history of the Zionist movement in the U.S. begins in the early 1880’s when Hoveve Zion, or Lovers of Zion, societies were formed by Russian immigrants in New York, Baltimore, and Chicago. Dr. Joseph Bluestone, who practiced medicine and wrote poetry, was the founder of the New York Lovers of Zion group. Bluestone believed that Zionism should serve a spiritual purpose and safeguard American Jewry against assimilation. In 1897, the two-year-old Zion Society of Chicago was the only such group to send a delegate to the First Zionist Congress held in Basel.

Stimulated by the reports from this Congress, the Federation of American Zionists was organized in 1898 at a national conference in New York. Professor Richard Gottheil was the first president of the federation, and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise its first secretary. The following year, a young journalist, Louis Lipsky, founded the Maccabean, the monthly that became the official Zionist publication. The periodical later changed its name to The New Palestine and finally to The American Zionist. By 1900, there were more than 100 societies all over the country. In addition to those already mentioned, a brilliant group of men including Harry Friedenwald and Benjamin Szold of Baltimore and Judah L. Magnes of New York were the leaders of the infant movement. Yet, until World War I, its growth was rather slow. Young Judea was organized in 1907 as the youth department of the federation, and Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, was founded in 1912. When World War I broke out in 1914, the role of American Zionism assumed new importance. The American Zionists were practically cut off from the European Zionist headquarters. Louis Lipsky, then chairman of the Zionist Federation, and Shmaryahu Levin, a member of the World Zionist Executive then visiting in the U.S., called an extraordinary conference to cope with the emergency. This conference established the Provisional Committee for Zionist Affairs under the chairmanship of Louis D. Brandeis. In its Berlin headquarters, the World Zionist Executive acted to avoid the splitting of Zionist forces between the contending hostile powers of the war by transferring its authority to the Provisional Committee. The Committee functioned until 1918, managing the Zionist institutions in Palestine and financing Zionist political activities in various war zones. Most important were the negotiations conducted by Brandeis and the Committee which contributed so largely to the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, and were so responsible for obtaining American backing for it.

In 1917, the Mizrachi and Poale Zion groups, representing the religious and Labor Zionists, withdrew from the Provisional Committee, and all the General Zionist groups united to form the Zionist Organization of America, replacing the Provisional Committee. The following year, the Zionist Organization met at a conference in Pittsburgh. There it adopted what came to be called the Pittsburgh Program which was liberal and appealed strongly to the Jewish love for social justice. Brandeis, appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, withdrew from public Zionist leadership. He became the honorary president of the Zionist Organization of America, while Judge Julian W. Mack was elected president. At the Cleveland Zionist Convention in 1921, the Brandeis program stressed private initiative in preference to the use of public funds in the economic development of Palestine. This brought about a serious difference of opinion between the followers of Brandeis and Mack and the followers of Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization. Finally, Brandeis and his colleagues withdrew from active Zionist responsibility. Louis Lipsky and the men who led the opposition to the Brandeis group were entrusted with the leadership. Until 1931, Lipsky served as president of the Zionist Organization of America.

The Keren Hayesod was established as the principal agency to support the development of Palestine. The Zionist Organization began to grow in membership, particularly after President Harding and the U.S. Congress approved the Balfour Declaration on September 21, 1922. Eventually, the breach between the two factions in American Zionism was healed, and most of the members of the Brandeis group, including Judge Mack, Stephen S. Wise, and Abba Hillel Silver, re
turned to active leadership. Between 1921 and 1929, approximately $10 million was raised for the Keren Hayesod. The Arab riots in Palestine in 1929 and the world economic depression set back Zionist activity. However, the rising tide of Nazism in Germany was followed by a wave of antisemitism in the U.S.; the result was an increase in Zionist membership.

When World War II broke out in 1939, representatives of the Zionist Organization, Hadassah, Mizrachi, and the Labor Zionist movement came together in the American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs to meet the crisis facing the Jewish communities of Europe and Palestine.

Since 1948, with the rebirth of Israel, the Zionist Organization established and supports the ZOA House in Tel Aviv, Kfar Silver, and the technical high school in Ashkelon which trains more than 750 Israeli, American, and foreign high school youth.

Within the Jewish community, ZOA is committed to work vigorously on behalf of education and Aliyah. To contribute to these efforts. ZOA established four Institutes in the 1980’s. They are the Jacob Goodman Institute for Middle East Relations and Information, The Ivan J. Novick Institute for Israel-Diaspora Relations, The George Rothman Institute on U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East, and the Greenwald-Tarnepol Foundation for the Advancement of Zionism.

ZOA’s Masada movement is the second largest Zionist youth movement in the U.S. Through Masada, ZOA’s Women’s Division, Young Zionist Leadership Groups and Regions and Districts, public affairs programs, ZOA remains a strong and vital Zionist institution in the U.S.

With some 30,000 members, the ZOA today is dwarfed by Hadassah with its 300,000 members. But it continues to play a vital role on behalf of Israel’s vital needs, such as ties with the U.S., security, and aliyah.