The Downfall of Abba Hillel Silver and the Foundation of Israel
"A seriously researched, original, and enlightening account of a significant
figure who has received far too little attention. The Downfall
of Abba Hillel Silver and the Foundation of Israel fills an important
gap in American Jewish and Zionist history."—Michael A. Meyer, Hebrew Union College
Ofer Shiff is professor of Jewish history at Ben-Gurion University, where he served as
director of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Studies of Israel and Zionism from
2001 to 2004. He is the author of Survival through Integration: American Reform Jewish
Universalism and the Holocaust and is the editor of the Hebrew periodical Iyunim Bitkumat
Israel (Studies in Israeli and Modern Jewish Society) Thematic Series.
Book Description »[Hide Description »]
In early February 1949, American Jewry’s most popular and powerful
leader, Abba Hillel Silver (1893–1963), had summarily resigned from all
his official positions within the Zionist movement and had left New York for
Cleveland, returning to his post as a Reform rabbi. In the immediate years
prior to his resignation, during the second half of the 1940s, Silver was the
most outspoken proponent of the founding of a sovereign Jewish state. He
was the most instrumental American Jewish leader in the political struggle
that led to the foundation of the State of Israel. Paradoxically, this historic
victory also heralded Silver’s personal defeat.
Soon after Israel’s declaration of independence, he and many of his
American Zionist colleagues were relegated to the sidelines of the Zionist
movement. Almost overnight the most influential leader—one who was admired
and feared by both supporters and opponents—was stripped of his
power within both the Zionist and the American Jewish arenas.
Shiff’s book discerns the various aspects of the striking turnabout in
Silver’s political fate, describing both the personal tragic story of a leader
who was defeated by his own victory and the much broader intra-Zionist
battle that erupted in full force immediately after the founding of Israel.
Drawing extensively on Silver’s personal archival material, Shiff presents
an enlightening portrait of a critical episode in Jewish history. This book is
highly relevant for anyone who attempts to understand the complex homeland-diaspora
relations between Israel and American Jewry.
View other series books on Modern Jewish History
6 x 9, 288 pages, notes, bibliography, index