CHAIM WEIZMANN: The Making of a Zionist Leader by Jehuda Reinhart

CHAIM WEIZMANN: The Making of a Zionist Leader

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This is a meticulously researched, carefully documented, but ultimately unsatisfying biography of one of the Zionist movement's major strategists and Israel's first President. Despite Weizmann's crucial historical role in the creation of a Jewish nation, he has not received a careful, extended study by one scholar. This seeming lack of interest is due to Weizmann's inability to create an original ideology (and the consequent absence of followers to follow it), and to his perceived overly close ties to England at a time when the emerging Zionist consensus was that John Bull could not be trusted and would eventually have to be confronted. Nevertheless, Weizmann's prominence makes a scholarly biography mandatory. In seeking to fight this biographical wrong, Reinharz has put together a chronological recounting of Weizmann's life up to the First World War, that is, to the moment of his swift ascendancy to the center of Zionist power. Reinharz is skillful in meshing Weizmann's personal life to Zionist theories and personalities and to the history and setting of Jewish life. But he offers no grand historical reinterpretation. Weizmann's chemical work is shown in more intimate connection to his Zionist work than has been done before, and his differences with Ahad Ha'am are explained with more precision. Generally, though, there is too little ground-breaking analysis, and too much emphasis on the forces operating on Weizmann with too little on Weizmann operating on those forces. Only in the brief concluding chapter is there a thematic integration of his life. Had this chapter come first, supplemented by an analysis of Weizmann's leadership qualities, it would have provided a useful guide both to writer and reader to the life being studied. Although inferior in charm and stylistic felicity to Weizmann's autobiography, this book is a needed reference work for readers seeking a scrupulous, unbiased account of a fascinating man living in fascinating times.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1985
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press