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“The materialism here is dreadful, pitiless. To occupy oneself here with anything not directly connected with earning one’s bread, it is necessary to be either very rich or very talented.”
-Chaim Weizmann, commenting on England’s elitist, aristocratic bent– as opposed to France’s and Germany’s more meritocratic bent, at the dawn of the twentieth century
The Book of the Week is “The Impossible Takes Longer, The Memoirs of Vera Weizmann, As Told to David Tutaev” by Vera Weizmann, published in 1967.
This book’s subjects included both Vera and Chaim Weizmann. The latter was best known as the first president of Israel, but he was actually just a figurehead. His Zionism ought to be noted, though. His brand of Zionism harped on the fact that the “wandering Jew” was rejected most everywhere he or she sought refuge from oppression. By the twentieth century, Arabs, on the other hand, could find refuge in many countries which would gladly accept them if there was political turmoil in their homeland.
Vera, one of seven siblings, was born in November 1881 in Rostov, in the former Soviet Union. Chaim, one of ten siblings, was born in November 1874 in western Russia, in the Pale of Settlement.
In late 1932, Chaim delivered a lecture to the leaders of the Jewish community in Germany, raising the alarm on the dangers of Hitler’s rhetoric. Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, already provided a hint of his take on Jews. Chaim sat on various boards of Zionist-related entities. Controversies raged through the 1930’s, among myriad other goings-on, over violence in Germany, violence in Palestine, what to do about refugees, and whether to make Palestine a Jewish homeland.
In 1935, Chaim was pressured to become president again of the World Zionist Organization. He relented, but going in, he knew he would become a scapegoat for the wrongs committed by the British government. Great Britain was in a tough spot, as it wanted Arab oil and to keep control of Palestine, but part of fighting against fascism meant doing the right thing by helping the cause of freedom for all peoples of the world, including Jews.
In 1937, in a speech to the Peel Commission, Weizmann again urged Jews to leave Germany. He was the one who said there were approximately six million of them. At that time, pursuant to the British Mandate, a tiny percentage of them could obtain a certificate allowing them entry to Palestine. Between 1940 and 1944, only about thirty-two thousand people were allowed to move to Palestine.
Vera and Chaim’s Jewish ancestors had been oppressed in their native lands. The two moved to England at the start of the 1900’s to minimize the possibility of their own persecution. In 1900, when Chaim was in his late twenties, he helped found the Jewish National Fund, whose donors bought up land in Palestine for the Jews. Beginning in her late teens, Vera studied in Geneva, Switzerland to be a medical doctor.
Read the book to learn of what became of Vera and Chaim.