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David Wolffsohn

1855 - 1914.


David Wolffsohn was a Lithuanian-Jewish businessman, an early Zionist, and the second president of the Zionist Organization.


Source: Wikipedia. Public domain.

Born in Lithuania in 1856, David Wolffsohn received a traditional Jewish education. In his twenties, he traveled a lot and worked in many jobs. He connected with the writer David Gordon and absorbed his ideas on the importance of the return to Zion.


Throughout his travels, Wolffsohn remained active in Jewish affairs. However, it was in Cologne (Germany) that he first became involved in Zionist activities. In 1888, he settled there and became a successful businessman.


In 1893, Wolffsohn established the Cologne Association for the Development of Agriculture in Palestine, part of the Hovevei Zion movement.


In 1896, he read Herzl's publication "Der Judenstaat", and traveled to Vienna to meet with him. After returning from Vienna, Wolffsohn established in Cologne the epicenter of the Zionist Organization in Germany - the "National Jewish Association". The fundamental beliefs of the association were a combination of the Hovevei Zion movement's ideas and Herzl's Zionist ones. In 1897, elections were held in Germany for the German Zionist Organization, where he was elected treasurer.

Together with Herzl, they embarked on a tour to Istanbul and the Land of Israel, where they met with Kaiser Wilhelm II to discuss the establishment of a Jewish State. During the trip, the ties between Wolffsohn and Herzl grew stronger, and as a tribute to his friend, Herzl named the main character in his book "Altneuland" David. David Litbeck is the name of the character.


Wolffsohn played a key role in establishing the Jewish Colonial Trust (the first Zionist bank founded at the Second Zionist Congress and incorporated in London in March 1899). Zalman David Levontin was its first president.


Wolffsohn experienced differences with Herzl, who interfered with bank operations despite his lack of financial expertise. But despite these challenges, he remained loyal to Herzl, even during the Uganda Plan controversy.


After Herzl's death, Wolffsohn became President of the World Zionist Organization and continued his predecessor's political and diplomatic priorities. He served as chairman of the organization until 1911 when he resigned after facing opposition from practical Zionists (who wanted to quickly implement concrete actions in the Land of Israel, even if no diplomatic and political results were obtained).


Despite this setback, Wolffsohn continued his work with the Jewish Colonial Trust until his death in Hamburg in 1914.


In 1952, Wolffsohn and his wife Fanny's coffins were reinterred in Israel.

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