January 21, 1864|
London, England, United Kingdom
|Died||August 1, 1926
Midhurst, West Sussex, England, UK
|Notable work(s)||The Melting Pot (1908)|
Israel Zangwill (January 21, 1864 – August 1, 1926) was a British humorist and writer.
Early life and education
Zangwill was born in London on January 21, 1864 in a family of Jewish immigrants from Czarist Russia, to Moses Zangwill from what is now Latvia and Ellen Hannah Marks Zangwill from what is now Poland. He dedicated his life to championing the cause of the oppressed. Jewish emancipation, women's suffrage, assimilationism, territorialism and Zionism were all fertile fields for his pen. His brother was novelist Louis Zangwill, and his son was the prominent British psychologist, Oliver Zangwill.
Zangwill received his early schooling in Plymouth and Bristol. When he was nine years old Zangwill was enrolled in the Jews' Free School in Spitalfields in east London, a school for Jewish immigrant children. The school offered a strict course of both secular and religious studies while supplying clothing, food, and health care for the scholars; today one of its four houses is named Zangwill in his honour. At this school he excelled and even taught part-time, moving up to become a full-fledged teacher. While teaching, he studied for his degree in 1884 from the University of London, earning a BA with triple honours.
Zangwill's work earned him the nickname "the Dickens of the Ghetto". He wrote a very influential novel Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People (1892). The use of the metaphorical phrase "melting pot" to describe American absorption of immigrants was popularised by Zangwill's play The Melting Pot, a hit in the United States in 1909-10. The play received its most recent production at New York's Metropolitan Playhouse in March 2006.
When The Melting Pot opened in Washington D.C. on October 5, 1909, former President Theodore Roosevelt leaned over the edge of his box and shouted, "That's a great play, Mr. Zangwill, that's a great play."
In 1912 Zangwill received a letter from Roosevelt in which Roosevelt wrote of the Melting Pot "That particular play I shall always count among the very strong and real influences upon my thought and my life." 
The hero of the play, David, emigrates to America in the wake of the Kishinev pogrom in which his entire family is killed. He writes a great symphony called "The Crucible" expressing his hope for a world in which all ethnicity has melted away, and falls in love with a beautiful Russian Christian immigrant named Vera. The dramatic peak of the play is the moment when David meets Vera's father, who turns out to be the Russian officer responsible for the annihilation of David's family. Vera's father admits his guilt, the symphony is performed to accolades, David and Vera live happily ever after, or, at least, agree to wed and kiss as the curtain falls.
"Melting Pot celebrated America's capacity to absorb and grow from the contributions of its immigrants." Zangwill was writing as "a Jew who no longer wanted to be a Jew. His real hope was for a world in which the entire lexicon of racial and religious difference is thrown away."
Zangwill wrote many other plays, including, on Broadway, Children of the Ghetto (1899), a dramatization of his own novel, directed by James A. Herne and starring Blanche Bates, Ada Dwyer, and Wilton Lackaye; Merely Mary Ann (1903) and Nurse Marjorie (1906), both of which were directed by Charles Cartwright and starred Eleanor Robson. Liebler & Co. produced all three plays as well as The Melting Pot. Daniel Frohman produced Zangwill's 1904 play, The Serio-Comic Governess, featuring Cecilia Loftus, Kate Pattison-Selten, and Julia Dean. In 1931 Jules Furthman adapted Merely Mary Ann for a Janet Gaynor film.
Zangwill's simulation of Yiddish sentence structure in English aroused great interest. He also wrote mystery works, such as The Big Bow Mystery, and social satire such as The King of Schnorrers (1894), a picaresque novel (which became a short-lived musical comedy in 1979). His Dreamers of the Ghetto (1898) includes essays on famous Jews such as Baruch Spinoza, Heinrich Heine and Ferdinand Lassalle.
Another widely-produced play was The Lens Grinder, based on the life of Spinoza.
Zangwill supported the feminist and pacifist movements, but his greatest impact may have been as a writer who popularized the idea of the melting of the races into a single, American nation. The hero of his widely-produced play, The Melting Pot, proclaims: "America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming... Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians - into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American."'
Zangwill was also involved in specifically Jewish issues as an assimilationist, an early Zionist, and a territorialist. Zangwill left the Zionist movement in 1905 to lead the Territorialist movement, advocating a Jewish homeland in whatever piece of land might be available.
Zangwill is incorrectly known for coining the slogan "A land without a people for a people without a land" describing Zionist aspirations in the Biblical land of Israel. What Zangwill actually wrote, in the New Liberal Review in December, 1901, was “Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country.” Zangwill, who had visited Palestine, knew that it did contain a population, although a relatively small one. What he meant by calling it a land without "a people" is that there was at that time no people or ethnic group identifying itself as any particular national group and that it was underpopulated as most travelers at the time agreed. The people then living in Palestine under the rule of the Ottoman Empire thought of themselves as Arab, Greek, Circassian, and so forth. Those identifying as Arabs identified with their cities, villages or tribe, or with the wider region of Syria, Bilad al-Sham, encompassing what are now Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Zangwill, however, did not invent the phrase; he acknowledged borrowing it from Lord Shaftesbury. During the lead-up to the Crimean War in 1854, which signaled an opening for realignments in the Near East in July 1853, Shaftesbury wrote to Foreign Minister Aberdeen that Greater Syria was “a country without a nation” in need of “a nation without a country... Is there such a thing? To be sure there is, the ancient and rightful lords of the soil, the Jews!” In his diary that year he wrote “these vast and fertile regions will soon be without a ruler, without a known and acknowledged power to claim dominion. The territory must be assigned to some one or other... There is a country without a nation; and God now in his wisdom and mercy, directs us to a nation without a country.” Shaftesbury himself was echoing the sentiments of Alexander Keith, D.D.
After having for a time supported Theodor Herzl, including presiding over a meeting at the Maccabean Club, London addressed by Herzl on November 24, 1895, and supporting the main Palestine-oriented Zionist movement, Zangwill broke away from the established movement and founded his own organization, called the Jewish Territorialist Organization in 1905. Its aim was to create a Jewish homeland in whatever possible territory in the world could be found (and not necessarily in what today is the state of Israel). Zangwill died in 1926 in Midhurst, West Sussex after trying to create the Jewish state in such diverse places as Canada, Australia, Mesopotamia, Uganda and Cyrenaica.
"At the centennial of his birth, even some of those who recognized the continuing relevance of his efforts to define the Jew in the modern world separated the compelling nature of his struggle from the Victorianness of his writing and the insufficiency of his solutions: territorialism, universal religion, assimilation into an American 'melting pot.' As John Gross wrote in Commentary Magazine "one honors the writer, and puts aside his books."
In popular culture
- Zangwill features as a recurring character in the novels of Will Thomas.
- Louis Zangwill in Jewish Encyclopedia
- Israel Zangwill - A Sketch, by Emanuel Elzas; in the San Francisco Call; published August 25, 1895; retrieved May 14, 2013; archived at the Library of Congress
- Werner Sollers, Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture (1986), Chapter 3 "Melting Pots"
- Guy Szuberla, "Zangwill's The Melting Pot Plays Chicago," MELUS, Vol. 20, No. 3, History and Memory. (Autumn, 1995), pp. 3-20.
- This passage is quoted on page 131 of "Theodore Roosevelt and the Idea of Race" by Thomas G.Dyer 1980 Louisiana State University Press (Paperback edition 1992). A footnote shows the letter to have been written on November 27, 1912. This letter is held in the Roosevelt Collection, Library of Congress.
- Kraus, Joe, "How The Melting Pot Stirred America: The Reception of Zangwill's Play and Theater's Role in the American Assimilation Experience," MELUS, Vol. 24, No. 3, Varieties of Ethnic Criticism. (Autumn, 1999), pp. 3-19.
- Jonathan Sacks The Home We build Together, Continium Books, 2007, P. 26
- Burns Mantle and Garrison P. Sherwood, eds., The Best Plays of 1899-1909, pp. 351, 449, 465-466, 521-522.
- Rochelson, Meri-Jane, review of Dreamer of the Ghetto: The Life and Works of Israel Zangwill, Joseph H. Udelson; AJS Review, Vol. 17, No. 1. (Spring, 1992) Accessed 2008-02-04
- As quoted in Gary Gerstle American Crucible; Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press, 2001, p. 51
- Israel Zangwill, Joseph Leftwich, Yoseloff, 1957, p. 219
- “A Land without a People for a People without a Land; An oft-cited Zionist slogan was neither Zionist nor popular,"Diana Muir, Middle Eastern Quarterly, Spring 2008, Vol. 15, No. 2 
- Garfinkle, Adam M., “On the Origin, Meaning, Use and Abuse of a Phrase.” Middle Eastern Studies, London, October 1991, vol. 27
- Shaftsbury as cited in Hyamson, Albert, “British Projects for the Restoration of Jews to Palestine,” American Jewish Historical Society, Publications 26, 1918 p. 140; and in Garfinkle, Adam M., “On the Origin, Meaning, Use and Abuse of a Phrase.” Middle Eastern Studies, London, October 1991, vol. 27). See also Mideast Web: British Support for Jewish Restoration
- Nyenhuis, Jacob E. (2003). "notes". Myth and the creative process: Michael Ayrton and the myth of Daedalus, the maze maker. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 207. ISBN 0-8143-3002-9.
- Elsie Bonita Adams Israel Zangwill (New York: Twayne, 1971)
- John Gross, "Zangwill in Retrospect," Commentary 38 (December 1964)
- Jacques Ben Guigui, Israel Zangwill: Penseur el Ecrivain 1864-1926 (Toulouse: lmprimerie Toulousaine-R. Lion, 1975)
- Burns Mantle and Garrison P. Sherwood, eds., The Best Plays of 1899-1909, (Philadelphia: The Blakiston Company, 1944)
- Edna Nahshon, From the Ghetto to the Melting Pot: Israel Zangwill’s Jewish Plays, (Wayne State University Press)
- Meri-Jane Rochelson, A Jew in the Public Arena: The Career of Israel Zangwill (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008)
- Joseph H. Udelson Dreamer of the Ghetto: The Life and Works of Israel Zangwill (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990)
- David Vital "Zangwill and Modern Jewish Nationalism," Modern Judaism, Vol. 4, No. 3. (Oct., 1984), pp. 243–253.
- Maurice Wohlgelernter, Israel Zangwill: A Study, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Israel Zangwill|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Israel Zangwill|
- The personal papers of Israel Zangwill are kept at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem. The notation of the record group is A120.
- Israel Zangwill and Children of the Ghetto
- Israel Zangwill (republished 2004). Children of the Ghetto. Black Apollo Press. ISBN 1-900355-30-2.
- Israel Zangwill (2007-08-15). The Big Bow Mystery. Dybbuk Press, LLC. ISBN 0-9766546-3-6.
- Israel Zangwill (2006-04-15). Merely Mary Ann. Dybbuk Press, LLC. ISBN 0-9766546-4-4.
- The Zionist Exposition
- Jewish Virtual Library
- Internet Broadway Database
- Jewish Museum in London
- Works by Israel Zangwill at Project Gutenberg
- A reading of The King of Schnorrers
- A reading of The Big Bow Mystery
|Awards and achievements|
|Cover of Time Magazine
17 September 1923
John Pierpont Morgan, Jr.