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Today in history: Focsani Congress

Focsani, Romaima. Wikipedia, Silvia Nichita

Today in 1882, the Focsani (Fokshan) Congress in Romania, the first of the ‘Hovevei Zion’ movement, was convened.

The Zionist idea, which was conceived in the writings of the early Zionist thinkers (such as Hess, Alkalai and more) in the mid-19th century, found its first communal foothold among Romanian Jews, who suffered from institutional discrimination. Many Jews joined associations and groups that set themselves a goal – to immigrate to the land of Israel and establish agricultural communities. In 1882, Shmuel Pinelsch, a philanthropist and activist, urged a first-of-its-kind congress in which representatives from all divisions and groups would meet to promote common policy. The Congress met in the city of Fucsani, and received no less than 50 delegates from all over the country. The Congress did not produce any bright cooperation (the divisions continued to operate separately, and Jews began to immigrate to Israel creating the “First Aliyah,” in frameworks such as “BILO.” Yemeni Jews also began aliyah this year), but it caused loud echoes in the Jewish world in Europe and beyond, putting the Lovers of Zion (‘Hovevei Zion’) movement and the idea of aliyah on the table. The Katowice Conference, which met two years later, was more significant in creating the economic basis for the immigration movement.

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