Zangwill, Israel

born Feb. 14, 1864, London, Eng.
died Aug. 1, 1926, Midhurst, West Sussex

English novelist, playwright, and Zionist leader.

The son of eastern European immigrants, Zangwill drew on his own experience in Children of the Ghetto (1892), which aroused great interest. His The King of Schnorrers (1894) is a picaresque novel about an 18th-century rogue, and Dreamers of the Ghetto (1898) contains essays on famous Jews. The metaphor of America as a crucible wherein various nationalities are transformed into a new race comes from his play The Melting Pot (1908). He is remembered as one of the earliest English interpreters of Jewish immigrant life.

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▪ British author and Zionist leader
born February 14, 1864, London, England
died August 1, 1926, Midhurst, West Sussex
 novelist, playwright, and Zionist (Zionism) leader, one of the earliest English interpreters of Jewish immigrant life.

 The son of eastern European immigrants, Zangwill grew up in London's East End and was educated at the Jews' Free School and at the University of London. His early writings were on popular subjects of his day, but with Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People (1892), he drew on his intimate knowledge of ghetto life to present a gallery of Dickensian portraits of Whitechapel immigrant Jews struggling to survive in a new environment. The novelty of the subject, enhanced by Zangwill's emphasis on the Jews' exotic traits and by his simulation in English of Yiddish sentence structure, aroused great interest. Other works of Jewish content include a picaresque novel, The King of Schnorrers (1894), concerning an 18th-century rogue, and Dreamers of the Ghetto (1898), essays on famous Jewish figures, including Benedict de Spinoza (Spinoza, Benedict de), Heinrich Heine (Heine, Heinrich), and Ferdinand Lassalle (Lassalle, Ferdinand). The image of America as a crucible wherein the European nationalities would be transformed into a “new race” owes its origin to the title and theme of Zangwill's play The Melting Pot (1908).

      Zangwill became a spokesman for Zionism after meeting Theodor Herzl (Herzl, Theodor) in 1896 but broke with the movement to form the Jewish Territorial Organization for the Settlement of the Jews Within the British Empire, of which he was president (1905–25).

Additional Reading
Joseph H. Udelson, Dreamer of the Ghetto: The Life and Works of Israel Zangwill (1990).

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Universalium. 2010.

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