Treasure Trove: A 1905 postcard from Basel recalls the many Zionist groups and supporters in Toronto

“Greetings from the Seventh Zionist Congress to our friends in Toronto” reads the top message on this postcard sent from the 1905 Congress in Basel, the first held after the death of Theodor Herzl. The image was painted by Carl Josef Pollack and depicts Herzl standing among his fellow Jews awaiting entrance to the Land of Israel.

The Hebrew text below Herzl is from Genesis 50:25 where Joseph requested that his remains be reburied in the Land of Israel when the Jewish people leave Egypt. Joseph’s wish was fulfilled and he was reburied in Shechem in a plot of land that Jacob purchased (as reported in Joshua 24:32). 

Herzl had a similar wish and it too was fulfilled. In 1949 his remains were taken from Vienna to Jerusalem to be reburied on what is now Mount Herzl.

Who were the friends in Toronto that are being referred to? The postcard does not name an addressee on the reverse side, but there certainly were many Zionists in the city even in 1905. Agudath Zion was the first Zionist society formed in Toronto, in 1898. The Daughters of Zion girls club followed two years later. The Bnai Zion was founded in 1904 and in 1905, the Zion Cadets, Judaean Boys and Nordau Zion Club societies were formed.

The Toronto Jewish community’s support for the Zionist dream remained widespread, diverse and consistent before Israel’s independence in 1948, and continues now for the State of Israel through good times and more difficult periods.

Just as was the case in 1905, Israel and our brothers and sisters living there can always count on their “friends in Toronto” as well as their friends across Canada.