Thousands of Jews are flying to Switzerland to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the first Zionist Congress

The front page of the Jewish Chronicle from 1897 announcing the Zionist Congress.

The World Zionist Congress turns 125 this week. The international organization bills itself as a kind of global Jewish parliament, setting policies for major Israeli institutions and allocating more than a billion dollars a year to support them. Usually, the delegates meet every five years in Israel; this Sunday, August 28, however, they’ll be meeting in Basel, Switzerland, where Theodor Herzl convened the very first iteration of the congress in 1897.

The World Zionist Organization is holding two days of events in Basel to mark what’s being called the most significant Zionist gathering this decade, featuring leading speakers such as Israel’s president and Canadians Gil Troy, Sylvan Adams and Danna Azrieli.

Given the weight of the event, it’s no surprise that David Matlow, the world’s leading collector of Herzl memorabilia and a regular contributor to The CJN, is heading to Basel to attend. Matlow joins the show to give a taste of what the first Congress was like and what challenges still face Zionists today.

What we talked about:


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Production assistance by Gabrielle Nadler and YuZhu Mou. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.