ZOA Celebrates 125th Year in Basel, Switzerland

Dr. Miriam Adelson, ZOA National President Mort Klein, 

and WZO Chair Yaakov Hagoel

On August 29-31, 2022, exactly 125 years after the founders of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) represented American Jewry at the inspirational First World Zionist Congress convened by Dr. Theodor Herzl in Basel, Switzerland, the ZOA is revisiting Basel and participating in the WZO’s 125th year gala celebration. At the WZO anniversary plenary event, in front of 1,200 attendees from all over the world, ZOA National President Morton A. Klein and ZOA were honored with an award for Mr. Klein’s many decades of, and ZOA’s 125 years of, outstanding efforts helping and defending Israel the Jewish people. ZOA’s dear friend and supporter, philanthropist and distinguished physician Dr. Miriam Adelson, WZO Chair Yaakov Hagoel and TV Anchor Hila Korach presented the award to ZOA President Morton Klein, following a beautiful, heartfelt substantive speech by Dr. Miriam Adelson. Dr. Adelson also told Morton Klein that ZOA must continue to do ZOA’s important, sacred work on behalf of the Jewish state of Israel.


Speakers at the conference included: Israel’s president Isaac Herzog; Dr. Miriam Adelson; President of Basel Mr. Beat Jans; Chairman of WZO Yaakov Hagoel; Rabbi David Wolpe; Dr. Shuly Schwartz, Chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary; Nachman Shai, Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs; Yael Epstein; Mark Wilf, Chair, Jewish Agency Board of Governors; architect Daniel Libeskind; Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, former Israeli Minister of Defense; and many more.


In addition, on the preceding Shabbat, Morton Klein was given another great honor – the “Herzl Aliyah” (the 5th Aliyah) – the very same Aliyah given to Dr. Theodor Herzl at the Great Synagogue in Basel exactly 125 years ago, when Dr. Herzl prayed there for the success of Zionism and the First Zionist Congress.


After the First World Zionist Congress, Dr. Theodor Herzl wrote “at Basel, I founded the Jewish State.” The dedicated, enthusiastic American delegation to the First World Zionist Congress founded ZOA as the Federation of American Zionists in 1897 and changed the organization’s name to the Zionist Organization of America in 1917. The first Jewish Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis, and Rabbi Abba Silver previously served as presidents of the ZOA. 


Today, the ZOA is the oldest Zionist organization in the United States, as well as the leading major American Jewish organization courageously defending Israel and the Jewish people; and fighting against all forms of antisemitism.


ZOA National President Morton Klein stated: “I’m so proud that ZOA participated in the First World Zionist Congress and worked so hard to carry out its goals. I am so honored by the award given to me and the ZOA, and to celebrate and carry out the vision of my predecessors and all the men and women from around the world who came together 125 years ago to lay groundwork for the State of Israel’s miraculous rebirth in the Jewish people’s ancestral, indigenous homeland.


“I also must thank ZOA’s extraordinary, committed staff and supporters for all they do to carry out Herzl’s vision; defending and supporting Israel and Jewish people.”


The First World Zionist Congress determined to re-establish the Jewish homeland “secured under public law.” ZOA played an instrumental role in fulfilling that goal and helped to obtain the binding international agreements that continue to guarantee the Jewish people’s legal rights to the land of Israel. Today, ZOA continues to promote and educate the public about the Jewish people’s rights to Israel, including Judea-Samaria and Israel’s eternal undivided capital Jerusalem and the heinous Nazi-like policies of Israel’s enemies, including the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.


ZOA President Morton Klein also appreciatively noted that the largest delegation to the First World Zionist Congress came from Russia – and that many Russian American Jews are now part of ZOA and the ZOA Coalition.


The ZOA’s delegation to the 125th WZO Anniversary events in Basel also included: ZOA Board member and recent Brandeis award winner Rubin Margules; ZOA Board member Larry Magid; Morton Klein’s wife Rita Klein; and ZOA’s Director of Research and Special Projects Liz Berney, Esq., who also serves as a ZOA Coalition delegate to the WZC Va’ad Hapoel (working committee).