First Zionist Congress

Second Congress

In 1897, Herzl organized the first Zionist Congress, in Basel, Switzerland. This Congress founded the World Zionist Organization.

Herzl had been surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response from the publishing of his book “Jewish State”. He began meetings with Zionist leaders throughout Europe. In January 1897 members of the German Kadima Society recommended to Herzl that he call a meeting of Jews from throughout the world to work towards the creation of a Jewish State. After receiving support for the idea Herzl sent out innovations to hold a conference in Munich in August. The organized Jewish community in Germany objected to holding the conference. The Executive Committee of the Rabbis of Germany explained its objection stating that one hand a Jewish state should only come into being after the messiah comes. In addition, the Rabbis claimed that to work to create a Jewish state conflicted with the loyalty to the Fatherland(Germany).

The meeting was moved to Basle Switzerland. 204 representatives fro 15 countries arrived in Basle, including delegates from the United States. Delegates were asked to dress in their finest. Beyond the delegates thanks to the efforts of Herzl, newspaper reporters from throughout Europe attended the conference

Herzl was the first speaker and when he got up to speak the audience broke out in sustained applause that lasted 15 minutes. When he finally spoke Herzl stated” We are here to lay the foundations stone of the house which will shelter the Jewish people. “

Following Herzl's address, others including Max Nordau spoke and presented practical steps needed to move forward. In the course of this congress, the World Zionist Organization was founded. A resolution that became known as the Basel Program outlined the goals of Zionism was /passed. These goals were described as the establishment in Palestine of a "home for the Jewish people secured by law". Thus the goals of the World Zionist Organization came to fruition with the formation of a Jewish homeland 50 years later, with the founding of the modern state of Israel.