Abba Hillel Silver and David Ben-Gurion: A Diaspora Leader Challenges the Revered Status of the ‘Founding Father’

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4 Scopus citations


During the years immediately preceding Israel's founding, Abba Hillel Silver was considered the most powerful leader of American Zionism. His leadership was viewed by numerous admirers as epitomising the yearning of the Jewish people after the Holocaust. However, almost immediately after Israel's foundation, he was relegated to the margins of Zionist politics; the more important reasons for this development being his status vis-à-vis the leader of the pre-state Jewish community, David Ben-Gurion, who was elevated to the revered status of the ‘founding father’ of the recently established state. This article discusses how Silver coped with this new situation, where only his great rival could legitimise him. After realising the futility of challenging Ben-Gurion directly, Silver decided to elevate Ben-Gurion in his speeches to the status of the ideal philosopher-king. The question is whether by doing so Silver accepted the incontestability of Ben-Gurion's charismatic leadership, or whether he was merely attempting to reinterpret Ben-Gurion's new revered status in a way that legitimised his own Diaspora leadership, thus reinforcing a very different national ideology from the Israelocentric one represented by Ben-Gurion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-412
Number of pages22
JournalStudies in Ethnicity and Nationalism
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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