Chaim Weizmann: A Biography

Jehuda Reinharz & Motti Golani

A magisterial biography of Israel's first president. 

An image of Chaim Weizmann.

In Chaim Weizmann: A Biography, Jehuda Reinharz and Motti Golani show how Weizmann, a leader of the World Zionist Organization who became the first president of Israel, advocated for a Jewish state by gaining the support of influential politicians and statesmen as well as Jews around the world. Beginning with his childhood in Belorussia and concluding with his tenure as president, Reinharz and Golani describe how a Russian Jew, who immigrated to the United Kingdom in the early twentieth century, was able to advance the goals of Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist Organization. Weizmann is also shown as a man of human foibles — his infatuations, political machinations and elitism — as well as a man of admirable qualities — intelligence, wit, charisma, and dedication.

Weizmann, who came to the UK to work as a biochemist, was in regular communication with British political figures, including prime ministers Arthur James Balfour, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, and Ramsay MacDonald. He also met presidents of the United States from Woodrow Wilson to Harry Truman. His success in earning the support of British political figures helped lead to the Balfour Declaration, which advocated for a "national home" for the Jewish people in Palestine.

As the authors show in this authortative account of Weizmann's life, Weizmann was guided by the belief that "Zion shall be redeemed in justice," a phrase that recurs often in his writings.

About the Authors

Jehuda Reinharz is the Richard Koret Professor of Modern Jewish History at Brandeis University, where he served as President for seventeen years. He is the author and coauthor of more than thirty books in Jewish studies, including The Road to September 1939: Polish Jews, Zionists, and the Yishuv on the Eve of World War II and Zionism and the Creation of a New Society. He is the president and chief executive officer of the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation.

Motti Golani is Ruama Rosenberg Professor for Jewish History and heads the Chaim Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel at Tel Aviv University. He has authored and coauthored over a dozen books, including Two Sides of the Coin: Independence and Nakba 1948; Two Narratives of the 1949 War and its Outcome; and Palestine Between Politics and Terror, 1945-1947.

"This exquisitely detailed and rich biography makes a huge contribution not only in bringing to life this extraordinary and complex figure, but also in animating the difficult challenges of the Zionist Movement." — A.B. Yehoshua, Israel Prize Laureate

"Eminently readable and as riveting as a work of fiction." — Ha'aretz

Mazaltob: A Novel

Blanche Bendahan, author; Yaëlle Azagury and Frances Malino, editors

A first-ever English translation of a compelling work by a forerunner of modern Sephardi feminist literature.

Raised in the Judería or Jewish quarter of Tetouan, Morocco at the turn of the 20th century, sixteen-year-old Mazaltob finds herself betrothed to José, an uncouth man from her own community who has returned from Argentina to take a wife. Mazaltob, however, is in love with Jean, who is French, half-Jewish, and a free spirit.

In this classic of North African Jewish fiction, Blanche Bendahan evokes the two compelling forces tearing Mazaltob apart in her body and soul: her loyalty to the Judería and her powerful desire to follow her own voice and find true love. Bendahan’s nuanced and moving novel is a masterly exploration of the language, religion, and quotidian customs constraining North African Jewish women on the cusp of emancipation and decolonization.

Yaëlle Azagury and Frances Malino provide the first English translation of this modern coming-of-age tale, awarded a prize by the Académie Française in 1930, and analyze the ways in which Mazaltob, with its disconcerting blend of ethnographic details and modernist experimentation, is the first of its genre—that of the feminist Sephardi novel.

About the Authors

Blanche Bendahan (née Benoliel) was born in Oran, Algeria on November 26, 1893, to a Jewish family of Moroccan-Spanish origin. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to France, where she was educated in the French system. Bendahan published her first collection of poetry, La voile sur l’eau, in 1926 and then her first novel, Mazaltob, in 1930. Mazaltob, which won an award from the Académie Française, portrays a North African woman in Tetouan, Morocco, and the oppression to which she is subjected by the patriarchal society in which she lives.

Yaëlle Azagury is a writer, literary scholar, and critic. She was Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies at Barnard College, and Lecturer in Discipline in the English and Comparative Literature Department at Columbia University. She has contributed essays and scholarly articles for Women Writing Africa and Rethinking Jewish Culture and Society in North Africa and the Middle East, among other scholarly volumes. She is a native of Tangier, Morocco.

Frances Malino is the Sophia Moses Robison Professor of Jewish Studies and History Emerita at Wellesley College. She is author of The Sephardic Jews of Bordeaux: Assimilation and Emancipation in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France (1978) and A Jew in the French Revolution: The Life of Zalkind Hourwitz (1996) and co-editor of Essays in Modern Jewish History: a Tribute to Ben Halpern (1982), The Jews in Modern France (1985), Profiles in Diversity: Jews in a Changing Europe (1998), and Voices of the Diaspora: Jewish Women Writing in the New Europe (2005). In 2012 she was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques by the French Ministry of Education.