About the Collection
The minutes (1917-1933 with a gap from May 1922-November 1923; and 1940-1944) cover all the special and regular meetings of the organization. Members attending are listed and there are various lists throughout the volume, detailing the approximately 100 or so men and women who belonged. Topics were discussed, at first, in both Yiddish and English. Dues were collected and there are frequent mentions of the need to raise more funds for specific causes, and the need to energize the populations of Charleston and South Carolina for Zionism.
There were many debates about which larger organization with which to affiliate, the Zionist Organization of America, or the world organization with the group deciding on the former. The Orthodox Zionist organization, the Mizrahi, is also mentioned and funds were raised for it. Much debate centered on which agencies should be supported with the group working for both Keren Hayesod (The Palestine Foundation Fund), and organizations closer to home, such as the Talmud Torah, or local Hebrew School. Often joining the group meetings are members of the women’s organization Hadassah.
There are numerous reports of election of officers, and delegates to attend national conventions who report back on activities there. The earlier minutes make distinctions between Charleston’s “uptown” and “downtown” Jews, the newer arrivals and those more settled, but by the beginning 1930s, such gradations are not mentioned, as the organization works for, among other things, the founding and prospering of the youth group, Aleph Zadik Aleph.
There are members present from all three local congregations, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, Brith Sholom, and Beth Israel, with the latter two predominating. Prominent members and officers included Samuel Rittenberg, Rabbi Jacob S. Raisin, Joseph Hepler, Louis Shimel, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Horowitz, Harry Simonhoff, Joseph Goldman, and others. Later minutes (1940-1944) are typed, and loose, with financial reconciliations, and reports of delegates to national meetings. Included as well is one undated, ca. 1947, note re a day of prayer for Jews in Palestine.
With no history available, all that is known of this organization comes from the bound volume and the accompanying papers. The Zionist Organization of America (Charleston, S.C.) was active in 1917 when the minutes begin and continued through the 1940s. With members from the orthodox and reform congregations, its goal was to encourage and promote the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The organization is known alternately in the minutes as Bnei Zion and the Charleston Zionist Society.