Up from Motol
To the Editor:
I enjoyed reading Solomon Bloom’s “Autobiography of Weizmann’s Zionism” [in the May COMMENTARY] for the fine analysis it contained. I thought, however, that Bloom had left some important things unsaid. . . . I think the interesting paradox is that Weizmann believed that he derived support from the fact that he came from Motol and was thoroughly at home with the East European “universe”; whereas a more important source of his support came from the fact that he symbolized the East European Jew who “made good.” His life became a Horatio Alger story for Jews.
Weizmann is the transition figure in Zionist development—the bridge between the source and the ultimate fulfillment. He served that “bridge” function precisely because of the plurality of images he represented. . . . His was a complex figure, whose many sides made him so widely acceptable in so many Jewish and non-Jewish circles. His period of fulfillment is not without its pathos from this standpoint, for Weizmann is alienated from the new generation in Israel, a group that he least understands and that understands him least. Between Weizmann and Ben Gurion there were not too many miles in East Europe, but they are poles apart in social outlook and in temperament.
There is more to say about Weizmann. His position in the Jewish social scale in Eastern Europe is not too far removed from his position in English society. His arrogance about being East European is no more charitable than the arrogance traditionally ascribed to the Western Jew. And I wish Bloom could have touched more on Weizmann’s social and political views, which seem to bear traces of Victorian liberalism with strong overtones of the Georgian era.
Lester G. Seligman
University of Chicago