David Matlow
Owner of the world's largest Herzl collection

The First Zionist Congress — a story told in objects

Delegate card issued to Dr. Heinrich Loewe, a German Zionist and participant in the First Zionist Congress.
Delegate card issued to Dr. Heinrich Loewe, a German Zionist and participant in the First Zionist Congress.

Theodor Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress which was held in Basel, Switzerland from August 29 to 31, 1897.  It was at this Congress that the goal of the Zionist movement was established as  “to secure for the Jewish people a publicly recognized, legally assured homeland in Palestine.” As the 125th anniversary of this momentous event approaches and is celebrated, there will no doubt be much written about the Congress and the Zionist movement that was established there. I want to add some images to those writings.

If you were privileged to be one of the delegates to the Congress, you knew you were a part of something historic. If you heard about the Congress from the many press reports or pamphlets printed about it, you knew that a plan was unfolding that if successful would change the future of the Jewish people in a momentous way.

That sense of excitement is reflected in tangible items that I am privileged to include in my collection.  Some of them are pictured here.  More can be seen at

Please feel free to copy the images and use them to illustrate any social media posts, emails or other communications you care to make about the First Zionist Congress.  The 125th anniversary presents a special opportunity to refresh our memory about the origin story of the Zionist movement and of the great hopes that were discussed in Basel, and about a dream that came true a short 50 years later.

Invitation from Herzl to come to the First Zionist Congress. In it Herzl says at the Congress you will be able to speak Hebrew, and that Kosher food is available in Basel.
Postcard available at the Congress which includes a quote from Psalms 14:7- O that the salvation of Israel will come out of Zion.
Pin distributed to Congress delegates featuring Herzl’s design for the Jewish State’s flag including seven stars for the seven hour workday he envisioned.
Composite picture of Congress delegates. Herzl insisted that all delegates wear a tuxedo reflective of the important business that was being discussed, and to portray a picture of Jewish unity.
A transcript of speeches of Herzl and Max Nordau made on the opening day of the Congress.
A printed version of a lecture by Max Mandelstam, a Russian Zionist, that was translated into Yiddish by Sholom Aleichem, printed in New York in 1898.
London’s Jewish Chronicle reporting on the Congress (September 3, 1897).

Introduction to article in the New York Herald (September 5, 1897). The entire article can be seen at
About the Author
David Matlow is a partner at Goodmans LLP in Toronto. He owns the world's largest collection of Theodor Herzl memorabilia and his Herzl Project is designed to inform people about Herzl's work to inspire them to work to complete Herzl's dream. David's weekly column Treasure Trove can be found at More information about the Herzl Project is available at
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