The Highway to Zionism
The First Zionist Congress 1881

The First Congress of all Zionist Unions in Romania for the promotion of the colonization of Eretz Israel was held at Focsani, 123 years ago, on December 30-31, 1881, and was attended by 51 delegates, representing 32 organizations, two press editors, three newspaper reporters and important guests. This 1881 Congress, the first ever held, 16 years before the First Zionist Congress in Basel 1897, had an enormous influence on the Romanian Jews, and its proceedings became known outside the borders of Romania too.

As President of the Congress, Smuel Pineles of Galatz was elected, the big supporter of the colonization movement of Eretz Israel. Secretary of the Congress was David Rintzler, who sent Hertzel a hand-written invitation in Hebrew. The Rabbi of Focsani, Moshe Halevy Goldring, was elected Honorary President of the Congress, and his speech was received with stormy applauses.

The Congress decided that the most efficient way for the solution of the Jewish problem in Romania were the immigration to Israel and the agricultural colonization, to create a new, independent Jewish life.

The Focsani Congress was a new phenomenon in the history of the Jewish people. In its wake a significant change of direction in the minds of the Romanian and the East-European Jews occurred in regard to the immigration to Eretz Israel (Alyia).
The decisions made at the Congress were first put into application in 1882 when the first Jewish pioneers arrived in Palestine and established the towns Rosh Pina and Zikhron Yaakov; among those were also three families of Focsani. (Israel Sehter, Alter Vainstoc and Itzhak Aaron Apelboim)

The Focsani Congress was the first such congress in the history of the Jewish people, with the objective to create the Jewish State in the Land of Israel.

Why was the Congress held in Focsani ?

Focsani is the symbol of the Unification of the Principalities and it allows for an analogy between the unification of the two small countries becoming a big country, and the weak Jewish people becoming strong by unification.

Here it should be mentioned that in 1886, the well-known Romanian politician Dimitrie Sturza declared, in an interview to the New York Herald, that the concept of creating a State for the Jews is exceptional. In 1889 the "RIMON" society was founded in Focsani, with the aim to create in Eretz Israel an agricultural and industrial settlement. A Zionist public library was founded as well, named "Peretz Smolenskin".

In 1902 another national Zionist Congress was held at Focsani, for the promotion and the strengthening of the activity supporting the Alya to Israel.


Benjamin Theodor Herzel
May 2,1860 – July 3,1904
Sir Moses Haim Montefiore
October 24, 1784-July 28,1885
The list of the delegates at the 1881 Zionist Congress (In Romanian)
© COPYRIGHT 2007 by Zvi Ben Dov
The Jewish Boys’ School in Focsani – here the Congress was held

Smuel Pineles, Chairman of the Congress
David Rinzler, Secretary of the Congress
The official invitation to attend the Congress
The special stamp of the Focsani Congress