15 March 2022: Everyday Zionism in Eastern Central Europe

Everyday Zionism in Eastern Central Europe. Nation-Building in War and Revolution, 1914-1920


An examination of Zionist activism in East-Central Europe during the years 1914 to 1920


with Jan Rybak

Chair: François Guesnet


Tue, 15 March 2022 18:00 – 19:00 GMT

on Zoom




Everyday Zionism examines Zionist activism in East-Central Europe during the years of war, occupation, revolution, the collapse of empires, and the formation of nation states in the years 1914 to 1920. Against the backdrop of the Great War—its brutal aftermath and consequent violence—the day-to-day encounters between Zionist activists and the Jewish communities in the region gave the movement credibility, allowed it to win support and to establish itself as a leading force in Jewish political and social life for decades to come. Through activists’ efforts, Zionism came to mean something new: Rather than being concerned with debates over Jewish nationhood and pioneering efforts in Palestine, it came to be about aiding starving populations, organizing soup-kitchens, establishing orphanages, schools, kindergartens, and hospitals, negotiating with the authorities, and leading self-defence against pogroms. Through this engagement Zionism evolved into a mass movement that attracted and inspired tens of thousands of Jews throughout the region. Everyday Zionism approaches the major European events of the period from the dual perspectives of Jewish communities and the Zionist activists on the ground, demonstrating how war, revolution, empire, and nation held very different meanings for people, depending on their local circumstances. Based on extensive archival research, the study shows how during the war and its aftermath East-Central Europe saw a large-scale nation-building project by Zionist activists who fought for and led their communities to shape for them a national future.


Lecture by Jan Rybak, an Early Career Fellow at the Birkbeck Institute for the Study of Antisemitism. He received his PhD in 2019 from the European University Institute in Florence and has previously worked at the University of York and the University of Salzburg. He held visiting- and research fellowships at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, at New York University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His current research analyses Jewish armed self-organisation and self-defence in East-Central Europe during the ‘Long Nineteenth Century’, particularly focusing on the violent transformation of the region in the aftermath of the First World War. His previous work, based on his PhD, was published by Oxford University Press in August 2021 with the title Everyday Zionism in East-Central Europe: Nation-Building in War and Revolution, 1914–1920.


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